DR. PHILLIPS — For the second phase of the Rialto development near the northwest corner of Sand Lake and Turkey Lake roads and the southeastern shore of Spring Lake, developers seek a 325-apartment complex of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
But the zoning for the 6.5 developable acres on that Majorca Place lot is currently commercial, not residential, so developers and Orange County staff met residents June 23 at Dr. Phillips High School to discuss locals’ concerns with development plans.
Jim Hall, VHB Inc. planning director, re-presented the plan he discussed with residents at an April 30 community meeting.
Hall said the property currently has access from only Sand Lake Road, but in the development of this apartment complex, which would be the second phase of Rialto, a connection to Turkey Lake Road would result. That would enable cars in that lot to avoid the intersection of Sand Lake and Turkey Lake roads, offsetting the 21 added trips developers still would pay for in impact fees, he said.
But residents at the meeting believe this project would worsen one of the five worst intersections in Orlando.
“This proposal is very high-density housing in a very congested area,” local resident Jim Pasquinelli said. “It is probably the worst intersection in Orlando. I get tired of hearing about how Horizon West and Winter Garden are having their communities planned so elegantly, with parks and bike trails … and I can’t even get to a store in a reasonable amount of time. It’s ridiculous.”
Hall said the alteration to residential in lieu of a commercial destination on this property would drop peak-hour afternoon trips by 20%.
“If it stays commercial, it’s 20 times worse than if you go through the multi-family,” Hall said. “Then if you extrapolate it further … the earliest we would ever anticipate ground being broken on this is August 2016. No one will live there until probably the middle of 2018, and by then, FDOT is doing a new project to improve Sand Lake Road starting in 2016 that could be completed. The timing of this fortunately gets to take advantage of these improvements.”
Residents agreed with Pasquinelli that those added 21 trips would cause an increase in congestion from introducing outside cars, whereas a low-impact commercial entity would pull from cars already on the roads. Locals expressed deep frustration with an inability to drive almost anywhere because of traffic blockage in the area, especially Restaurant Row.
Pasquinelli asked how Dr. Phillips could become a self-contained community for holistic shopping and where residents could go to avoid bad traffic.
“If you live in Winter Garden or you live in Ocoee, they have easy access to a holistic type of lifestyle,” he said. “All these things have to be done. It really becomes a conundrum.”
Orange Tree resident Bill Hayes said the traffic issues have become a public safety concern to the point it reaches Orlando International Airport and interferes with emergency vehicle access.
District 1 Orange County Commissioner S. Scott Boyd said a grant for traffic relief in the area of this intersection has been under examination, with infrastructure projects under the $300 million plan Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs unveiled for the Board of County Commissioners to consider this month. The frequent gridlock residents described could be helped by adding extended off ramps to shoot Interstate 4 traffic trying to go north or south on Turkey Lake Road directly into such lanes, as opposed to onto Sand Lake Road, where they would need to pile up at its intersection with Turkey Lake Road, he said.
The next transmittal date for this project is July 28, Hall said.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].