- July 9, 2015
METROWEST — Members of the West Orange Chamber of Commerce descended May 28 on the Special Events Center of Valencia College West Campus for a luncheon Chamber President and CEO Stina D’Uva said was 12 years in the making.
This luncheon was the fruit of the chamber’s communitywide vision process for 2015 that began in February 2003 with a list of nine community goals established through a yearlong series of meetings with 25 stakeholders.
The goals involved enhancement of community partnerships, economic opportunities, transportation, the natural environment and its protection, diverse recreational and cultural facilities and events, intergovernmental coordination regarding the area strategic plan, education, health care and safety.
“It was because we wanted to be able to have a voice and say what our future in West Orange County would be,” D’Uva said. “We all got together to collectively dream about that, and we dreamt big, and we envisioned even greater. I think we’re well on our way to what we want to be, and you’ll see some of that today and learn some great stuff about our future.”
Marilyn Crotty, executive director of the Tri-County League of Cities and director of the UCF Institute of Government, moderated a panel of local politicians speaking about their respective areas of West Orange. Crotty said West Orange has been unique in living and implementing its visioning plan with great results, while most of Central Florida is just starting that process.
“(The vision) has resulted in … the State Road 429 Economic Working Group, where … Ocoee, Winter Garden and Apopka are working with Orange County to complete the analysis of the 429 corridor and have identified three primary non-basic industries that may be explored for expansion along this corridor,” Crotty said. “Economic opportunities are vast in this community.”
Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski noted how the Coast-to-Coast Connector Trail will exponentiate ecotourism in the area.
“We are so excited that the city of Winter Garden and the West Orange Trail is at the heart of the state of Florida, and we’re expecting considerably more visitors through West Orange County when that trail does get completed,” Olszewski said. “For ‘Peter Pan,’ that first digital stage (at the Garden Theatre) in the country has given us national press. We have a lot of great quality-of-life activities that come to our city, including the Winter Garden Squeeze of the Florida (College Summer) League. … The most recent development, having Florida Hospital come to our city, really embodies everything that Winter Garden has strived to become. Other politicians will call me and say, ‘Can we take a tour? Can we come visit the city of Winter Garden? Because you guys have done it right. We want to be Winter Garden.’”
Ocoee Commissioner John Grogan focused on grant funding for State Road 429.
“The City Commission this year has strategically decided to focus heavily on downtown development and building an employment base to support it,” Grogan said. “We have some excellent projects coming up, and it is in the spirit of collaboration with Winter Garden, Windermere, Oakland and Apopka that we will someday result in a healthy, thoughtful West Orange County that people not only will desire to work (in) but be able to live and raise their families in.”
Grogan said City Center West Orange should provide tremendous growth for business, jobs, tax revenue and the State Road 50 corridor. He also cited a study showing West Orange as better educated with greater median income than similar areas, including Orlando.
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn used recent development in Windermere to make a point about infrastructure issues facing West Orange County.
“We’ve got 50 units coming in on our very northern end, Windsong at Windermere,” Bruhn said. “Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. What I think is important is that these are the first units truly in Windermere that are going to be on sewer, water and underground utility. I think sewer is something all our communities are going to have to take a look at down the road, because a lot of West Orange is on septic tank.”
Bruhn also noted the Windermere Police Department, primarily for its second consecutive year of recognition for work with drunken driving and other matters, such as implementing body cameras. He said he and the Windermere Town Council had met in April to discuss a vision plan for Windermere and its boundaries.
“I’ve also had the opportunity to meet with Orange County staff, and we are letting them know that we are aggressively taking a look to see where we want to be five, 10 years from now or even the next few years,” Bruhn said. “Our goal is to come up with some sort of mutual agreement as to where the town’s borders should be.”
Oakland Mayor Kathy Stark focused on Oakland’s plans to develop along State Road 50.
“We have a lot of open land on (S.R.) 50 and a great opportunity to develop economically,” Stark said. “We received $250,000 for sewer expansion; we have a $3 million ask in this year. We held visioning sessions with the residents to further refine our corridor ordinances. … We updated our transportation plan; we formed an Appearance Review Board for the upcoming development.”
Stark also mentioned impact fee changes and identified opportunities for annexation for such development, with a central focus on encouraging visitors through buildup of its Florida’s Turnpike interchange.
District 1 Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd discussed multiple road projects in Dr. Phillips.
“Daryl Carter Parkway is a flyover over that area that connects International Drive to Palm Parkway,” Boyd said. “Currently, there aren’t any plans for an interchange, but we are in discussions right now with the county, as well as FDOT, on … an interchange for that community that will eventually connect out to Apopka-Vineland Road and would be a huge relief for that community.”
A Sand Lake Road study is ongoing, with a look at advancing its interchange with Interstate 4 and having a flyover connection from Turkey Lake Road, Boyd said. That should eliminate traffic issues falling out to Sand Lake Road, which faces a two-year construction project by 2017 at its Turkey Lake Road intersection, he said.
Boyd also touched on Horizon West, saying many of its school sites are decided and that the Orange County School Board is working with the county on elementary sites. Horizon West’s trail system could connect with the West Orange Trail, he said.
Crotty said the Hamlin community shows how development can work with the area’s natural beauty, also alluding to development of the Oakland Nature Preserve and Windermere handling storm water for its lakes as opportunities to keep West Orange beautiful.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected].