WINDERMERE — Harvest Bible Chapel transformed from a church to an occasionally heated Horizon West Town Hall March 16, with many residents concerned about various issues facing the burgeoning community in southwest Winter Garden.
Orange County District 1 Commissioner Scott Boyd hosted the meeting, which included presentations from representatives from Orange County Fire Rescue, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Orange County School Board and the parks and planning departments.
Orange County Planning Division Manager Alberto Vargas outlined a history of Horizon West development for perspective of its exponential growth, from Lakeside Village starting in the 1990s to more recent neighborhoods such as Village F and Village H.
“The 1995 vision was a very avant-garde, straightforward approach to growth management,” Vargas said. “The development pattern included a series of villages anchored by a town center village.”
Between 2002 and 2013, the Horizon West share of Orange County growth in permits per year increased from 1% at 73 of 5,196 permits to 34% with 739 of 2,164 permits. The peak in Orange County and Horizon West permits was in 2006, when the county had 7,012 permits and Horizon West had 1,184 of those, 17%.
“Not only within Central Florida, but within Horizon West we have the most activity going on county-wide,” Vargas said.
This prompted many citizens attending the hearing to express concern with continued development in Orange County, requesting it cease until living conditions improve for developments already built or planned.
Boyd said that would not be realistic and that there was no way to slow development, which his projections showed encroaching on Seidel Road within about a year.
Residents were concerned with multiple matters concerning roads, including a death in a crash around 12:45 p.m. March 8 in the undulating area of Tiny Road near Tilden Road.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, EMS personnel saved Winter Garden man Kevin Root, 32, traveling northbound, but not Windermere resident Nicholas Recanati, 18, who was passing traffic while southbound and collided head-on with Root. Recanati’s car flipped and caught fire, and he died at the scene.
Officials said they would address that portion of the road and level hilly parts when time and budgets allowed. In the meantime, new Orange County Sheriff’s Office Sector 3 Commander Cpt. Joe Picanzo encouraged drivers to be patient and not pass in that area, already illegal by the double yellow line.
Picanzo also addressed citizens’ concerns about street racing in certain areas of Horizon West, with the possibility of establishing operations to snuff it out.
He offered (407) 836-0800 as a number to contact the sheriff’s office on traffic problem areas, including a two-lane roundabout concerning many Lakeside Village residents in attendance.
Citizens attested to frequent roundabout crashes from drivers violating traffic laws and speeding to pass other roundabout motorists, often inhibiting parking and exit from parking spaces, as well. They proposed eliminating the roundabout for a traffic light or one-lane roundabout, which Boyd said would slow traffic and involve a construction process that could cause further delays but would be addressed.
Transportation planning staff presented on road projects affecting the area, including New Independence Parkway. Other projects were: Hamlin Groves Trail, a planned new extension to Tiny Road; construction on Seidel Road, underway in two of four planned segments; a recently completed study on Avalon Road, with no scheduled construction yet; and Wellness Way Toll Road, an east-west highway potentially linked to the West Orange Trail that would connect State Road 429 to U.S. Highway 27 and cross into Osceola County.
Boyd said these projects would extend into the 20- to 30-year future and mentioned the possibility of mining trucks moving through the area many times per day, something he opposed.
PARKS AND TRAILS
Orange County Parks personnel outlined plans for several parks and trails in Horizon West, from large parks attracting visitors from other areas to small neighborhood parks.
The Horizon West Sportsplex, opened in 2010, offers equestrian activities and will contain more upon completion of its second phase, which is under review in its final draft.
A 20-acre property on Ficquette Road labeled Dorman Community Park is under design with $1.5 million funding and scheduled to open in 2017 with two soccer fields.
Other parks in planning phases include Summerport Neighborhood Park, New Independence Neighborhood Park and Lakeside Village Neighborhood Park.
Summerport will feature a tot lot, picnic areas, benches, sidewalks and more.
New Independence and Lakeside will be five acres each, with the former opening in August by $400,000 funding. Lakeside will include a playground, an exercise field and picnic areas. It has $500,000 of funding, with community meetings starting in 2015 and a scheduled opening of 2016.
A Horizon West trail study has led to drafted plans to tie trails together. Arterial trails will connect villages, whereas collector trails will connect residents, schools, parks and commercial areas. All trails will be concrete and 10 feet wide.