SOUTHWEST ORANGE A request for more retail space and a drive-through coffee shop in The Grove ignited a debate on traffic, architecture and responsible growth at a Jan. 6 community meeting.
At the meeting, held at Olympia High, officials from Tavistock Development Company presented a request for increasing commercial square footage in the southwest quadrant of Isleworth and Four Corners, near the intersection of Conroy-Windermere and Apopka-Vineland roads. The staff planned to request a waiver to add a second coffee shop with a drive-through in the same quadrant.
“We are very happy with the success we’ve seen at the two new buildings of The Grove and how that’s progressed,” said Heather Isaacs, Tavistock planning and entitlement manager. “There’s still a pretty good market for additional retail opportunities, and we’ve had a lot of interest from a number of users, from restaurants to another drive-through coffee shop.”
The proposed two-story building is planned with a 6,000-square-foot restaurant, a lobby, three retail venues and a drive-through coffee shop on the ground floor, a total of 15,000 square feet of retail space. The second floor would consist of 16,500 square feet of office space, Isaacs said.
But, Tavistock’s plans for development currently are stalled by the Four Corners CVC area code, which states land designated for commercial is limited to the permitted uses allowed in the retail commercial district. Restaurants with drive-throughs are not permitted, according to the code. Additionally, code states commercial square footage cannot exceed 300,000 square feet.
Orange County Planning Administrator John Smogor said that should the conversion occur, the square footage would exceed the current maximum by about 13,000 square feet and therefore violate the current Four Corners CVC code.
Because of this, Tavistock has a couple of options. It could request a change determination to the zoning, in which it would have to process a code amendment to increase the total allowed square footage to 313,000 square feet. Another option is scaling back on what it is requesting and moving some of the square footage. Smogor told residents at the meeting that there is about 10,000 square feet on the northwest corner that is currently approved for development but not yet built.
“… the parking at The Grove is terrible now. You’re fighting for parking spaces. Now you’re going to put this big building and drive more cars through there? It doesn’t make sense to make an exception.”
-Dick Radkewich, Keene’s Pointe resident
One major issue related to the overall square footage deals with the current 45,000-square-foot LA Fitness health club. Tavistock and the county are debating whether the health club should be counted as commercial space.
“Our position is and has always been that it is separate, because on the land-use plan approved by (the Orange County Commission), it is shown as separate,” Isaacs said. “It is shown as a completely separate line item. The traffic studies that we’ve done and that the county has approved have it as a separate line item, as well.”
Residents’ concerns were the proposed architectural design, adequate parking spaces, the responsibility of maintenance for Conroy-Windermere Road, neighborhood landscaping and general traffic flow in the area.
“This is cold; this is lifeless; this does not go with this area,” Cypress Landing resident Jeffrey Yorinks told Isaacs and Belflower at the meeting.
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn said more than 14,000 people come down Conroy-Windermere Road daily — increasing the wear and tear on a road maintained by the town. However, Bruhn said, because The Grove project isn’t located within the town’s limits, Windermere does not enjoy any of the tax benefits of the project.
Residents agreed and said existing businesses have made it difficult to get in and out of the town.
“I’m retired so I don’t have work to be late to, but you all will be making me late to my racquetball,” Dick Radkewich, a former Chrysler executive who has lived in Keene’s Pointe for 17 years, joked with Orange County staff at the meeting.
Radkewich, who lobbied on behalf of Chrysler, is now an advocate in the community and sees it as his civic duty to attend such meetings and keep the county in check.
“There were a lot of agendas there,” he said of the meeting. “Also, the parking at The Grove is terrible now. You’re fighting for parking spaces. Now you’re going to put this big building and drive more cars through there? It doesn’t make sense to make an exception.”
Tavistock spokeswoman Jessi Blakley said the company has heard the residents’ concerns and is currently in the process of reviewing design options. New ideas will be presented at the next community meeting.
“Our current plan for the site is consistent with the prior approved plan,” Blakley said. “We are committed to working with the county to resolve any pending issues. Tavistock remains committed to developing a high quality shopping center that attracts iconic brands to the community.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected]