- February 15, 2017
HORIZON WEST Locals packed the cafeteria March 16 at Sunset Park Elementary, where commercial real estate developers Chris Stephens and Carlos Barrios presented possible plans for a mosque — Windermere Religious Center — at 8806 Winter Garden-Vineland Road on about 18,000 square feet of pavement.
Stephens introduced a Windermere Prep alumna who gave background on the idea behind the center. She said this mosque is needed in the area and all would be welcome for a peaceful dialogue or to learn more, at which point a few residents cut her off.
The owner of this property, local Dr. Muhammad A. Awan, wants a special exception under Rural-Country Estate zoning to build a roughly 6,300-square-foot mosque in a Spanish architectural style near the northeast shore of Lake Mabel. He reiterated all would be welcome, including for social events.
About 2.61 acres of uplands are usable on the parcel, and most of its 6.035 acres is wetlands not to be disturbed, Stephens said.
Barrios said about 25,500 trips are on that road, with 127 peak trips for the mosque, most already existent. Buffering from adjacent properties would be high-quality; most natural vegetation would remain; and lights and noise will not affect nearby property, he said. One piece of the property Awan owns will not be developed at this time, Barrios said, but Awan plans to build a house there.
Although Stephens says no child care would be involved, there would be a small playground for this project, part of what Awan elaborated on as the Windermere Religious Center mission.
“The purpose of this facility is to help our youth and our women, so they have a place they can go without dealing with the traffic … and feeling secure,” Awan said. “This is mostly servicing the people living in Windermere.”
Mike Johnson, a builder in the area, said he had fought other developments and asked what variances the developers sought.
Case planner David Nearing said a special exception for a religious building could be approved without variances.
A man living on Lake Mabel Drive said the water table of Lake Mabel has been rising, with builders such as KB Homes not monitored properly, so further development concerned him about the rural nature of the area.
A member of the Butler Chain of Lakes Advisory Board who also manages a mosque near Lake Buena Vista said water would not rise any substantial amount, which developers agreed with.
David Winter, a nearby property owner, said the lots are part of a subdivision with an existing precedent for no religious center in the area. Stephens said a title opinion from a real-estate attorney would show whether that were true.
“This area here is one of the last few remaining rural areas,” Winter said. “As soon as you start putting any kind of … commercial endeavor … it’s the number of people. … Almost half of the lake has no residences on it.”
A canal along the property from endangered Lake Butler to clean Lake Mabel also concerned Winter, who agreed with many other residents the specific use was inconsequential versus the notion of more incompatible development near the lake. Nearing said the same of the county perspective: House of worship is merely a type of land use, with stats and figures as the concern, not the faith.
Barrios said the location and leveling of the building was not necessarily an issue, but he agreed the canal and water should be handled carefully. Nearing said conditions could include no lake use related to the center, but there are no restrictions preventing residential boating.
For more information, contact Nearing at [email protected] or (407) 836-5386, or Hillary Hepp at (419) 934-2072. The tentative Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing date is May 5.
Contact Zak Kerr at [email protected]