HORIZON WEST A looming request to rezone an adjacent piece of property brought concerned Lake Ingram residents to a community meeting Monday, Sept. 26.
Held at Independence Elementary, the meeting served to inform residents of a request to rezone a parcel of land that DeWitt Enterprises currently owns from Citrus Rural District to Planned Development. The land, a total of 28 acres, is located just north of Lake Ingram Road, on the west side of Avalon Road and northwest of State Road 429. The future plans for the land, should it be rezoned, include a 15-acre elementary school and a nearly 13-acre park.
Jim Willard, the applicant and attorney representing DeWitt, said the DeWitt family has sold numerous land parcels they own in Orange and Lake counties recently, and this is another piece of land no longer being used for company purposes.
The current Horizon West comprehensive plan has a location slightly southwest of the Lake Ingram Road parcel set aside for a future school already. However, DeWitt would convey the rezoned land to the county, essentially donating it to Orange County Public Schools, the applicant said at the meeting. Many developers donate land parcels to be designated for schools as part of their overall subdivision plans.
“From what we’ve heard from the school district, they don’t need a school site out here right now,” Willard said. “There are other elementary school sites the district owns. Because there’s a policy that says they need to get one, they’ll take it (the donated land), but they don’t need one right now. When the school district wants it, they can get it from the county.”
Willard and Orange County District 1 Commissioner S. Scott Boyd estimated the school district wouldn’t need the land for at least five years. Additionally, there are currently no specific plans made regarding the potential neighboring park site.
Because plans for future development are years away, some residents were concerned that, although the current land-use plan upon rezoning calls for a school and park, it could turn into something completely different by the time development begins.
“Whether the county in conjunction with the school district decides to use the land for something different, we don’t have a dog in that,” Willard said. “The map identifies it as an elementary school and park. Once the PD is approved, that becomes the only permitted use on the property. There would have to be further public hearings for that use to change.”
Boyd added that the county has the ability to put conditions on any applicant’s request but that applicants always can ask the county for an exception.
Another concern was possible widening of Lake Ingram Road. Boyd said this would be unlikely, because the road is currently a dead-end street — a situation that caused trouble for Sunset Park Elementary.
“We really don’t want the traffic right on our street; it’s a dead-end street and a quiet rural area,” said Lisa Horine, a 15-year resident of Lake Ingram.
If the timeline runs smoothly, the rezoning request will come before the Development Review Committee by the end of October; the Planning and Zoning Commission as soon as November; and the Board of County Commissioners as early as December.
“When we came out here, there was nothing,” Horine said. “I get that there’s going to be development and growth because the groves are going away, but it’s still in our front yard.”
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].