Developer seeks to build 420 apartments in Dr. Phillips

To make up for land lost to rising water levels in Big Sand Lake, the owner is requesting a future-land-use amendment to build up to 420 apartment homes.

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  • | 1:43 p.m. May 17, 2018
  • Southwest Orange
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In the wake of the rising water levels of Big Sand Lake, the owner of about 52 gross acres east of the lake is seeking to develop up to 424 apartment units on his property.

At a community meeting held at Bay Meadows Elementary Thursday, May 10, representatives for Macomb Oakland Sand Lake LLC presented a request for a future-land-use amendment to the property. The property, currently known under the project name Turkey Lake Condos, is located at 10900 Turkey Lake Road, east of Big Sand Lake and west of Turkey Lake Road.

The proposal seeks to change the Future Land Use Map designation of the 52.04 gross acres — about 16.82 net acres —  to allow for a greater density of residential units. 

This would change the official FLUM designation from Planned Development Timeshare/Medium-Density Residential/Hotel/Office to Planned Development Timeshare/Medium-High Density Residential/Hotel/Office, and would allow for development of up to 424 multi-family dwelling units.

Jonathan Huels, a shareholder with Lowndes Drosdick Doster Kantor & Reed, P.A., represented the property owner at the meeting and explained the request for a higher density level is because of ecological fluctuations around the property.

“The story lies in between when the current owner who bought the property in 2005, and the (water) levels for Big Sand Lake then and today,” Huels said. “There was a marked difference between where the wetlands were in 2005 and where they are today. … Now from my understanding, there’s just been changes in the hydraulics of Big Sand Lake that causes the water to rise.

“The owner had a decision to make,” he said. “Do we pursue trying to recapture two acres (lost to rising water levels) … or is there another means to try to regain back that density that was lost? The owner decided to preserve the wetlands and increase the density.” 

“In the MetroPlan (Orlando) area, this area is growing by the tune of about 1,000 people a week, all looking for some place to live. … He (the applicant) already has multifamily (land-use rights) on there, so this is a change-in-density conversation, not a change-in-use conversation.” — Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey

Currently, the property owner can build up to 20 dwelling units per acre for a total of 330 but is seeking to increase that to 25, making for a total of about 420. Rather than build 1,100 timeshare units, Huels said, the owner wants to build the 420 apartment units.

“There is a caveat here: This is (zoned) Planned Development, so what’s actually being changed is it’s being changed from medium-density residential to medium/high-density residential, which allows up to 35 units (per acre),” Huels said. “We are not seeking to build 35; we will cap it at 25 units per acre. It’s pretty straightforward to me. They’re not trying to increase the entitlements this project was approved for in the ’90s.”

But some nearby Dr. Phillips residents and those living on Big Sand Lake were uneasy about the request. A few expressed concerns about the rising water levels, private access to the lake and increasing number of apartments being built in the area.

“It just seems like we’re getting inundated with apartments, apartments, apartments in Dr. Phillips, and I wanted to get some understanding of where the market study tells you there’s a need for all of this,” said Roy Messinger, of the Dr. Phillips Homeowners Coalition. “There’s a lot of people in the Dr. Phillips community that feel very strongly that we’re getting more toward the tipping point than we ever have.”

Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey said Orlando remains a high-growth area and correlated demand for housing isn’t stopping anytime soon.

“In the MetroPlan (Orlando) area, this area is growing by the tune of about 1,000 people a week, all looking for some place to live,” VanderLey said. “It is absolutely market driven at this point in time. He (the applicant) already has multifamily (land-use rights) on there, so this is a change-in-density conversation, not a change-in-use conversation.”

Kurt Kotzin, president of the Venezia Homeowners Association, said that asking for increased density isn’t fair to the community because of its impact on local infrastructure.

“When a developer buys these things, that’s it,” he said. “That should be it. To come in and say, ‘I need more density,’ that’s only fair to him (the developer). … Our infrastructure is supposed to take on the added density so he feels whole? … This is a developer that’s had a chance for 12 years to take that parcel and do what he was entitled to do with it.”

“We thought it would be best for everyone, instead of proposing to impact the wetlands, to simply incrementally increase the density,” Huels said.

The request is scheduled to go for Local Planning Agency and Board of County Commissioners transmittal hearings June 21 and July 10, respectively. If approved it would then go to the LPA Oct. 18 and to the County Commission in November.


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