- November 3, 2022
After hearing from project representatives for about 45 minutes, Winter Garden city leaders voted unanimously to deny the site plan for a Dollar General store in East Winter Garden.
The subject property for the store is a .96-acre parcel located on the at 111 11th St., at the southeast corner of East Plant Street and 11th Street. The property is currently zoned C-2 (Arterial Commercial District).
Community Development Director Steve Pash said the application for the project originally was submitted in 2015. Since then, the project has gone through multiple reviews.
“Each time the plans have been submitted, the Development Review Committee has provided comments on the design not meeting all code requirements (and) made a recommendation that they revise (plans) and submit for another review,” Pash said, adding the DRC made another recommendation Aug. 1 to deny the plans for not meeting code. “Specifically, we had required that they provide turning movements to show and verify that the dumpster access would work properly.”
Pash also mentioned an issue regarding semi-truck access to and maneuverability on the site as a concern, among others.
“When a semi enters, exits and maneuvers (at) the site, it does not properly work, because the semi needs to use both lanes,” Pash said. “The semis, when they enter the site off of 11th (Street), they use the entrance as well as the exit to get full access to the site. … And when they exit onto Plant Street, it blocks the entrance as well as exit and uses both lanes of Plant Street to exit out.”
He added this issue does not meet a section of the city code that addresses movement, space and loading and unloading operations at retail, wholesale and industrial establishments with a gross-floor area of fewer than 10,000 feet. He also cited issues with proposed streetscaping and lighting in the plans.
In addition to not meeting certain provisions of the city code, the subject property is located within the East Winter Garden Character Area design overlay district. The plans for the Dollar General are not consistent with the design overlay, Pash said.
Urban Designer and Planner Kelly Carson said the design overlay is a tool “to transform the East Plant Street corridor from Dillard Street east into Ocoee” by taking “some of the design elements that make historic Downtown (Winter Garden) so successful.”
“The latest version (of the site plan) ... falls short not only of the specific measurable requirements of the overlay, but (also) the plans are entirely inconsistent with the major goal of the character area,” Carson said. “(The goal is) to move away from (a) generic, automobile-dominant design to one the evokes more of the historic Downtown (Winter Garden) flavor and significantly improve the pedestrian experience.”
Regarding specific overlay requirements the plans didn’t meet, Carson cited issues regarding building height and frontage.
“The minimum building height is required to be at least 25 feet tall,” Carson said. “They are proposing a building that at the maximum is 25 feet tall, but the majority of the building is shorter than that at about 21 feet or shorter. They are required to have a minimum 80% frontage along Plant Street. They do not meet this requirement.”
Carson also said Dollar General would be one of the first buildings in the area subject to the overlay requirements.
“Staff realized early on that achieving the goals of the character area could pose a challenge for the applicant, because it would be one of the first,” Carson said, adding that staff even provided the applicant with a design that meets overlay requirements. “To this end, the applicant has been provided with numerous possible alternatives for developing the property in a way that meets the design goals and requirements for the area. They have chosen not to follow any of them.”
Commissioners heard from project representatives, who requested commissioners move the site plan forward subject to the project meeting conditions outlined in the staff report.
Scott Baker, of law firm Zimmerman, Kiser and Sutcliffe, spoke on behalf of the project.
“We think there’s room for us to meet those conditions with a future submittal,” Baker said. “We’ll change the site plan to meet these conditions prior to getting a permit.”
Kathy Hattaway, of Poulos & Bennett, also spoke on behalf of the Dollar General site plans. She said the plan can be modified to address the compliance issues.
“Modifications can be based on the man-made environment or public rights-of-way or lot configuration, and that’s exactly what we have in the case of this application,” Hattaway said.
Representatives of the Dollar General site plan refused to comment after the meeting.