It was a full house Tuesday, Aug. 13, at Town Hall as the Windermere Town Council opened up the floor to residents regarding the rezoning of a downtown property.
The meeting had a number of public hearings, but the one that drew the crowd was the hearing for a set of three connected ordinances regarding properties at 111 and 119 W. Fifth St. that would remove both from the Town Center Guidelines Master Plan and the Town Center Overlay District and rezone the property at 111 W. Fifth St. from residential to commercial.
“What’s been created is a doughnut hole,” Town Manager Robert Smith said.
“You’re not going to put another home on that property, because of the surrounding uses,” Smith said. “So, commercial is the best use for that piece of property.”
The rezoning was requested by the property owner, Lavina Williams, to match the surrounding parcels, according to town documents.
The property at 111 W. Fifth St. currently is zoned as residential and is surrounded by parcels with commercial uses. To the east of the property is the Windermere Shopping Center; to the north is a church, an orthodontist’s office and a real estate office; to the west is a public parking lot leased by the town; and to the south are municipal buildings.
Public notices were mailed out to properties within 500 feet of the addresses. According to town documents, the city received nine responses in support — excluding the owner — and five against the rezoning.
At the meeting, the residents were also split on the ordinances, mentioning traffic and a growing downtown.
Windermere resident Renee Cingolani, who lives across the street from the parking lot at 111 West Fifth St., told the council she thinks the city should keep residential properties residential.
Cingolani also said she’s concerned about a possible new business exacerbating the town’s traffic issues.
“We’ve been told that … 80% of the traffic that comes through town is not local residents,” Cingolani said. “Yet we’re building more commercial? Where is our traffic going to go?”
While a few spoke up against the vote, several also spoke up in support of new business in town.
Andy McGhee of Windermere Brewing Company said he wants to see a downtown that is small but thriving and diverse.
“We aren’t asking to be Winter Garden, we aren’t asking to be Ocoee, or any other burgeoning, smaller developing community,” McGhee said. “What we’re trying to be here is, quintessentially, Windermere.”
Theresa Schretzmann-Myers, former chair of the Windermere Tree Board, also spoke regarding the trees in the addressed area and suggested the town replant some of the trees that were removed when the parking lot was developed.
“I also am in favor of a vibrant downtown community, but I defer to the residents that have to live there who miss that green buffer,” Schretzmann-Myers said.
Smith said despite any changes made to the property, the town’s design guidelines established in 2004 will still apply to whatever is done with the property.
The city will hold the final public hearing and council members will vote on the zoning and associated ordinances at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Windermere Town Hall.