Oakland rejects zoning for apartments on West Colonial

Town commissioners voted 4-1 to deny the zoning change, which would have allowed the developer to build 242 units on 11 acres along West Colonial Drive.

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The Oakland Town Commission has heard arguments for both sides of the luxury-apartment controversy that has plagued the small town since the plan was proposed earlier this year.

Gary and Dana English are selling 11.3 acres of their property on Johns Lake, at 17812 W. Colonial Drive, and LIV Development Inc. was negotiating to buy the land to build a 242-unit apartment complex.

The issue has been before Oakland’s Planning & Zoning Board and the Town Commission multiple times. The first reading of the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use amendment, which designates the property Mixed-Use Activity Center, was passed May 7, and the second reading was set for July 23.

But that plan is off the table after the Town Commission voted 4-1 at its regular July 9 meeting to reject the first reading of an ordinance amending the zoning map. Commissioner Sal Ramos voted against the rejection.

The LIV project, called Johns Lake Residences, was proposed as two three-story apartment buildings and seven two-story carriage homes. The luxury development would have 120 one-bedroom, 97 two-bedroom and 25 three-bedroom units, with rent ranging from $1,380 to $2,025.

Town Planner Jay Marder made a presentation July 9, as did Tim McEachern, senior director of development for LIV, and Matt Smith, attorney with Lightsey & Associates, of Winter Park. Each provided information updated from the last meeting.

Amid public concerns that the area schools already are overcrowded, Smith said Orange County Public Schools officials provided statistics and said the apartment units would generate only about 68 students.

Residents questioned the zoning of surrounding properties, the aesthetics of a three-story building and whether this would set a precedence for other apartments. They questioned the Englishes’ plan to renovate and remain in their home, saying they could later decide to sell the property for a second phase of the apartment complex.

Gary English denied this and said the family hopes to get their 1928 home placed on the National Register of Historic Places. They are selling the rest of the property to have funds to renovate their house.

The commission has been touting housing diversity for months, but in a move that surprised most of the people attending the meeting, Commissioner Mike Satterfield made a motion to reject the zoning map amendment, essentially shutting down any plans for building an apartment complex on the property.

When making the motion, he said now is not the right time for this project.


In other business:

• The Town Commission, under the consent agenda, voted to accept the donation of a small parcel of land at the corner of Hull Island Road and the West Orange Trail that contains the Hull Family Memorial. The memorial, which honors Simeon Benjamin Hull, remains the property of the Hull family.

The staff also will proceed with an agreement with the homeowners’ association of the Hull Island at Oakland neighborhood to maintain the area and monument. The developer had approached the town with a plan for a neighborhood entrance monument on the site.

• The commission accepted a utility easement over the south 20 feet of property owned by West Orange Baptist Church. This will allow the town to continue the sewer east of Tubb Street and allow several commercial and institutional businesses in the area to immediately connect.

• Elected officials passed the first reading of a fair-housing code that pertains to the town’s application for a $600,000 Community Development Block Grant.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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