The Oakland Planning & Zoning Board has recommended approval of an ordinance that paves the way for an apartment complex on State Road 50 in Oakland. The board met Tuesday, June 18, and listened to about a dozen residents speak on both sides of the issue before making the decision in a 2-1 vote.
Vice Chairman Mike Mullen voted against the measure; two other members were not present.
The ordinance would change the town’s zoning map from Orange County agriculture to Oakland planned-unit development for an 11.3-acre piece of land southeast of State Road 50 and Orange Avenue.
The board’s recommendation to approve the rezoning now goes to the Oakland Town Commission for public hearings on July 9 and 23. The rezoning is requested by LIV Development Inc. to establish a Planned-Unit Development. The Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use also is being amended, designating the property Mixed-Use Activity Center.
The first reading of the Comp Plan amendment passed May 7. A second reading and adoption hearing will be held after the state and other agencies review the amendment. This is tentatively scheduled for July 23.
The LIV project, called Johns Lake Residences, proposes 242 units in 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.
Some of the residents in attendance were in favor of an apartment complex proposed on State Road 50, but most were opposed, citing an increase in traffic, a decrease in surrounding property values and a loss of the “Mayberry” way of life in the town.
In a presentation to the P&Z, LIV said “the proposed rezoning will not substantially devalue or prevent reasonable use and enjoyment of the adjacent properties.”
LIV has agreed to make multiple traffic improvements on S.R. 50 and Orange Avenue based on its studies, including extending and adding turn lanes on S.R. 50 and upgrading Orange.
But residents opposing the project have qualms about the improvements. They have said a turn lane cannot be built on S.R. 50 west of Orange because of a bridge and that a roundabout planned for the intersection of Oakland Avenue and S.R. 50 will not be able to handle the increase in traffic.
“Highway 50 is broken and can’t be fixed,” said Robert Harding, an attorney with GrayRobinson who represents several homeowner associations in West Orange and East Lake counties.
Residents have questioned whether or not the upgrades to Orange Avenue, currently a one-lane road, will be enough to sustain 242 apartment units, too.
Residents said in previous meetings the complex isn’t compatible with the surrounding land; but Tim McEachern, senior director of development for LIV, contends the apartments are suitable for an area that includes industrial, commercial and residential properties.
Mike Leo, a Lake County resident who lives in the vicinity and has a Winter Garden address, called the proposed apartment project an eyesore. Nancy Bramley, who lives in the unincorporated Orange County neighborhood of Deer Island, said she fears apartment residents will create traffic jams by making U-turns at her community’s entrance. LIV is proposing a right-turn-only exit onto S.R. 50, so residents wanting to go west must turn right and then find a place to turn around.
Dana English, who with her husband, Gary, owns the property in question, shut down rumors that they eventually will sell their home and surrounding land for a second phase to the apartment complex. The Englishes live on the remaining two acres and plan to renovate their 1928 home on this property.
Oakland resident David Stimmell told the board he thinks the complex is “the highest and best use for this property.”
If the Town Commission approves the rezoning and developer’s agreement at the July 9 and 23 meetings, the next steps for the project are to get approval for architectural design, the site design and amenities plan, and then the construction and engineering plans.