Winter Garden approves rezone for 250-unit apartment project

The proposed 14.87-acre development is located at the northeast corner of East Plant Street and North West Crown Point Road.

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  • | 12:12 p.m. May 1, 2019
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Winter Garden city commissioners approved the rezone request from WP South Acquisitions LLC, regarding a 14.87-acre property on East Plant Street and North West Crown Point Road to pave the way for new apartments.

The rezoning to Character Area Planned Unit Development permits the potential development of five three-story apartment buildings hosting 250 units, according to city documents. 

The property will house eight garage buildings, 400 uncovered surface parking spaces, recreation areas, sidewalks and landscape improvements, according to city documents.

The developer also plans to build a park that will be later gifted to the city of Winter Garden on the west side of the train tracks, according to the project’s plans.

Before the 4-1 approval during the April 25 City Commission meeting, a Winter Garden resident who opposed the project said he feared the quality of the apartments would decline, particularly if the property were to be sold to an owner who neglects to maintain the development.

“But ... apartments (are) a transient type of complex,” Ron Mueller said. “With today’s prices, as they continue to go up, there’s really very little difference between apartment prices and that of homeownership. One of the things we’d love to include with our many millennials who are growing up in the community is the fact that they can stay in Winter Garden and have ownership in their community. Apartments don’t offer that type of environment. 

“And we know that from a long-term stance ... they last about five or six years, and then that owner sells them off to another owner who then does a renovation on them for a little bit, but they just gradually have a slow decline over time,” he said. “So what we’ll have is an area where we have a lot of density of individuals, not a great tax base, and not a lot of folks who are truly invested in our community.”

In response to his concerns, Winter Garden City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said the quality of the original residential development, not the type of housing, plays a significant factor in how well the property keeps up in value. 

“It’s a false assumption to assume homeownership will keep up better in the long term than people that are renting,” Bollhoefer said. “A better determination of how long something will keep up in value is the actual value and quality of your original project. For any of you who don’t believe me, you could drive through Winter Garden and go to some housing areas that are not quality housing. They look terrible, and homeownership had no effect on people maintaining them. So first and foremost in any project is the quality of the project. And when we looked at (this project), they initially wanted 350 (apartment units), but we cut down the density to 250.”

Bollhoefer also emphasized the proposed apartments will be of high quality, and the community will be gated. He added city staff strongly preferred apartments over any potential commercial development that may have been built on the site due to its C-2 zoning.

“It really wasn’t an option of apartments versus homes or single homes,” he said. “This is a property that was zoned C-2. And I think what you’re seeing in this world is changing. The commercial world is disappearing, and when it comes to transportation and issues, it would be much more comfortable, from our standpoint, to have apartments than to have C-2 and more commercial. So when we looked at all those options, we felt these were very high quality. 

“We felt that with one owner taking care of them, it’s just as likely, if not more likely, that it would be maintained in the long term, because they started out as high quality,” he said. “The lower-quality apartments that are built from the ground up as five stories tend to be the ones that go downhill faster, just as the low-cost homes do. So we felt it was the best option that we had for this piece of property.”


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