An 81-home planned development project set for a plot of land tucked behind a Horizon West neighborhood has just been given the final green light for approval.
The Orange County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted in favor of the request to subdivide a 49.57-acre piece of land known as the Monk Property at its Tuesday, May 21 meeting.
The new neighborhood is set to be built at 13000 and 13003 Orange Isle Drive next to the existing Lakes of Windermere neighborhood — north of Overstreet Road, west of Duncaster Street and south of Little Lake Sawyer Drive within the Lakeside Village special planning area.
Besides pursuing engineering requirements and platting, nothing more is required for the applicant to proceed with construction, Senior Public Information Officer Doreen Overstreet said.
The residential lots would be around 50 feet wide, and the homes would have a maximum height of 45 feet and a minimum living area of 1,200 square feet.
The project approved by commissioners earlier this month is the latest iteration of the project — a previous version included 113 single-family homes. The proposal drew criticism and concerns regarding traffic and congestion from residents in the adjacent Lakes of Windermere neighborhood, as the only point of access to the property is through the existing neighborhood streets.
That request for 113 homes received a recommendation of denial by the Orange County Planning and Zoning Commission back on Sept. 20, 2018. The reduced project of 81 homes was submitted as a compromise, Erika Hughes of project applicant VHB Inc. said at the Jan. 17 Planning and Zoning Commission.
“We reduced our program by about 30%, and our density now is about 3.19 dwelling units per acre, which is significantly less than what our surrounding neighborhoods have,” Hughes said.
Lakes of Windermere Homeowners Association President Jon Johnston said although he isn’t in support of the project and believes the area has been overdeveloped, he understands something is going to be built on the Monk Property. Johnston said it’s somewhat of a victory to see the number of units go down.
“I know, pragmatically, that it’s going to happen — I have to embrace that it’s coming,” Johnston said.
Resident Jesse Rhoads voiced his concerns about the development before the Orange County Board of County Commissioners at the March 12 meeting, which saw the approval of the project’s zoning. No residents came forward to speak during the May 21 meeting.
In March, residents spoke against the development, because its only access would be through the existing Lakes of Windermere community.
“This is going to be a great inconvenience for us to not have an extra access road,” Rhoads said. “They’re going to have to take their vehicles — both during construction and after the community has been built — to drive all the way through our subdivision. It’s going to be a very, very bad traffic problem to start. It’s also going to add to school overcrowding and other things.
“Our streets in Lakes of Windermere are barely wide enough to get two cars parked on the streets at the same time,” he said. “If you have construction crews coming in there or even a fire engine … if a fire engine comes there, it’s not going to be able to make it through. We’re going to have a public hazard, because we don’t have the roads wide enough or the access roads in and out of that subdivision to properly accommodate for these new homes.”
Hughes said in response during the meeting that the developer’s hands are tied because of the nature of the property.
“Unfortunately, this property is landlocked,” Hughes said. “We have a large wetland system along our western border. We have the Lakes of Windermere and the additional subdivision to our east and our south … and there is a power line easement along the south. So there is only one access.”
Orange County District 1 Commissioner Betsy VanderLey said her staff is working to ensure the roads in the new neighborhood are wide enough to properly accommodate trucks and emergency vehicles but added she can’t do anything to fix problems in the existing Lakes of Windermere neighborhood.
“In terms of a neighborhood that’s already built, there’s really nothing I can do,” she said. “I’d love to offer them something, but there is nothing I can offer them in terms of retrofitting their areas without impacting their front yards.”