Orange County updates Town Center code

A text amendment allows for more pedestrian-focused development.

Sun Terra Communities plans to opt into a form-based code approach for its Silverleaf PD.
Sun Terra Communities plans to opt into a form-based code approach for its Silverleaf PD.
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Orange County is offering developers a new approach to create projects in Horizon West’s Town Center village.

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners approved a text amendment to Town Center policies last month allowing for form-based development within the village.

The change allows developers or property owners to opt into the form-based approach — an alternative that provides more flexibility with the placement of certain land uses.

Olan Hill, assistant manager in the Orange County Planning Division, said the county has had a Euclidean-based zoning code since about 1957. That code is based on achieving compatibility between development by separating land uses.

“For example, you’d never have industrial next to single-family residential,” Hill said. “In some cases, you wouldn’t even have commercial next to residential. What we’ve lost with our Euclidean code, as have many jurisdictions across the country, is that the Euclidean development pattern doesn’t assist in helping create sustainable and livable communities. We’ve learned that places that have a more diverse land-use pattern are places that people thrive in.”

A form-based code ensures compatibility, but it achieves it through the form of development instead of just separating uses that are different. It also focuses heavily on the pedestrian realm — the experience of a pedestrian as they walk down the street.

“Through a form-based code approach, you can actually have multiple uses that can coexist with others based on the way they’re designed and the way they’re constructed,” Hill said. “It makes for a more livable and sustainable place versus what our existing code does today.”

Hill said there are limits to what form-based code can do, but it allows for more options.

Horizon West, approved in 1997, came with its own code, unrelated to the code in effect throughout the rest of unincorporated Orange County.

The Town Center in Horizon West, one of six villages, has yet another development code unique to itself.

Hill said Orange County is updating its comprehensive plan, long-range plan and zoning code into what will be known as “Orange Code” — a form-based approach countywide that won’t apply to Horizon West or Town Center.

The recent amendment to the Horizon West Town Center code was the result of Sun Terra Communities — the developer behind the Silverleaf planned development — approaching the county with an interest in form-based code.

“We were intrigued with that idea, because although the Town Center code does allow for more innovative practices, it’s still about 11 years old,” Hill said. “We’ve learned over the last 11 years that when you try to do something that is not specifically allowed by that code, you have to request numerous waivers to do it — even if it’s a good idea.”

One example is the Hamlin planned development in Town Center, Hill said. Although the area is the focal point of the village and has been well-received, the project was developed under the existing code and required numerous waivers to be made possible.

“The end product was great, but it was sort of a struggle to get there,” Hill said.

Under the existing code in Town Center, all the larger “big box” buildings are required to be as close as possible to the main streets. Form-based code allows the developer to cluster their buildings closer to a new main street that they may create themselves.

“It encourages more on-street parking and requires, in some cases, that restaurants have outdoor seating and cafe-like settings,” Hill said.

Sun Terra Communities is already in the process of having its Silverleaf project rezoned as a planned development/regulating plan to take advantage of the form-based code.

The Silverleaf planned development would sit on 563 gross acres near 17511 Lake Ingram Road — just west of State Road 429. Plans outline 2,926 residential dwelling units and 2.9 million square feet of non-residential uses, including “hotel, commercial, office and/or light industrial.”

Hill said the developer will go before the county for final adoption at some point in May.

Final Spring Grove phase approved 
Village I soon will see the expansion of one of its communities. Phase 3 of the Spring Grove planned development was recently approved by the County Commission, marking a critical step in the final phase of the project.

The request involved subdividing 65.98 acres in order to construct 169 single-family residential dwelling units. The subject property is generally located south of Flemings Road and west of Avalon Road. 

Phase 1 and 2 were adopted in October 2018 and included 139 single-family detached residential dwelling units on 71.33 acres

Hill said the project is now in the construction plan phase and could start going vertical within 18 months.


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