A proposed project for 350 new apartments in Horizon West will soon go before Orange County leaders for a vote.
The Orange County Board of County Commissioners will conduct a public hearing at its Tuesday, Feb. 11, meeting on a planned development substantial change — converting 100,000 square feet of non-residential uses and a 645-bed dormitory use to 350 multi-family residential units.
The property is generally located north of Old YMCA Road and west of Avalon Road, near the Waterleigh community.
It’s a request that’s part of the Core Academy Planned Development, originally planned to be the dormitory for a sports academy, said Planner II Nate Wicke of the county’s Planning Division. The original plan was received back in June 2015, but the project never came to fruition, Wicke said.
District 1 County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey said the property has since been sold to another party in the hope of developing apartments. She explained that the proposed use is smaller than what was originally approved.
“Because this is a downgrading of the use to 350 multi-family residential, it did not trigger a community meeting,” VanderLey said. “If it was an increase it would have triggered, but it wasn’t an increase.”
VanderLey said it isn’t the county’s job to determine where apartments are needed within Horizon West — it’s to decide whether projects are consistent with the future land-use map.
The applicant has made the investment, though, and deemed the property an appropriate site for an apartment project, she said.
“Apartments are a part of the housing conversation, because not everybody is going to live in a single-family home,” VanderLey said. “It certainly supports a diversity in housing types. This particular piece of property … the only development it’s near is on the other side of the 429, and that particular piece of property is townhomes, and then further west from there and south from there are single-family homes, so this would certainly fit within the goals of Horizon West’s goal of a diversity of housing.”
Like any other proposed project, VanderLey said she intends to see all of the information presented in front of her before making any kind of judgment.
“We sit kind of as judges, and so I don’t ever take a position for or against until the public hearing and all of the evidence is heard, because I think it would just be inappropriate to do that without hearing from everybody,” VanderLey said. “I just always like to underscore that, because so often I hear people say, ‘Well, your mind’s already made up,’ and really that’s not the case ever, because I really do try to keep a very open mind until everybody’s had a chance to talk and all of the evidence has been heard.”
VanderLey said it’s her understanding that the proposed project is three stories high. Only some of the specifics about the project will be shared at the public hearing, but whatever level of detail the applicant shares Feb. 11 will be binding, she said.