Winter Garden tightens building rules

The Winter Garden commission passed an ordinance that provides stricter requirements for multifamily developments.

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  • | 2:05 p.m. March 4, 2020
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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Developers of certain multifamily residences will have to adhere to stricter building standards within the city of Winter Garden going forward.

Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance during the Feb. 27 commission meeting that amends the city’s code of ordinances to create local amendments to the Florida building code.

In Chapter 553 of the Florida Statutes, local governments are allowed to adopt and enact local administrative amendments to the Florida Building Code that are stricter than the minimum standards. 

City ordinance 20-15 creates two new code sections that developers must adhere to going forward when it comes to certain multifamily structures.

One section requires certain exterior and interior load-bearing walls in certain structures — commercial offices and multifamily buildings — be made from masonry block, metal or concrete. The other requires vertical accessibility, or elevators, in certain multifamily structures that have two or more floors.  

The elevator requirement also was to apply to structures with 10 or more dwelling units, but that was since changed. During the previous commission meeting, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said the addition of the variance was necessary, because in economic development areas in low-income neighborhoods, elevators could pose an issue of out-pricing for the project.

“After our last meeting, there’s a provision in there that allows developers of 50 or less dwelling units to request a waiver from that section for the elevator,” Community Development Director Steve Pash said. “We also added a provision that they can request a waiver (from) that section if they’re doing affordable housing, as was requested by the board.”

Commissioner Bob Buchanan said he understood this provision for developers building affordable housing but asked what else would constitute a developer’s ability to move a project forward without adding the elevators.

Pash explained requiring elevators in a structure with 50 or fewer units essentially would make the project unaffordable for developers.

According to city documents, staff recommended approval because it is in the best interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of Winter Garden and the general public.

Bollhoefer said part of the reasoning behind adding these code sections is to ensure the presence of high-quality apartments in the city.



Commissioners also applauded the opening of a new photography exhibit in City Hall titled “A Proud Heritage: Leading Winter Garden’s Historical African American Community Into the Future.” 

The exhibit is a revisitation of Winter Garden’s African American community 20 years after it was documented in “Small Town Orange County: The Central Florida Communities of South Apopka, Bithlo, East Winter Garden, and Taft.” 

Tanja Gerhartz, the city’s economic development director, said the exhibit will be on display until April 30. Then, it will be displayed at the Maxey Community Center.


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