- June 8, 2022
Representatives from Orange County Public Schools hosted a community meeting Feb. 16 at Orange Technical College — West Campus to share their proposal to locate a bus compound on the east side of Winter Garden. Residents who spoke, as well as officials from the city of Winter Garden, shared their opposition to the proposed project.
OTC - West is moving to Ocoee in 2024, and OCPS is proposing building a bus compound with up to 200 buses, a 10-bay repair facility and a fuel island on the 18.8-acre site on East Story Road.
The technical college campus originally was created for black students in West Orange County and called Charles R. Drew High School. It was open until 1969.
Before the presentation, Lauren Roth, senior manager of Facilities Communications for OCPS, stressed the plan is in its early stages and said officials are looking at two other placement options.
OCPS has four bus depots and three bus compounds and is looking to build three more compounds in three growing areas of the county. Officials said it would decrease fossil fuel usage, reduce nearly 310,000 “empty bus” miles annually and provide more than 150 jobs.
OCPS is proposing having primary access from East Story Road, removing several other property entry points, locating the maintenance bays as far north as possible on the site, and building a retention pond and eight-foot barrier wall on the west side of the property.
After the OCPS presentation, the audience was given the opportunity to speak.
“We’re all very passionate about protecting this property,” City Manager Jon Williams said of the OTC land.
The city and residents all are hoping to see the former Drew High School and its students honored. The city of Winter Garden has been working on a revitalization program for the east side, and Williams said this bus compound does not fit in that plan.
Residents called the bus compound proposal “an assault on the community.”
“How is it that Story Road, which is a two-lane road, is going to handle all these buses?” another speaker asked. “This is not going to help us. It’s not going to help our residents. … This is not the right place for this bus depot. We deserve better.”
Other residents spoke in opposition as well.
“I appreciate all of the incite, all of the input, all of your concerns,” School Board Vice Chair Melissa Byrd said. “In my conversations with the superintendent, she is open to alternatives. This is land we own, and we needed a bus compound on this end of town, and it made sense in a logistical point of view.”
Orange County District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson responded: “I do agree that we’re talking about logistics as the reasoning for this location, but the impacts are human.”
She urged OCPS to step back and look at the alternatives and consider the impact on the community.
Byrd said OCPS has found two other locations it could consider.