Residents oppose Avalon-Seidel apartment project

Orange County held a community meeting to update Horizon West citizens on the 17-acre development that will bring 324 multi-family dwelling units to the area.

A total of 324 apartments will be built near Avalon and Seidel roads in Horizon West.
A total of 324 apartments will be built near Avalon and Seidel roads in Horizon West.
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Horizon West residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinions about a new development project during a community meeting hosted by Orange County May 26 at Horizon High School.

Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments, described the project.

The Elysian Planned Development/Elysian Luxury Living DP project will be constructed on a 17-acre sliver of property north of Seidel Road and east of Avalon Road. It will include four traditional multi-family buildings, two future building pads and four three-story carriage home buildings — with a total of 324 apartment units.

A wetland area is being preserved in the center of the property, and there will be plenty of open space and park land. Whittall said county staff asked that the buildings line the roads, and that request was honored.

“We have roads on all three sides,” Whittall said. “(On) the north end of the property, we came several feet off before we started construction … further away from the homes there. We’re still working with the architect right now … but I think you’ll be pleased with the project.”

Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson, who represents District 1, where the project will take place, has voiced her opposition to the project.

It was approved but with two conditions: Carriage homes must be a maximum of three stories and all apartment buildings must be a maximum of four stories. There must be one carriage home approximately 457 feet from the northern property line.

After the presentation, attendees peppered the hosts with questions. One person who lives on the north end of the project asked that one of the buildings be moved farther from her and her neighbors’ homes because she’s worried apartment residents could look down into her backyard.

Whittall said there are space constraints on the narrow piece of property and the building could not be moved farther south. He assured her she still would have her privacy.

“We did have that building further north, but we did rearrange the site, moving that building further south,” said Jennifer Sickler of Kimley-Horn & Associates.

Whittall reminded attendees this plan already has been approved, and he stressed the developers chose a lower-profile building, going with three floors instead of the maximum-approved four.

An entrance originally slated for Seidel was moved to Avalon Road, per a request from county staff. Trees will line the entire front of the property, per county code. There will be a dedicated lane installed for a right-in, right-out configuration.

Wilson said the folks who want to leave the subdivision and turn left will have to turn right and make a U-turn, creating unsafe driving conditions.

One resident predicted there would be a great deal of accidents because of the nearby hill.

“This is the problem with shoe-horning,” Wilson said. “Every one of those unit comes with one car, and sometimes two and three cars.”

A resident in attendance at the meeting urged the developer to be a good neighbor and keep the buildings low.

“I think that would be appreciated by many residents,” he said. “I think it is so important to maintain something that is already working. … Sometimes making concessions can go a long way. … We have the opportunity to do it right.”

Whittall replied that the applicant has made many concessions.

We’ve really tried to show some compromise,” Sickler said.

“We’ve held community meetings,” Whittall stressed. “People complained about five stories, we went down to four. And now people are wanting three. We did design that so a three-story building is the height of two and four story is the height of three.

“What we come in with is not what we end up with,” Whittall said. “The county had revisions. … I know we’re not going to make everyone happy.”

“Is this affordable housing?” Wilson asked Whittall.

His reply: “It depends on what you think is affordable. I’ve seen the houses across the street. They’re not affordable housing.”

The project should take about 16 months “from shovel to close,” Whittall said.

Other concerns were about the increase in traffic just since the study was done. A resident said where it once took five minutes to get someplace, it now takes 25.

“I don’t think we’re opposed to what you’re building,” one resident said. “It’s the traffic and additional people we oppose.”

“I think we could do a community meeting for just traffic,” Wilson said.

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Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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