Several dozen Horizon West residents attended a community meeting hosted by Orange County to oppose a new neighborhood proposed near Avalon Road and New Independence Parkway.
The meeting regarding land rezoning was held Thursday, May 5, at Bridgewater Middle. Adriana Trujillo-Villa, assistant project manager with Orange County, hosted the meeting; Scott Gentry, a civil engineer with Kelly, Collins & Gentry, was there to answer questions about the proposed project. District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson was not present for the meeting.
The applicants — John Noonan, Gentry and Steven Thorp — are requesting to rezone nearly 60 acres from A-1 Citrus Rural District to PD Planned Development District in order to build 184 single-family homes within the Town Center of Horizon West. The property is located east of Avalon Road and north of New Independence Parkway between land with a rural settlement designation and land that has been more densely developed.
The project essentially would be divided into two sections. One-third of the homes — which would abut a rural settlement — would be built two per acre, on 23 acres; the area would have green space, parks and retention ponds, Gentry said. A greenbelt is proposed to run along the western and northern edges of the property. The other two-thirds would be constructed four or five per acre, for a total of 57 houses, on the southeast corner of the property near heavily developed land.
The proposal includes three neighborhood entrances on the east end of the property, two on the south side and one to the west on Avalon Road.
A majority of the residents in attendance were vehemently against the Avalon entrance, citing additional traffic on an already-busy roadway.
“You need to stick with your egresses you already have in Hamilton Groves,” one woman said. “Because 1,000 more vehicles on Avalon — they’re going to go through our rural settlement.”
One resident asked if there was any way to do this project without the Avalon Road entrance.
“Have any of your site plans given that option of going south through the neighborhood?” he asked.
“Interconnectivity is big with Orange County, so when we had initial conversations, they wanted as much interconnectivity as possible,” Gentry said. “I don’t think the county will allow that.”
He added the county is conducting a traffic study on Avalon Road and will be considering widening measures.
One woman spoke in favor of keeping additional traffic off Avalon.
Trujillo-Villa pointed out this is the beginning of the process for this project so the application is presently being reviewed and it has yet to go to hearing with the Development Review Committee.
The future land-use is proposed as Horizon West Town Center Urban Residential.
Home construction would begin in 12 to 18 months.
Other residents complained about the amount of sand they have to deal with from surrounding land that already has been cleared of many of its trees.
“We have so much land they’ve stripped down; there’s so much sand,” one resident said. “We deal with it every time there’s a storm. And you will add to it. We never had North winds because the trees were blocking. Now we having rains coming in our front door. And we’re also downhill from all this.”
Still another resident complained about the poorly placed traffic lights along County Road 545.
“People shouldn’t have to die for something to happen,” he said.
Janet Russek was vocal about her opposition to the proposed project.
“This little area — Avalon — we remember what this used to be like before the development,” she said. “Some of this property has been passed down from generation to generation. We didn’t plan our lives and our children’s lives to be so close to subdivisions we could throw a rock into it. At first we were annoyed, but now I think we’re angry.
“The noise, the anxiety, we’re being completely locked in,” Russek said. “Our lifestyle is changing drastically, and nobody cares. How about a nice clean piece of property, nothing fancy, so we can have a place to ride our horses. Our little park, our little recreation center. “That piece of property that backs right up to us. … Nobody gives a crap about us. That’s got to stop.”
Resident Kevin Horine has battled the county numerous times over surrounding development that has affected his property. He has watched as neighborhoods and homes have come increasingly closer to his once-rural land. He has dealt with early-morning construction crews right outside his home for months on end. He lost hundreds of thousands of bees when the county flooded the lake near his home. And now he’s concerned about the county allowing a different density than is proposed.
Gentry assured Horine the county must stay consistent with its density because of the property’s proximity to the rural settlement.
“Everything we’re doing is consistent with what has been approved all along,” Gentry said. “We’re not asking for anything else.”
Trujillo-Villa assured residents nothing will move forward until the necessary approvals are in place and it will be at least six months before a final public hearing takes place. She reminded residents in attendance that public input will be welcomed at a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting, which has not yet been set.