Winter Garden approves land swap with OCPS

City commissioners agreed to purchase 16 acres at 15275 W. Colonial Drive at their Thursday, Feb. 9, meeting.

This rendering showcases the new planned development of more than 30,000 square feet at 996 E. Plant St.
This rendering showcases the new planned development of more than 30,000 square feet at 996 E. Plant St.
Courtesy photo
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Winter Garden city commissioners approved unanimously an agreement acquisition for 16 acres on West Colonial Drive for a potential land swap with Orange County Public Schools at the Thursday, Feb. 9, City Commission meeting.

The 16.3-acre property, located at 15275 W. Colonial Drive, was purchased from property owner Alan Haughey, with Panther Land Development LLC.

“We have had a running dispute with the School Board for years regarding the use of (Orange Technical College - Westside), some surrounding properties, the farm next door and even Maxey Elementary,” Planning Consultant Ed Williams said. “Recently, within the last year, the School Board has come to us and said, ‘We’re taking (Orange Technical College - Westside) and moving it to Ocoee, up by Ocoee High.’ 

“Most of the disputes that we have had with them was for their future plans to build a bus, parking station and repair facility in that area,” he said. “The School Board held a community meeting … and the community convinced them they were barking up the wrong tree.”

Williams said the School Board gave the city and other local municipalities the opportunity to find other sites to relocate the bus station.

He said Haughey has made it feasible for the city to do this and has waited while the School Board studies the property. 

“He’s been patient, but our patience has run out, and we are asking for the board to approve that we purchase the site with the intended purpose of swapping it for the technical site so that the bus station would be located here,” Williams said. “If that were to happen, the biggest issue would be traffic. … But there is a residential development north of this site, and it’s going to have to be substantially buffered. That would be a significant condition that we would impose if we were to propose that we swap properties. The School Board has been told that since Day 1. They’re confident that they can meet the buffer that we are going to push for, so we’re confident enough to come to you with this proposal.”

Williams said the city has not yet approached the neighborhood with the buffer issue, because the city was unsure if the School Board was serious about the site.

“The price of $5 million, frankly, is under market and cheap,” he said. “We’ve looked at other sites that are substantially higher in cost and not as well located. … It will solve a big issue for the community.”

The city now will work on preparing contracts and closing documents before bringing the proposal back to the commission for final approval. 

If the School Board chooses a different site, Williams told commissioners there are many other uses that can be appropriated for the location. 

District 3 Commissioner Mark A. Macial thanked the staff for their work. 

“I’m not sure there’s a lot of cities out there that would go to bat for a community like this, and what we’re doing, so I do appreciate that and I know the community appreciates it,” he said. 

The agreement acquisition was approved unanimously.


Commissioners also discussed the first reading of two ordinances relating to a 1.603-acre property at 996 E. Plant St.

The applicant is requesting to amend the property’s Future Land Use designation to Commercial and to rezone the property to Character Area Planned Unit Development.

The redevelopment of the parcel would include demolishing the existing office building and constructing three new commercial buildings: a two-story, 4,800-square-foot building; a single-story, 2,400-square-foot building; and a two-story, 22,800-square-foot building.

The project also includes associated site work such as new parking areas, streetscape improvements, a courtyard area and landscaping.

“They have designed the site to meet the overlay’s architectural and site design criteria including installing a 12-foot wide multi-modal path along East Plant Street with landscaping, a pedestrian plaza and amenities,” Planning Director Kelly Carson said.

Carson reviewed a short presentation that addressed visual images of the design for the proposed buildings as she said there were some questions about it.

“We just wanted to make sure that this is part of the overlay, part of our CRA extension, because it’s going to be one of the first buildings and want to set the bar high to ensure that the others follow suit,” Mayor John Rees said after the presentation. 

The applicants — Mike Van den Abbeel and Kiri Wollheim — own Mosaic Salon and intend to open a new salon in the corner building on East Plant Street and 11th Street. 

Van den Abbeel, originally from Winter Garden, thanked the commission and spoke briefly. 

“We knew that this was our natural third extension and…we were looking for the characteristic that you were seeking, which is exactly what we are seeking,” he said. “The thing that has made us so successful is that we are in walkable, very community-focused areas … when we did a heat map of all of our customers … where they were coming from, Winter Garden was a clear standout winner.”

Although other tenants have not been finalized yet, Carson said potential uses include retail, restaurant and professional office uses.

The Planning and Zoning Board recommended the approval of the ordinances on Monday, Feb. 6, Carson said the board also made a motion that the CAPUD ordinance include some additional language that clarifies that reclaimed water is not currently available to supply the irrigation system, but the system will be set up to be hooked into the reclaimed service at  a later date when it becomes available in the area. 

Commissioners approved the ordinances unanimously with the addition of the motion. A second reading will take place Thursday, Feb. 23.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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