Heated arguments dominate project discussion

After hours of discussion, the Winter Garden City Commission approved the first reading of the annexation and development plan pertaining to a property next to Crown Pointe Equestrian.

Photo by Michael Eng
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After hours of discussion, the Winter Garden City Commission approved the first reading of the annexation and development plan pertaining to a property next to Crown Pointe Equestrian at its meeting Thursday, May 25. 

The applicant is requesting to annex the 30.24-acre parcel located on Tilden Road into the city, as well as amend the future land use and rezone the property to Planned Unit Development. The approval would mean the development of a neighborhood with 24 homes.


The discussion was first tabled at the Oct. 13, 2022, City Commission meeting, and since then, new conditions of approval were added. These include the installation of a 6-foot opaque privacy fence for lots adjacent to the project’s western boundary, as well as the declaration of restrictive covenants to be recorded with the final plat must contain a disclosure to all lot owners and potential buyers that there are active agricultural uses in the area. 

Several new conditions also were added after the item was tabled at the Feb. 9 City Commission meeting to address additional concerns raised by area property owners. These include an 8-foot privacy fence added to the western side of the property abutting common area tracts and three residential lots; the removal of the tot lot and the walking trail; and security fencing on the eastern property line. 

At the March 17, commission meeting, all three ordinances were tabled for discussion for April 13, so the applicant could continue to work with the adjacent property owners. 

However, the applicant requested a continuance at the April commission meeting, moving the discussion to April 27, where the applicant then requested to postpone the item because the attorney for the neighboring property owner raised a concern about a mistake on the cover page of the agenda item.  


Planning Director Kelly Carson said the proposed PUD features a density of 1.83 dwelling units per net developable acres, 0.79 gross density, less than half of the maximum density of four dwelling units per acre permitted within the suburban residential future land use designation. 

“The proposal that was put in front of us now was extremely low density,” she said. “It’s about as low density as I’ve ever seen; I’ve been in this career for over a decade. It will be developed, and the choice is how do you want it to be developed. We saw this project as a way to meet all of our developer requirements while also being literally the least dense proposal I have ever seen.”

By comparison, the subdivision located to the northwest of the development, Emerald Ridge, features 144 dwelling units on 51 acres for a gross residential density of 2.8 dwelling units per acre. The new proposed development would be less than a third of the older development. 

“It’s not the density of the property that the community is worried about; it’s the entire density of the area by adding more homes into it,” Commissioner Ron Mueller said. 

Carson said the property is also located within the city’s Joint Planning Area annexation boundaries. The JPA is an agreement between the commission and Orange County designed to facilitate planned growth of trust lands for the benefit to the trust and the local community.

During his presentation, Logan Opsahl, the lawyer representing the applicant, told the commission the JPA obligates the city to annex the property.

“The city has worked with the county to develop an area for future annexation to provide utility services,” he said. “That JPA … requires PUD and suburban residential future land use designation. … We are also agreeing to provide additional voluntary conditions to this approval today through working with our neighbor, and hearing some of the concerns throughout this process.”

In terms of traffic, Carson said there would be a total daily increase of about 300 cars.

“I don’t think any of us are pro development; I think all of us are probably anti-traffic,” Commissioner Lisa Bennett said. “I wasn’t aware until the last meeting that the neighboring horse farm had put in writing that they would like to be a part of the JPA, and I think we have to consider that, too, because it impacts the subject property because they made decisions. … It concerns me as far as liability.”

Anne Bingler, owner of the horse farm, said she supported the JPA in 2013. However, since then, her position has changed.

“I own 70 acres in Winter Garden,” she said. “You don’t think developers are constantly knocking on my door asking me if I would like to make millions of dollars? A developer, back in 2013, came to me and was interested in assembling a bunch of the parcels on Tilden Road. … They were smoke and mirrors. … Of course, you can’t bring in any of those parcels if you aren’t annexed into the city. At the time, I was told … that the letter really meant nothing. If I just wrote the letter, I always have the option — or not — to do whatever I want with my property; it would never affect my property.

“I don’t want to be part of the city,” she said. “The biggest reason why is that you guys don’t recognize agricultural use. … That’s why I would never, ever re-consent to that annexation amendment.”

Residents who opposed the project packed the commission chambers to speak against it and show support for Bingler.

Commissioner Mark A. Maciel said it was essential to him to hear from the public. 

“We need help,” he said. “I think all of us would like to see this project go away, quite frankly. We’re all residents of Winter Garden. … We have some legal obligations that we have to consider, also. I need to hear things that are going to help us legally deny this project.”

S. Brent Spain, the lawyer representing Bingler, also gave a presentation stating his goal was to give the commission the legal reasons they needed to deny the project. 

Spain listed several points, including that there is no obligation for the city to annex the property; the development would create an enclave; and showcased pictures and videos to demonstrate the negative impact the development would have on the farm.


The Binglers have set up a petition to fight the development and have gained more than 2,000 signatures. 

As one of the few remaining horse farms in West Orange County, Crown Pointe has owned the narrow plot of land along Tilden Road for almost 25 years, and has been training Olympic-level horses on the land since 1998. 

The Binglers said a new development to the west, Tilden Place, forced the horse farm to move to the east side of their property, which is where the new developer now plans to build. 

They said the horses need a quiet environment to train, and the impact of the development will affect the horses, causing the farm to have to close.

“That used to be a basis for our entire West Orange County,” Anne Bingler said at the March meeting. “We were a farming community. Orange groves, horse farms, that’s what we were about, and it’s all gone away. It’s all been eaten up by development. … If you want to just see the last horse farm go away, that’s what’s basically going to happen.”

Several residents also spoke against the development, noting concerns with traffic and other impacts, and how the horse farm needs to be preserved to keep the city as special as possible. 

City Attorney A. Kurt Ardaman weighed in on the development with his legal input. 

“With respect to the resident’s testimony; some very good, passionate comments,” he said. “Florida law does though provide that witness testimony … are not considered competent substantial evidence. … The courts also say that opinions with respect to land use devaluation of homes in the area is not sufficient to support that a devaluation will occur.”

The first reading of the annexation ordinance was approved 4-1, with Commissioner Colin Sharman dissenting. The first reading of the ordinance amending the FLUM was approved 3-2, with Sharman and Mueller dissenting, and the first reading of the ordinance to rezone the property was approved 3-2, with Sharman and Mueller dissenting. 

The second reading and public hearing will take place Thursday, June 8.



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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