Southwest Orange County residents had plenty to say about a proposed hotel conversion on Turkey Lake Road at a community meeting Tuesday, May 30.
The project, located at 9350 Turkey Lake Road, is bound by Turkey Lake Road to the east, Sand Lake Commons Boulevard to the south, Big Sand Lake to the west and Sale Lake Vista Drive to the north.
The request is to amend the Future Land Use Map from Commercial to Planned Development-Commercial/Medium-High Density Residential to convert an existing 215-unit hotel into 215 multifamily residential units on a 7.05-gross-acre parcel.
Because the parcel already is considered PD, rezoning would not need to be completed at this time.
If the proposal is approved, the existing hotel would be converted from rooms to studio-style dwelling units, and the existing medical office would remain on the subject parcel located south of the hotel.
Orange County Case Planner Nicole Palacios introduced the proposal, followed by a presentation by applicant Ryan Abrams, from Abrams Law Firm, who represents the property owner.
Palacios discussed the project-related impacts and resident concerns, including traffic, environment, schools and development compatibility.
Palacios said according to the county’s transportation planning division, project trips from the currently approved Future Land Use versus the proposed use indicate the proposed residential use would result in a decrease in the number of peak trips by eight, and therefore not impact the area roadways.
Palacios said the subject property does not have any wetlands, and regarding schools, the school-capacity determination was required and processed, and it was determined by Orange County Public Schools’ reviewer the school capacity for the proposed development is considered not available.
“The Board of County Commissioners decides at the BCC adoption public hearing whether the additional students generated because of the Future Land Use amendment application is significant or not,” she said. “That is something that will be discussed at the time of the adoption hearing.”
Doug McDowell, another county planner, said the proposal also will go to the School Board, which will ascertain school impacts.
“Because this is being switched to a residential project, they will be required to meet school concurrency standards,” he said. “That means there either have to be school seats available; if they’re not available they have to enter into a mitigation process with the School Board to account for that and they also have to pay impact fees to the School Board.”
Palacios said achieving compatibility between the new and existing development is the fundamental consideration between all land use and zoning decisions. Surrounding properties include a medical office complex, hospital, Walmart, 7-Eleven, self-storage units and shopping center.
Attendees then heard from Abrams, who said the property is an underutilized Quality Inn hotel that has been there since 1990.
“Since the pandemic, the numbers have not returned to what they once were and the owners of properties such as this, including my client, are in a position where they want to make the highest and best use out of this property,” he said. “They recognize that in this state, there is an incredible demand for housing, one that puts a lot of stress on pricing throughout the state, including Orange County. The only way to deal with that directly is to increase inventory. That is to increase the supply of units, the supply of housing, in a way that makes sense — smart growth. We think it’s efficient to make use of an existing structure.”
Abrams said the targeted residents for the units are workforce housing members who work in the surrounding medical and service industries.
He said the studio-style units will be competitively priced as compared to other similar workforce housing in the area at $500 less than the lowest similar comparable properties. The units are estimated to run from $1,000 to $1,200, with smaller units measuring about 350 square feet and larger units running about 400 square feet.
One of the major concerns at the meeting was the impact the proposed development would have on the already-existing parking issues.
The property currently hosts 372 parking spaces.
“This frustrating and unsafe condition will only get worse when the project to the west of this application is completed,” resident Kurt Kotzin said. “Signalization is probably not an option, (because) this intersection is too close to the main entrance of Dr. Phillips Hospital.
“The justification that the conversion helps the ‘housing crisis’ is patently false,” he said. “The crisis is not housing, but ‘affordable’ housing. Is the applicant committing that the studios would be affordable? The applicant knowingly bought the parcel with the entitlements granted under the present zoning. What has changed since that purchase that supports a request for more entitlements to develop the property? The applicant has determined that the parcel is not being utilized to its highest and best. The parcel has been a hotel since at least 1997. No doubt that the property is not a jewel, but that should not be a reason for Orange County to provide this applicant with an avenue to recover his investment on, in some opinions, was an overpriced purchase.”
However, another resident said she frequents the area often and never has had an issue with parking.
Abrams said the concerns on parking are noted, and he will discuss it with his client. Palacios said parking will be discussed more at the LPA meeting — the next step in the process.
Another major concern at the meeting was compatibility.
“I also have concerns about the idea of there being the wrong fit at the wrong place and my residents, they have a very hard time with what they feel like is a predictable plan in a lot of these places,” District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson, who attended the meeting, said. “The idea of making sure that the intention is clear and that the use that is on this application is the actual use, I think is really important … having sort of that articulated limits to what this application is is really important.”
Wilson stressed the importance of not only providing living but also providing quality living.
“The comprehensive plan encourages structures that are underutilized to be changed to a different use if needed in order to get proper use,” Abrams said. “Otherwise, you have structures that just end up not being used properly. We’re seeking flexibility, and we’re open to feedback like we’re getting here, and we hope to be able to address the feedback.”
The proposal will next be heard at the LPA public hearing July 20, before proceeding to a BCC meeting at a date to be determined.