After months of deliberation, the Winter Garden City Commission on Thursday, June 8, approved a series of ordinances pertaining to a property next to Crown Pointe Equestrian.
The ordinances have drawn opposition from horse farm owners Anne and Paul Bingler and nearby residents since the commission first discussed the proposed plans in March.
The approved measures allow for the annexation of the 30.24-acre parcel located on Tilden Road into the city, as well as an amendment of the Future Land Use and a rezoning of the property to Planned Unit Development. The approval means the development of a neighborhood with 24 homes.
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 there since 1998.
The Binglers said a new development to the west, Tilden Place, forced the business to move to the east side of their property, which is where the new developer now plans to build.
The Binglers 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.
The series of ordinances underwent a first reading at the commission meeting Thursday, May 25.
At that meeting, Planning Director Kelly Carson; Logan Opsahl, the lawyer representing the applicant; and S. Brent Spain, the lawyer representing the Binglers; all gave presentations supporting their case.
The first reading of the annexation ordinance was approved 4-1, with Commissioner Colin Sharman dissenting. The first reading of the ordinance amending the Future Land-Use Map was approved 3-2, with Sharman and Commissioner Ron Mueller dissenting, and the first reading of the ordinance to rezone the property was approved 3-2, with Sharman and Mueller dissenting.
At the most recent meeting, City Attorney A. Kurt Ardaman clarified the annexation and comprehensive plan ordinances are legislative in nature, while the zoning ordinance is a quasi-judicial proceeding.
“The legislative actions are subject to the fairly debatable standard, which is the rule of reasonableness based on the evidence presented,” he said. “Quasi-judicial actions … are reviewed under the comprehensive substantial evidence standard, which is where evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support the conclusion. Cross examination related to the annexation and comprehensive plan ordinances is not appropriate.”
Mueller said he has had conversations with both parties in an attempt to have a dialogue to find a path forward, but those conversations did not result in a desired outcome.
Mayor John Rees said he had been contacted by both sides but chose not to respond to either one to remain fair.
Carson, Opsahl and Spain all countered previous arguments and presented evidence to further support their analysis at the June meeting.
“Tilden Club is a much different proposal than Tilden Place,” Carson said. “This project was designed based on Mrs. Bingler’s testimony about Tilden Place. We wanted to make sure that this development would address the concerns that arose for her after Tilden Place was built.”
In addition, Ed Williams, planning consultant; Myra Monreal, from traffic consulting firm Myra Planning and Design; and Daniel W. Langley, assistant city attorney; provided additional insight.
Williams said he noticed multiple inaccuracies in Spain’s presentation, including the idea that an enclave would be created and the idea the right-of-way was municipal property.
“If the city does not annex the property, it will be developed in the county, and it will be developed at a much greater density than we think is appropriate for that area,” Williams said.
Monreal, who was present on behalf of the applicant, said when the project started it was proposed at 27 homes — now down to 24 — so the estimated trips are actually less than what is shown in the original traffic study.
“In addition, the existing site is not vacant land,” she said. “When you factor in those existing trips, the actual trips are going to be less than the 29, or the 27, that I think people are focusing on that was in the report based on the 27 homes. …”
Langley said from a legal interpretation perspective, it appears to him the proposals meet the annexation statute.
Commissioner Mark A. Maciel said he has received multiple communications from residents asking what the city’s motivation is in annexing the property, which he clarified is not the case.
“As I mentioned before in an earlier comment, I think we would like to see this project go away,” he said. “It would be nice if we didn’t have to deal with it, but it’s 25 lots. Nobody in the city cares about the tax revenue for 25 lots, so I just want everybody to know: The idea that there’s some greed on the city in bringing in more development; we don’t care about 25 lots.”
Rees said he believes if the city were to control the property, the gross density on the space would be less than with the county.
“The property is better developed in Winter Garden than in Orange County,” he said. “Running through Horizon West, looking at the densities and what they’ve created out there has created more and more traffic and issues for, I think, Winter Garden. I don’t know what they would do there, but to think that they would stick to one to 10 acres, at least in my opinion, I’m not sure that would happen when you look at the surrounding areas.”
Maciel said he also needed to address comments toward some of the experts on staff.
“These folks work for you,” he said. “They work for the commission. They are here in the best interest of the residents of the city. ... They are talking to you, and they are talking to the commission in our best interest, and they get paid by us; and by the way, they don’t get a bonus if they annex this property.”
The first and second ordinances pertaining to the annexation and FLUM were approved 3-2, with Sharman and Mueller opposing.
The third ordinance regarding rezoning the property was approved 4-1, with Mueller dissenting. The ordinance was revised to include an 8-foot sound wall on the three lots boarding the horse farm, after suggestion by Maciel.
Mueller proposed the idea of a possible agricultural zoning in the future.
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