Residents voiced their opinions at a community meeting hosted by Orange County Government Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Water Spring Elementary School to discuss two separate requests pertaining to a property in the Horizon West area.
The first request is an amendment of the Future Land Use Map. The applicant is proposing to change the FLUM designation of a 13.83-acre property at 14331 Avalon Road.
The applicant, Erika Hughes, of VHB Inc., is requesting the property, located in the U.S. 192 Growth Center, to be changed from Growth Center-Commercial to Growth Center-Planned Development-Medium-High Density Residential.
The proposal for the property is to develop a multi-family residential community with up to 250 units.
Because the application is considered to be a large-scale amendment to the Orange County FLUM, it will require two rounds of county review: transmittal public hearings and adoption public hearings.
The second request is a privately initiated text amendment to the Future Land Use Element Policy FLU8.1.4, which established the maximum densities and intensities for Planned Development and Lake Pickett FLUM designations adopted subsequent to Jan. 1, 2007.
This request would revise the Sutton Lakes Planned Development’s maximum development program of 700 single-family dwelling units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space. If the proposed amendment is adopted, a new development cap of 253 single-family units, 304 multi-family units and 20,000 square feet of commercial space will be established and added to the policy.
Although the two requests are separate, the plan is to combine the two, Sutton Grande and Sutton Lakes, into one community.
Jennifer DuBois, case planner from Orange County, gave a brief explanation on the requests before turning the floor over to the owner of the property, Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments LLC.
Whittall spoke about decreasing the property’s density from 700 single-family dwelling units to 557 residential units.
“In general, we are taking the density and reducing it from what’s allowed on the property,” he said. “We are reducing the number of trips when you talk about traffic. … We are reducing by 287 trips of what can currently go on the property. We have estate lots that are going to be on the lake; we have townhome lots that are going to be a buffer between the estate homes and the apartments. … Our logic for not doing retail here is several-fold. We do a lot of retail, so if there’s a retail play, we would certainly do retail. … But just up to the north there’s a new shopping center under construction … directly across the street Disney is doing a big retail development commercial, so the grocery stores that are in our market are here. There’s not another grocery store to be here and the small retail generally wants to be around an anchor which would be a grocery store.”
As far as the traffic, Whittall said the projects already meet the traffic requirements by building less than what is allowed on the property.
“What we are doing is working with the county and the county is widening this road during the process,” he said.
Currently, DuBois said widening plans are undergoing roadway conceptual analysis. The latest meeting estimated the timeline for completion of the project will not be for another 10 years.
Orange County District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson spoke about the local concern for traffic and safety.
“What the residents want to make sure the developers understand is that sometimes the lopsidedness of it is that private development doesn’t have to go through the county procurement process,” she said. “Once they’re past this part, it doesn’t have the onus to taxpayers to make sure we’re doing the most with those tax dollars, which is what takes a long time. A lot of times, that private development is done first, and then everyone ends up having to wait for the infrastructure part of it, and they’re really feeling that out here.”
Although Hughes said there would also be interconnection between both communities to help with traffic along Avalon Road, residents still voiced concern.
One resident, who lives directly next to the subject property, said at 6:40 a.m., he already has to wait at least 10 minutes to even get out of his driveway because of the traffic already present in the area.
“I’m a contractor; I’m a builder; I understand exactly what’s going on, but I just think the road is a vital issue,” he said.
A Hamlin resident who has lived in Southwest Orange County for more than 30 years and is a professional engineer working in transportation planning, said he thinks a better use for the property would be for it to remain a commercial retail site.
Another resident chimed in to share his input.
“For Horizon West, we’re done with more homes,” he said. “There’s so many things getting built. What do we need? Schools. We have so many people here that our schools are overcrowded as soon as they open … You’re looking at it in your little fox hole. … Horizon West is a different beast.”
The resident brought up a death on Avalon Road and his concern for traffic and safety.
“The road isn’t even going to widen for 10 years,” he said. “You’re going to endanger people for the next 10 years? We had a death next to my son’s elementary school last year. A traffic accident. Last week, a kid, a middle-schooler, got hit and is in critical condition. I understand the business side of it, I do, and I empathize with you. I think what we’re asking you to do is keep the plan the same. You’re going to make money. I don’t care what you do, just keep it the same. We’ll shop, we’ll spend money, you will be successful. This is greed. This is greed, and it hurts our safety.”
The requests will next be heard at the Board of County Commissioners transmittal hearing Tuesday, March 7, after press time.
The next opportunities for public comment will be at the Local Planning Agency adoption hearing on April 20, and at the BCC adoption hearing in May.