Residents in Dr. Phillips had plenty of opinions to share at an Orange County Planning Division community meeting held Wednesday, Sept. 20, at Dr. Phillips Elementary School.
Attendees heard a presentation on the Dr. Phillips commercial planned development, a request on Sand Lake Road to rezone 1.62 acres from Retail Commercial District to Planned Development to construct up to 29,750 square feet of commercial uses and structured parking.
The property is located on the northwest corner of Dr. Phillips Boulevard and West Sand Lake Road, just east of Della Drive.
Doug McDowell, case planner for Orange County, said the applicant, Jennifer J. Strickler, of Kimley-Horn & Associates, is requesting seven waivers from Orange County code related to impervious area, setbacks, building height and open space requirements.
Although the standard for impervious areas is 70% for C-1 and PD, the applicant is requesting a waiver for 90%. Regarding building height, the standard is 50 feet for C-1 and PD, but the applicant is requesting a waiver for 70 feet (six stories). In terms of open space, the standard is 0% for C-1 and 20% for PD. The applicant is requesting a waiver for 8%.
The other waivers pertain to setbacks on the north, east and west, as well as the landscape buffer.
Chuck Whittall, Unicorp Development president, with the application team, said the property is separate from the shopping center behind the parcel.
Whittall owns the front corner of the property where the bank is located, as well as the front corner where the cosmetic businesses are located.
“I’ve owned the bank for 20 years, and we want to do a redevelopment of that property,” he said. “While I could build apartments there, we don’t want to build apartments there. We want to build a very nice mixed-use development that brings some high-end restaurants to Dr. Phillips. … Whatever happens on my property has nothing to do with what happens in the back.”
Residents voiced concerns for the proposal pertaining to safety, traffic, not being the right location, impact of business on restaurants already there, setting a precedent and not wanting more development.
Kurt Kotzin, a representative of the steering committee for the “STOP KIMCO - SAVE DP2022” Facebook group, believes the application for rezoning should be denied.
“The applicant did not present a case for approval at the meeting,” he wrote in an email to the county. “As you know from your attendance, the vast majority of their presentation was predicated on the applicant’s previous projects in Southwest Orlando. Beyond describing the renderings and their vision for potential tenants and uses, they did not provide any information to support their request to rezone the parcel. In fact, it seemed that most of the presentation was trying to get the message across that they had nothing to do with the project that is being considered to add apartments to the marketplace parcel along Della Drive, and that IF the request is denied, they are prepared to exercise their rights per the new Live Local legislation. Regardless of what was said at the meeting, the documents on file and presented to the community at the meeting do not provide a viable justification for the rezoning, as well as a case that supports granting any of the seven waivers requested. … This project, if approved, will drastically alter the character of Dr. Phillips, not to mention establishing a precedent for future applications in Dr. Phillips to be approved.”
Gloria Sepulveda, resident and board member of Granada Villas, the community located on Sand Lake and The Esplanade, also has concerns about the permit change and code waivers the developer has requested.
“I firmly believe in the principles of growth, change and investment, as they are essential for a city’s vitality and prosperity,” she said. “However, I also believe that such development should be carried out responsibly to ensure a favorable outcome for everyone involved. … The current traffic situation from our community to reach I-4, which is approximately just one mile away, is frustrating. … While it inconveniences me, it poses a significant risk to our elderly residents, many of whom have called this place home for (more than) 25 years. The prospect of adding more office space to the new building raises concerns about increased traffic volume. Presently, Dr. Phillips Boulevard experiences bumper-to-bumper traffic when attempting to access I-4, and there are no plans to expand the road. Would it not be prudent to, at the very least, await the completion of the I-4 corridor project before proceeding?”
Sepulveda also noted concerns with noise disturbances, lack of compatibility when it comes to exterior aesthetics and setting a precedent for future development.
“Allowing the proposed rezone and waivers to proceed would establish a precedent we will never be able to reverse,” she said. “It could mark the end of Dr. Phillips as we know it, transforming our hometown into an urban landscape. Many of us chose Orlando precisely because it offered a small-town ambiance — quiet, quaint and ideal for families, which is gradually diminishing.”
The project will next go to the Development Review Committee, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the County Commission. The dates for those meetings have not been set.