Disney affordable-housing decision leads March county action

The Orange County Board of County Commissioners made several decisions that impact West Orange and Southwest Orange.

Photo courtesy of Orange County Government
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Editor’s note: County Level is the Observer’s new feature, in which we will highlight the most impactful actions taken by the Orange County Commission.

District 1, led by Commissioner Nicole Wilson, encompasses the following areas: Avalon Rural Settlement, Dr. Phillips, Gotha, Horizon West, Hunter’s Creek, Lake Buena Vista, Metrowest, Ocoee, Tildenville, town of Oakland, Williamsburg, town of Windermere and Winter Garden.

District 1 is the largest and fastest growing district in Orange County. Made of quiet, historic towns and bustling new development, it is a unique hybrid of classic and contemporary Florida living.


An affordable-housing project proposed by Walt Disney World led District 1 discussions at the March Orange County Board of County Commissioners meetings. Several other decisions also were made that impacted the West Orange and Southwest Orange areas.


Months of conversations relating to Disney’s affordable-housing project in Horizon West came to a head at the Tuesday, March 26, meeting. 

After several hours of discussion, the commission voted to move the controversial project forward with a 4-2 vote.

Mayor Jerry L. Demings was the one to make the motion to transmit the housing plan to the state for review, a mandatory step in the approval process.

Commissioner Nicole Wilson, who leads District 1 where the project is being proposed, and Commissioner Emily Bonilla voted no on Disney Imagineering’s request. Both commissioners asked for a delay so more information could be gathered. 

“I don’t think we’re at the point that this should be transmitted,” Wilson said prior to the vote. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions, and I feel really strongly about the fact that some of these are safety and welfare questions.”

The Florida Department of Commerce and other agencies will review the plan, which could take several months.

The Orange County Commission then will vote on a final approval at a later date.

Since the project was announced in April 2022, it has met a slew of concerns from residents. Those include traffic, transportation, school capacity, location, affordability and attainability.

At the meeting, 54 speakers signed up to give public comments.

The proposed project sits on 114.23 acres on Hartzog Road, generally bounded by Hartzog Road to the north and east and State Road 545 to the west. 

Disney is working with The Michaels Organization to build about 1,400 units of mixed-income housing in the area, more than 1,000 of which will be reserved as affordable. 

“We’re here today because leaders of Orange County and residents have identified affordable housing as one of the biggest needs in our region, and we, at Disney, have developed a plan that can contribute to the solution, and we’re working very thoughtfully alongside a prominent developer to create a place that strengthens the surrounding area while making a real difference in people’s lives for years to come, ” Tajiana Ancora-Brown, director of external affairs at Walt Disney World Resort, said at the meeting. 

Disney officials said groundbreaking for the project, if approved, is targeted for late 2024 with the first units anticipated to be completed in 2026.

Read Orange Observer’s latest update on the project here.

For more information on the project, click here.


County commissioners approved a resolution to utilize federal funding for improvements to the intersection of Tiny and Tilden roads at the Tuesday, March 5, meeting.

The Public Works Department has completed the design for the improvements, and the intersection project includes a new traffic signal; pavement widening for additional turn lanes; milling and resurfacing of existing lanes; signing and pavement markings; curbs and gutters; new sidewalks and curb ramps; and drainage improvements.

The Transportation Planning Division requested federal funding through MetroPlan Orlando and the Florida Department of Transportation for construction and construction engineering inspection in the amount of $4,066,733. However, $4,032,583 is available in federal funds. 

Orange County will fund the remaining construction and CEI in the amount of $34,150. 

A public meeting on the improvements is planned for mid-April.

Read the Orange Observer’s latest report on the improvements here.


At the Tuesday, March 26, meeting, the commission approved a request to convert an existing 215-unit hotel into 215 multifamily residential units on a 7.05-acre parcel.

A waiver also is being requested to allow a minimum living area of 320 square feet.

The project is located at 9350 Turkey Lake Road.

A community meeting was held in May 2023. Residents expressed concerns as to the compatibility and impact the development would have on the area. 

Read the Orange Observer’s full meeting recap here.


Commissioners also discussed a preliminary subdivision plan for the Diocese of Orlando in the Horizon West area at the Tuesday, March 26, meeting. 

Applicant Steven Thorp, representing Dream Finders Homes, seeks to subdivide 59.56 acres to construct 183 single-family homes.

The project is located north of New Independence Parkway and east of Avalon Road in the Horizon West Town Center Village.

Wilson made a motion for approval; the request passed unanimously. 


At their Tuesday, March 5, meeting, commissioners approved two agreements pertaining to facility use at the Maxey Community Center in Winter Garden. 

The first was an agreement between Orange County and K2 Medical Research LLC.

K2’s objective is to provide cognitive assessment; mental, memory and depression screenings; education; and resources for those who may have dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. 

The organization also will provide activities to promote brain health, such as exercise classes, cooking demonstrations, nutrition classes, bingo, painting workshops and crafts.

The second agreement was between Orange County and Primary Care Access Network, Inc. 

The organization strives to connect Orange County residents with a source of primary health care, as well as affordable health insurance.

Both agreements passed unanimously. 


Also at the Tuesday, March 5, meeting, county commissions approved an agreement between Orange County and the Orlando College of Osteopathic Medicine related to the Experiential Learning Placement Program.

Orange County and OCOM seek to implement the program to facilitate placement of the college’s students at Orange County’s participating placement departments and divisions. 

The item was approved unanimously.


The commission, at its Tuesday, March 26, meeting approved neighborhood beautification grants for several homeowner’s associations, including two in Southwest Orange.

One will go to the Bay Hill Village Club Condominium Association Inc. in the amount of $5,000, and the other will go to Sand Lake Hills in the amount of $15,000.

All grants were approved unanimously.



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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