Gotha temple leads January County Commission 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.


January was a busy month for the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, which rendered decisions on several major projects that impact West Orange and Southwest Orange.


After a nearly three-hour discussion at the Tuesday, Jan. 23, meeting, the County Commission denied a request to build an 800-seat, 45,000-square-foot Hindu temple near Gotha.

Residents voiced their disdain for the project at a community meeting last June. Concerns related to the scale of the project, the location in the Gotha Rural Settlement, flooding and the development being the wrong fit for the community. 

Nathan Milch was the applicant representing BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, which wanted to relocate from its current home on Oak Ridge Road of 50 years to 2198 Hempel Ave.

The proposal related to 8.37 acres of vacant agricultural land on the west side of Hempel, east of State Road 408 and north of Florida’s Turnpike. Access would have been from Hempel.

At the July 6 Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing, staff recommended the denial of the special exception, and the applicant subsequently appealed the BZA decision.

At the Sept. 26 BCC meeting, despite District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson’s affirmation of staff recommendations, other board members passed a motion to have the case return.

At the January meeting, more than 80 residents signed up to have their say during public comment, although many allocated time to others. 

Theresa Schretzmann-Myers, who serves on the boards of the Gotha Rural Settlement Association and Nehrling Gardens, said the size of the proposed building and parking area was inconsistent and out of character with the existing historic rural settlement. 

“It is more than three times larger than any other building in the community and equivalent to all other non-residential structures combined,” she said. “There’s already a temple in Gotha. … We are also very concerned about the water issues in Gotha. … the Gotha basin is oversaturated. … We are already flooding. The more tree canopy you take away … the more we develop in Gotha, the more we will continue to flood.”

Read the Orange Observer’s latest report here.


At the Tuesday Jan. 9, meeting, the commission voted to continue discussions about the Sand Lake Commons Planned Development to its March 26 meeting.

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. The project is located at 9350 Turkey Lake Road.

The applicant also requested a waiver from Orange County code to reduce the minimum living area from 500 square feet to 320 square feet. 

Although no residents signed up for public comment at the January meeting, the commission had a discussion filled with questions and concerns on the size and price of the housing.

Wilson said she would be willing to move forward with part of the request but not with the waiver. She believes the area needs larger units to accommodate families with children. 

“So, when I look at that room, and I think about a family of four and a dog, it gives me terrible anxiety that we are lowering our standards for what the county requires for a living space,” she said.

Read the Orange Observer’s latest report here.


At the Tuesday, Jan. 23 meeting, commissioners approved unanimously a substantial change to the Kerina Parkside Planned Development.

The Kerina Parkside PD is located south of Fenton Street, west of South Apopka-Vineland Road and north of Daryl Carter Parkway. 

The existing PD development program allows for 301 single-family attached and detached dwelling units, 400 multi-family dwelling units, 200 senior living units, 150,000 square feet of retail and office uses, and a 5-acre park.

The applicant requested two waivers from Orange County Code. The first was to allow 10-foot front setbacks, in lieu of 20, from Apopka-Vineland Road. The second request was to reduce the minimum width of building base green space for all multi-story buildings to 10 feet. 

About 60 residents — composed of Rosen Jewish Community Center leaders and community members — voiced opposition to the project, citing safety concerns and the area’s standards at a recent community meeting.

At the meeting, Chuck Whittall, president of applicant Unicorp National Developments, spoke to the commission and said he had met with the adjacent property leaders, the JCC, and resolved the issues.

Read the Orange Observer’s latest report here.


At the Tuesday, Jan. 9, meeting, commissioners approved several amendments, changes and agreements in the Hamlin area of Horizon West.

The first was an applicant proposing the first amendment to the Horizon West Village F Master Planned Development Adequate Public Facilities and Impact Fee Agreement for Horizon West Village S-21. 

The request was for an additional option to pay $54,342.92 per acre, for each of the 1.24 acre deficit, to the county, rather than purchasing credits from other Village F participating property owners, as stated in the previous agreement. 

It was approved unanimously, with Commissioner Emily Bonilla absent.

The second was a series of three items pertaining to the approval of agreements for the Hamlin North Lot A Restaurant, PopStroke Hamlin and Vystar Hamlin impact fees for Avalon Road. 

For these three projects, both the proportionate share payment and future transportation impact fee payments will be utilized toward the completion of Avalon Road/County Road 545 improvements.

All three items were approved unanimously, with Bonilla absent.

The last item was a substantial change to the Hamlin Reserve Preliminary Subdivision Plan/a portion of Parcel B — Hamlin Retail Development Plan.

The current Development Plan was approved Sept. 27, 2022, for the construction of a 9,830-square-foot gymnasium.

The applicant asked to remove two conditions of approval, which required the subject property to be re-platted. This was to allow the project to comply with the county’s updated procedures, which no longer require a property to be re-platted solely for concurrency purposes.

The item was approved 4-0, with Bonilla and  commissioners Maribel Cordero and Christine Moore absent. 


At the Tuesday, Jan. 9, meeting, the commission approved the Community Development Block Grant — Disaster Recovery Action Plan, to support long-term disaster recovery programs and activities addressing impacts from Hurricane Ian. 

At the Tuesday, Jan. 23, meeting, the commission approved an agreement for the CDBG program and the Emergency Solutions Grant Program.

Read the Orange Observer’s latest update here.


At the Tuesday, Jan. 9, meeting, the BCC approved unanimously, with Bonilla absent, the execution of a county deed by Orange County and the town of Oakland. To complete the extension of Catherine Ross Road to State Road 50, the town of Oakland had requested the county convey its 50% interest in the right-of-way area. 



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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