Rosen JCC leaders: Apartment project will cause safety problems

A developer is seeking to build 200 luxury apartments in Southwest Orange.

The Kerina Parkside subject property sits on 25.75 acres located south of Fenton Street and west of South Apopka-Vineland Road.
The Kerina Parkside subject property sits on 25.75 acres located south of Fenton Street and west of South Apopka-Vineland Road.
Courtesy photo
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A proposal to build a 200-unit apartment complex near the Rosen Jewish Community Center has JCC leaders worried for the safety of the students who attend its preschool.

Orange County’s Planning Division hosted a community meeting to discuss the Kerina Parkside Planned Development in Southwest Orange Wednesday, Jan. 10, at Sand Lake Elementary School.

There, Southwest Orange residents and JCC representatives raised concerns regarding the proposal to build the luxury apartment project on 25.75 acres south of Fenton Street and west of South Apopka-Vineland Road.

Applicant Unicorp National Developments is requesting two waivers from Orange County code. The first is to allow a 10-foot setback on a portion of the property. The second is to provide a minimum width of a 10-foot building base green space for two-story, three-story, four-story and five-or-more-story buildings. 

JCC leaders say the proposal will have negative impacts on its operation.

“If the developer succeeds with the proposed plan, it will undermine the safety and wellbeing of motorists and their passengers as they enter and leave our parking lot,” Rosen JCC CEO Ofira Bondorowsky wrote in an email to JCC members. “It is a major concern for us, particularly since we have hundreds of children under 5 years of age enrolled in our preschool. Ensuring the safety of our members — especially children in transit  — is our utmost concern.”


The case was scheduled for an Orange County Board of County Commissioners hearing in November, but concerns from the Rosen JCC caused District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson to request to postpone the discussion to host the community meeting.

Nicolas Thalmueller, Orange County case planner, said the original zoning approval for the property is from 2005, although there have been numerous updates and amendments since then.

Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp, said the upscale apartments will start at about $3,000 per month and feature amenities such as hardwood floors, marble throughout the bathrooms and wine coolers.

“(The property is) already zoned for that and already approved for that,” he said. “As we went through staff in our approvals, we had two areas that — one was questionable and the other didn’t meet the setback. As you come in the entrance, we made a nice, big, round circle … and one of our buildings … county staff asked us to put those buildings up against the road. So, when you come in, the corner of one of those buildings is 5 feet over the setback. … We asked for a waiver on that to allow that so the building would remain rectangular instead of a cut-corner on that one building. 

“The other waiver that we’ve asked for is internally to the project,” he said. “The Buena Vista standards call for a certain amount of landscape from building to sidewalk, which is about 20 feet. Typically, what we’re doing is having wider sidewalks, and the area of landscape between the building and sidewalk internally, we make a little bit smaller. That was also a discussion with county staff and something they wanted us to do. It’s not necessarily true that we have to get this waiver — there was a little bit of ambiguity if we needed it or not — so we’ve been working with staff on that.”

One resident inquired how the waivers would benefit anyone in the community except the developer. 

“I’m all in favor of good development, but I’m also about staying with the Orange County development code whether it’s the one today or Vision 2050, but if it’s not impacted, why ask for more?” he asked. “Build your project with the entitlements that you have. What’s the point of having a development code if every developer comes in and asks for aesthetic-type waiver issues. I know he’s entitled to ask, but I don’t understand why the county considers these waivers.”

“We understand that there’s design codes, and we bought our property in this neighborhood assuming that those design codes would be adhered to,” another resident said. “If one waiver is given, then everybody who comes in for a development is going to want that same waiver and a couple more. This is just a continuation of abuse of the code. We see it eroding continuously.”

Thalmueller said the commercial project across the street asked for and received the exact waiver for the street setback. 

Whittall said the waivers are to make the development better and re-emphasized the waivers are a staff-requested item. 

“Although I support traffic-calming measures, I would say we shouldn’t sacrifice aesthetics and the beauty of what was planned, or a walkway, or a multi-use path, or whatever else could have been in a setback in some attempt to avoid what should probably be a road diet and decrease in speed limit,” Wilson said. “I think it’s important to look for opportunities for traffic calming, but I don’t think that’s what he (Whittall is) asking for, and I certainly don’t think he’s doing it for those reasons.”


Richard S. Geller, of Fishback Dominick representing the Harris Rosen Foundation and the Rosen JCC, said he has concerns about the application. 

Geller believes the plan violates the Kerina Parkside PD, the Buena Vista North Overlay ordinance and the Access Management ordinance. 

“In 2005, the predecessor to the Rosen JCC, which was the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando, reached a deal with Kerina Inc.,” he said. “Kerina Inc. is the owner of the property, and then Chuck (Whittall) is the developer. … The deal was that the federation, the JCC, would either support or not oppose their request for rezoning in exchange for motor vehicle access from the JCC property through this Kerina property to what is now known as Daryl Carter Parkway. … It was also incorporated into the PD. … We would urge the county to be steadfast in protecting the interest of the community, and this community center serves the entire community in preserving everyone’s safety.”

Bondorowsky said until the JCC receives some assurance from Unicorp that it will protect the access, the JCC is not able to support their request for waivers.

“I’ve got (more than) 200 kids — babies and kids under the age of 4 — who come in and out of the JCC every day,” she said. “My utmost concern is their safety. … We need vehicular access to the Daryl Carter light in order to ensure everyone’s safety. That is what’s required, and that’s what we’re going to demand.”

“We are willing to give access,” Whittall said. “We’re not fine with having our property become a school stacking lane. … I can’t have 200 apartments trying to leave at 8 a.m. and a train of cars stopped on our property. That’s not what we’re agreeable to. We are agreeable to access. I’m all for safety.”

The County Commission was scheduled to consider the proposal Tuesday, Jan. 23, after press time.

Update: The Kerina Parkside Planned Development was approved unanimously at the Orange County Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Jan. 23.



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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