County designates Lake Avalon Rural Preservation District

The commission voted unanimously Tuesday, June 4, to adopt an ordinance officially recognizing the Lake Avalon Rural Preservation District.

District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson, seventh from left, celebrated the designation of the district with community members following the decision.
District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson, seventh from left, celebrated the designation of the district with community members following the decision.
Courtesy photo
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Editor’s note: County Level is a monthly feature that highlights 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.


The approval of an ordinance officially recognizing the Lake Avalon Rural Preservation District led Orange County Board of County Commissioners’ actions at their June meetings. Several other decisions also were made that impacted the West Orange and Southwest Orange County areas.


In a big win for the District 1 residents in the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement, the commission, at its Tuesday, June 4, meeting, approved an ordinance officially recognizing the Lake Avalon Rural Preservation District. 

Residents of the area have met with District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson and county staff on numerous occasions to discuss the possibility of forming the district. 

“As development encroaches on the area, we need to utilize every tool in our tool kit to preserve the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement,” Wilson said. “Our residents in the area are incredibly involved and are thrilled at the prospect of being protected against annexation. That said, you don’t have to live in the settlement to feel the effects of irresponsible growth. There are more checks and balances on the way, including a rural land protection amendment that we are aiming to get on voting ballots this fall.”

The project was last discussed in April, where the commission directed staff to draft an ordinance on the item to bring forward to the board.

The goal in creating the district is to preserve the rural nature of the community and to provide an exclusive procedure for any subsequent voluntary annexations.

The Lake Avalon Rural Settlement is 2,236 acres and stretches 3.5 miles. The area is surrounded by Winter Garden to the north and Horizon West to the south.

The district is considered mostly rural in density, with one dwelling unit per five acres as the predominant designation.

The Lake Avalon Rural Settlement is 2,236 acres and stretches 3.5 miles. The area is surrounded by Winter Garden to the north and Horizon West to the south.
Courtesy photo

Laurie Forrester, president of the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement and Avalon Home and Property Owners Association, said the area’s residents requested the designation as the area is one of only 21 rural settlements in Orange County with a long, historic and cohesive residential community.  

On Sept. 18, 1924, the Lake Avalon Groves plat was filed and recorded in Orange County. That will make this September a 100-year anniversary for the area. 

“This ordinance will provide an exclusive method for voluntary annexation under very limited circumstances,” Forrester said. “With this designation, parcels within LARS will need to go through a two-step process versus a one-step process. Currently, annexation is granted by a majority in-favor vote of the Orange County BCC. In addition to the majority vote by the BCC, the preservation district would require a second step, in which the majority of residents of LARS would also need to vote in favor of the annexation in order for a municipality to annex a parcel.”


Following much discussion, the County Commission approved the Sutton Lakes Planned Development/Land Use Plan at its Tuesday, June 18, meeting. 

Applicant Jennifer Stickler, Kimley-Horn and Associates, requested a privately initiated text amendment to the FLU element policy amending the maximum density/intensity of the Sutton Lakes PD and, specifically, revising the currently approved development program to add multi-family residential as a permitted use within the PD.

The 139.14-acre subject property is located east of Avalon Road, south of Lake Gifford Way and north of Arrowhead Boulevard. 

The revision of the previously approved plan will change the development program from 700 single-family units and 20,000 square feet of retail commercial uses to 253 single-family attached and detached units, 304 multi-family units and 20,000 square feet of retail commercial uses.

The request also included removing a condition of approval restricting building height along the lake to one-story, as well as three waivers from Orange County Code.

The waivers are to allow multi-family buildings to be four stories/55 feet in height when located within 100 feet of single-family zoned property internal to the PD; to allow multi-family buildings located more than 100 feet from single-family zoned property a maximum height of four stories/55 feet; and to not require a 6-foot high masonry, brick, or block wall for multi-family development adjacent to single-family zoned property internal to the PD.

Wilson voiced concerns with how the density and intensity of the development would impact safety for the residents in the area, as well as the proposal not aligning with the county’s comprehensive plan and code. 

“To pile on more multi-family development in this area … I continue to be concerned about it,” she said. “I do not think it’s consistent with our urban planning and, really, our rural planning.”

Chuck Whitall, president of Unicorp National Developments, said he and his team tried to reach out to meet with Wilson to discuss the item multiple times. 

“This is not an unreasonable request,” he said. “If the neighbors had an issue with this … they would have shown up today.”

Wilson made a motion for denial, but the motion died without a second.

The request was approved, 6-1, with Wilson voting against it, subject to the 23 conditions of approval listed under the DRC’s recommendations.


The approval of a development plan for the construction of a new Tropical Smoothie Cafe in Horizon West also was discussed at the Tuesday, June 4 meeting. 

Applicant Andrew L. Howell requested to construct a 1,710-square-foot Tropical Smoothie Café on a .47-acre site. The property is located east of State Road 429 , west of Hamlin Groves Trail, north of Porter Road and south of New Independence Parkway. 


Also at the Tuesday, June 4, meeting, the county approved decreasing the speed limit on two sections of road in the Horizon West area.

The first will decrease the speed limit from 45 to 40 mph on Ficquette Road from south of Ingelnook Drive to south of Summerlake Park Boulevard .

The second will decrease the speed limit from 45 mph to 40 mph on Reams Road from Summerlake Park Boulevard to Taborfield Avenue.


Also at the Tuesday, June 4 meeting, the County Commission denied a split-lot request in the Avalon Rural Settlement, following several public speakers who spoke against the request and a motion for denial from Wilson, who cited inconsistency with the comprehensive plan.

Applicant Angelo Fiorino was requesting to change the FLUM designation from Rural Settlement 1/5 to Rural Settlement 1/2 and to rezone the property from Citrus Rural District to Restricted Citrus Rural District to split the lot and build an additional home, pending lot split approval.

The property is located at 5521 Beta Avenue, west of Avalon Road, east of Rex Drive and south of Alps Street. 

These requests previously were recommended for denial by the P&Z Commission in a 4-3 vote.


At the Tuesday, June 4, meeting, the County Commission also approved and executed a contract for purchase and sale with Dee Rivers-Yowell for Green PLACE parcel 220 in the amount of $256,273.50. 

The property is located along the north side of Lake Johns Circle and south of Florida’s Turnpike in Winter Garden and will add 2.3 acres of environmentally sensitive lands to the Environmental Protection Division’s Green PLACE Program.


At the Tuesday, June 4, meeting, the commission also approved a memorandum of understanding between Orange County, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida and the city of Winter Garden. 

Currently, the Boys & Girls Clubs utilize the West Orange Recreation Center in Winter Garden to provide services. 

The city of Winter Garden is allowing the Boys & Girls Clubs to construct a new building and make improvements on a city owned property located at 459 Ninth St., based upon certain funding by the county and the Boys & Girls Clubs for design, construction and other costs.



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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