Failure of transportation sales tax leads April commission action

The commission voted unanimously Tuesday, April 9, not to put the proposed transportation sales tax on the November 2024 ballot.

Photo courtesy of Orange County Government
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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.


Discussions on the possibility of adding the transportation sales tax back to the November 2024 ballot led Orange County Commission actions in April. Several other decisions also were made that impacted West Orange and Southwest Orange.


Despite Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings’ attempts to bring a proposed transportation sales tax back to the November 2024 ballot, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted Tuesday, April 9, not to add the item following a motion made by Demings himself. 

Throughout the discussions, a majority of the commissioners, including District 1 Commissioner Nicole Wilson, said they could not support the tax plan no matter how it was structured.

“I’ll be talking to people in Oakland, Winter Garden, Windermere, Horizon West and Dr. Phillips, and I’ve got nothing for them,” Wilson said. “I mean, I literally have nothing to show them. … There’s a lot of people moving to that area, and I just don’t have anything to show them for voting on this measure.”

The vote was unanimous by the board following a two-hour work session. 

Demings said he is OK with suspending the effort until 2026. 

“From the beginning, I wanted to at least have the conversation, because so many people in our community wanted us to have a conversation, they wanted to give input,” he said. “We certainly have made a noble attempt to do that.”

Two years ago, the transportation sales tax referendum, which would have raised an estimated $600 million per year, failed substantially. It garnered just 41.5% of the vote in November 2022. 

Locally, the tax would have funded $270 million over the next 20 years in transportation projects in the cities of Ocoee and Winter Garden and the towns of Windermere and Oakland. 

Furthermore, county projects in District 1, which covers all of Horizon West, totaled about $913 million, county officials said.

Read Orange Observer’s full report on the transportation sales tax here.


Also at the Tuesday, April 9, meeting, Wilson asked to discuss the possibility of recognizing the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement as an official preservation district — something she said many residents have desired.

“Rural settlements on both sides of the county have been a hot topic, and we know that there’s a tremendous amount of development pressure in the west,” she said. “It’s a little bit more intense because of, potentially, not just Orange County’s comprehensive plan, that’s very close by within the sector plan, but also north of the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement with the city of Winter Garden. Now, we know that the densities and intensities of Horizon West are what they are, but with the city of Winter Garden’s annexation potential at the end of our, you know, term joint planning tenure, which is coming up, I want to make sure that the Lake Avalon Rural Settlement has preservation district in place. That would require them to be a participant in whatever any municipality may have in mind for their future.”

Orange County Planning Manager Alberto Vargas shared a brief presentation on what would be needed in terms of an ordinance to recognize the official 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.

Gotha, effective in 1995 as the first preservation area, is one of the four other Rural Preservation Districts established since the Orange County charter was amended in 1992.

In addition, Dr. Phillips, effective 1998, is one of the three Urban Preservation Districts that has been established in the same part of the charter. 

The motion to have Orange County staff draft an ordinance on the item to bring forward to the board at a future date passed unanimously. 


On the consent agenda at the same meeting, the County Commission approved an amendment for a contract with WBQ Design & Engineering Inc. in the amount of $149,649.48, for a revised total contract amount of $1,654,838.31, for the final engineering design for the Lake Apopka Trail Connector, from Lake Apopka Loop to the West Orange Trail. 


At the Tuesday, April 23, meeting, county leaders approved the ground lease for temporary Fire Station 48 in the Horizon West area.

Now that Fire Station 44 has moved to its permanent location on Reams Road, this temporary station will continue to operate on Orlando Health property, located at 16596 Porter Road, Winter Garden, until a permanent station can be constructed and opened in Horizon West.

The new lease will provide for a three-year agreement for the 43,559-square-foot property. 


The Grand Cypress Resort Planned Development also was approved at the Tuesday, April 23, County Commission meeting. 

Applicant Abdul Alkadry, Harris Civil Engineers, requested to change the use on a parcel from 84 short-term rental units to 84 multi-family residential units.

The project is located east of Winter Garden-Vineland Road and west of South Apopka-Vineland Road.


On the Tuesday, April 23, consent agenda, county commissioners approved two separate agreements relating to community center utilization for services benefitting the public within the Maxey Community Center in Winter Garden.

The first is with Kingdom Culture Church, and the second is with Simeon Resource and Development Center for Men.



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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