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West Orange Times & Observer Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018 3 months ago

Boutique hotel could be coming to downtown Winter Garden

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A developer has shown interest in building a 60-room hotel at 8 N. Highland Ave.
by: Eric Gutierrez Staff Writer

Winter Garden tourists might be getting a new place to stay in the heart of downtown Winter Garden.

City commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 9 to allow city staff to draft a letter of intent expressing interest in a project that could bring a 60-room, boutique hotel to downtown Winter Garden. A developer reached out to the city to propose building the hotel at 8 N. Highland Ave. The old Progress Energy billing office currently sits on the site, which the city owns, City Manager Mike Bollhoefer said.

He added that the letter of intent shows that the city “is interested in building a hotel there … if this developer was able to meet all our criteria — for example: architectural standards, how the building interacts with the road, how much they’re going to pay, etc.”

“If they meet all those standards, then they (city) would sell them (developer) the property for the hotel,” Bollhoefer said.

In addition to the letter, the city would also contribute $15,000 toward design costs. If the project is approved, the developer will reimburse the city for the costs, Bollhoefer said.

“The $15,000 is our contribution because we’re so involved with the design — it’s our contribution to the design process,” he said. “We’d like to get very involved with the design because it’s critical to get this right to make sure it fits with downtown.”

He added the city currently has a 12-room hotel, however, more hotel rooms are needed.

Over the last five years, city staff has worked toward bringing more hotel rooms to Winter Garden. A hotel analysis conducted several years ago showed a need for at least 250 hotel rooms. If the project moves forward it would go through the normal rezoning process, including community meetings, according to the agenda.

“We need a nice, upscale hotel here in our community because we have people coming (to visit) and they’re ending up in Clermont (or) they’re ending up in Orlando,” Mayor John Rees said.

Prior to the hotel discussion, city leaders voted unanimously to approve the first reading of two ordinances related to wetlands in the city.

Ordinance 18-24 proposes to amend a policy of the future land-use element and number of policies of the conservation element of the city’s comprehensive plan. If approved on second reading, changes will include amending language in policy 1-1.2.11 of the future land-use element of the city’s comprehensive plan, deleting policy 5-1.4.6 of the conservation element of the city’s comprehensive plan, among other changes, according to the ordinance.

City Planning Consultant Ed Williams said the policies that are being changed have cause issues in the past.

“In the past, these policies have recognized the city’s role in wetlands determinations as well as all the other agencies, and it’s caused a little bit of a problem with how we review projects,” Williams said, adding that the proposed changes put the city first when it comes to wetlands determinations. “We’ve tried to set these policies up where the first (wetlands) determination … is at the city where it belongs. It is critical to the city to make those determinations because of the unique soil conditions and drainage conditions we have in this community.”

Although the proposed changes place the city first when it comes to wetlands determinations, other regulatory agencies will still be involved, Williams said.

Ordinance 18-25 proposes changes to a number of sections in the city’s code of ordinances. The proposed changes pertain to wetlands, wetland jurisdictional limit determinations, uses allowed in wetlands and wetland-buffer yard requirements, according to the ordinance.

“The changes that we’re proposing here affect the land-development code with the actual review procedures that we go through when reviewing wetlands,” Williams said.

The second reading for both ordinances will take place during the Aug. 23 commission meeting.

Eric Gutierrez is a staff writer with the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer. He graduatedĀ from the University of Central Florida in 2015 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science. Got a story idea? Contact Eric at...

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