Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Residents lose battle against Orange County over developments near Econ River

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 2:41 PM

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
After a marathon meeting last night, Orange County commissioners voted 4-3 in favor of developers who want to build more than 4,000 homes close to the ecologically sensitive area near the Econlockhatchee River.

Many rural residents who live in the area have been opposed to Lake Pickett North (Sustany) and Lake Pickett South (The Grow). The Grow is a 1,188-acre property where developer Dwight Saathoff plans to build 2,078 residential units on about 835 acres. The "agrihood" would include a farm, community gardens, trails, a community park and 292 acres of open space. The Sustany parcel, which stands at 1,418 acres, is above the Grow and closer to the Econ River, with plans to build 1,999 residential units on about 1,000 acres and a potential bridge to cross the river. 

On Tuesday, those tensions came through in the hours-long meeting as resident after resident came up to speak against the developments, arguing it would fundamentally change the character of the region. Commissioners approved text changes in the county's comprehensive plan for The Grow and approved a map amendment. For Sustany, commissioners approved transmittal of the development plan to state officials for approval. Commissioner Ted Edwards, who represents that area, says if east Orange County had stayed rural, "We wouldn't have UCF, we wouldn't have Research Park, we wouldn't have Disney."

Edwards voted in favor of developers, along with Commissioners Bryan Nelson, Scott Boyd and Victoria Siplin. Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Commissioners Pete Clarke and Jennifer Thompson voted no on both properties. Jacobs argued the Econ should remain as the boundary between urban and rural Orange County. 

"I'm very disappointed in the decisions made by four of you," Emily Bonilla, founder of the group East of the Econ, told commissioners. "As a voter I would definitely look at this ... I would not vote for any candidate who voted 'yes' on this particular development or any development that encouraged urban sprawl." 

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