Osceola County Commissioners on Monday unanimously approved new development guidelines for the E192 CRA district so they can go into effect before a six-month building moratorium expires at the end of the month.
"We're excited about the potential of the new plan," said Larry Walter, principal of Hanson Walter & Associates and chairman of the Chamber of Commerce Growth Management Task Force.
Walter gave a ringing endorsement of the design guideline ordinance, which was drafted by Rj Whidden & Associates. His only complaint was the lack of involvement by property owners along the E192 tech corridor. "We spent a lot of time reviewing the ordinance because of the importance to that sector of this community, and we were really disappointed in the participation of the shareholders," he said.
He predicted there would be "grinding of teeth" as those property owners come to terms with the new guidelines as the area transitions to a more urban form.
The whole purpose of the ordinance is to ensure that new development in the corridor compliments and enhances the $250 million public investment in the Florida Tech Farm research park, home to the Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center.
The ordinance creates five distinct redevelopment zones, each with its own subset of guidelines. It regulates everything from interior street layout, building placement, allowable density, parking requirements, landscaping and architecture within the 1,852-acre E192 Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) district.
It's the first district in the county to reduce parking requirements by 40 percent for non-residential uses.
Walters recommended the county take a hard look at revising the stormwater retention standards for the CRA district, particularly for properties that won't be served by the regional stormwater facility within the Tech Farm.
He said there are three other drainage basins along the corridor that must be accounted for. Under the existing standards, developers are required to retain stormwater on site, which leads to suburban design.
"If the water doesn't go into a regional facility (pond), then you don't have urban design, which is what this plan calls for," he said.
Economic Development Manager Christina Morris said the next steps for the county are to apply for a large-scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) that updates the future land use and transportation element for the area. That includes adding new road extensions and connection points between the research park and neighborhoods to the south.
Commissioner Brandon Arrington said it's critical to make sure those connections are codified, even if some of the roads might not be built right away. "I know there's heartburn," he said. "It could be 10 years away, but I'm afraid if we don't put it on the map or the books now, it might never get there."
County Manager Don Fisher said he's already started working on the transportation element, which also includes transit, pedestrian and biking facilities. That update is critical because developers can not get mobility fee credits for transportation improvements until those networks are added to the comprehensive plan.