Osceola planners look to Tapestry, Lake Nona for new development guidelines

Osceola County planners have toured neighborhoods in Horizon West, Tapestry and Lake Nona's Laureate Park to serve as inspiration for a Land Development Code update that would raise the quality of the county's new housing stock.

Planning and Design Director Kerry Godwin told GrowthSpotter the LDC update, which should be completed by May, would include a host of new design regulations and siting standards for residential development that will change how subdivisions are built in the county. 

It was a major motivating factor in the county commission's decision to pass a six-month moratorium on most new development in the county.

"They wanted to see things change and have a better development pattern," Godwin said. "They wanted us to take a break and be creative, and we can't do that if we're spending all of our time processing applications."

The end goal is to deliver attractive neighborhoods with a variety of lot sizes and product types that are also more practical for the homebuyers. 

"We've been looking at what other development standards have been doing in the region to come up with how we can improve or be similar to the other areas," Godwin said. "So a part of what we'll be looking at are materials and facade treatments and corner lots. We saw too often that the builder may have the facade treatment and then you turn the corner and it's just a blank wall."

A few of the proposed changes include: 

  • increasing front garage door setbacks to 25 feet so SUVs and trucks don't park in the sidewalk
  • requiring rear entry for homes on lots less than 45 feet
  • front-facing garages must be recessed on lots 45-60 feet wide
  • more architectural detail required for homes on corner lots
  • larger side setback for upper floors on 50-foot lots
  • a formula to calculate adequate storage space
  • townhomes must be designed with usable outdoor space, such as a patio or front porch
  • better designed school bus stops, including shelters for children
  • larger street trees 
  • AC and pool equipment located in back yard

The planning staff has already been testing some of the new policies. For example, the county recently asked AV Homes to redesign a townhome community so each unit would have more storage and outdoor space.

"If you think about the townhomes, they don't have a front porch or a side courtyard, and in the rear they don't have a courtyard or a plaza, and so you end up grilling in your garage or your driveway," Godwin said.

The LDC update and Evaluation and Appraisal Review-based Comprehensive Plan Amendments will also address a wide array of issues related to commercial development. The staff also will be updating its Future Land Use Map to reflect the changes.  

"We're going to encourage medium and high densities along the multimodal corridors," Godwin said. "So wherever there's transit, we're going to discourage the low-density residential and go to a medium or high-density."

Corinne Carpenter, program manager for long range planning, said one of the problems they hope to fix is a lack of transitional zoning between intense commercial uses and residential neighborhoods. The new 2040 map will add offices or multifamily uses as a buffer between commercial centers and low density housing.

"We're looking at all these things holistically and looking at them to see how we can best promote good development and viability for Osceola County as a whole," Carpenter said.

One priority is to encourage development of "missing middle housing." That encompasses a variety of small-scale multifamily housing products, such as duplexes, carriage houses, bungalow courts and courtyard apartments that promote walkable neighborhoods.

The new code also will add language to protect rural enclaves while allowing some types of development, including lot splits. Established neighborhoods that were developed with larger lot sizes would be allowed to maintain those standards for new construction.

Other policy changes will be added to give County Commissioners more input in the development approval process. Preliminary subdivision plans, which are now approved by the Development Review Committee, will go to the county's Planning Commission and Board of County Commissioners for approval. Site development plans and plats would be approved at the staff level. 

Commissioners also would hear appeals on noise variance requests to the Board of Adjustment. Those cases now must go directly to Circuit Court.

The 2040 plan will codify new standards for Transit-Oriented Development and will incorporate the county's new Parks Master Plan, which allows developers to trade off open space for facilities. 

"We think the development community should be responsible for neighborhood parks," Godwin said. "The county does not do that."

The first series of changes and updates are slated to go to the Planning Commission on Feb. 5 for a public hearing and to the Board of Commissioners on Feb. 19. All of the revisions and updates should be completed by May 1, when the moratorium ends, but it could take another four months for the Department of Economic Opportunity to approve the changes to the comprehensive plan. 

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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