Proposed Osceola building moratorium scaled back significantly

Osceola County administrators have seriously walked back a controversial one-year building moratorium that could have put a halt to new development across 54 square miles around the Alligator Chain of Lakes.

As it was originally drafted, the ordinance would have put a hold on the acceptance, processing or approval of any new permits or development orders in the Chain of Lakes watershed -- an area about five times the size of Winter Park.

The new proposal, slated to go to the Board of Commissioners on Monday, reduces the affected area from the 35,000-acre watershed to properties immediately bordering Alligator Lake and a half dozen smaller, connected lakes.

"It looks like that's where it's headed," said David Tomek, community development director.

Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. told GrowthSpotter the redrafted ordinance creates a 1,000-foot buffer zone around Alligator Lake and a 500-foot buffer around Bay Lake, Brick Lake, Center Lake, Coon Lake, Live Oak Lake, Sardine Lake and Trout Lake. Lake Gentry was removed from the moratorium area.

"We will be removing Pearl Lake entirely, as it is privately owned," Hawkins said.

It also excludes Buck Lake and Cat Lake, which are regulated under the Harmony Development Agreement. Those communities don't allow motorized boats on the lakes.

The county wants to spend the next year conducting a lake carrying capacity study and drafting new regulations for lake access. Hawkins wants to prevent future developments like Hanover Lakes, that could overload the shallow lake.

Hawkins said he asked for a moratorium on all lakefront property in the Chain of Lakes, but staff expanded it to include the entire watershed since high-density residential developments as far away as Hickory Tree Road could affect the water quality of the lakes. That ordinance was on the board's March 6 agenda, but the meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum.

In the ensuing two weeks, county officials faced a barrage of calls from land owners and developers wanting to know how the ordinance would affect them. Confusion reigned Wednesday as developers met with planning officials, who still had no idea how large an area would be under the moratorium.

Sovereign Land Company President Kyle Sanders faced the prospect of not being able to submit a site plan for his latest project on Jones Road, a 377-lot subdivision on 100 acres north of Center Lake.

A portion of the property would have been inside the lake watershed area under the March 6 ordinance, and county staff advised him and his partner, Steve Rosser at Keewin Real Property Company, to attend Monday's meeting and make their concerns known.

"We're well outside of 1,000 feet, so I don't think we'll be affected," Sanders said. "But we're going to have a representative there Monday just in case."

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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