Epoch Residential faces density challenge on apts site rezoning east of Disney

Winter Park-based multifamily developer Epoch Residential was asked Wednesday by Orange County planners to tone down its density goal for a new apartment project east of Disney World, a challenge it hopes to overcome next week. 

Located in the 10000 block of Winter Garden Vineland Road (C.R. 535), the project would occupy 14 acres (13.21 developable) across an eight-parcel assemblage that's under contract, directly north of Unicorp's 258-unit Zen Luxury Living apartments, and west of the Grand Cypress Resort golf course. 

Epoch's request before the Development Review Committee was to rezone the 14 acres from Planned Development (Perrihouse PD) and Residential-Country Estate to its own new PD, in order to build up to 340 apartments for its "Vista Oaks" project. 

Planning Manager Alberto Vargas said he couldn't support the requested 25.75 dwelling units per acre, based on that high density being located next to what he deemed another high-density project in Zen Luxury (20 units per acre). Vargas and the DRC board voted not to support the rezoning. 

If Epoch revises its Land Use Plan then Orange planning staff would likely approve, but the developer is not inclined to lower the project's density to 266 units, said Becky Wilson, shareholder and chair of the Land Use & Zoning Group with Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A. 

The LUP will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission next week, concurrent with a small-scale Comprehensive Plan amendment to the Future Land Use Map to increase the density on the property.

"We'll take our chances with Planning and Zoning," Justin Sand, president and COO of Epoch, told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday. He declined to forecast if a reduced unit count would make the project inviable. 

The site's attraction is clear from a development standpoint, said Sand, in that it's surrounded by job drivers like Walt Disney World and supporting hospitality businesses. 

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