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AV Homes Division President Ken Thirtyacre had hoped to be under construction this summer at the company’s new Solstice community by the time SunRail opened its Poinciana station in July.

But Osceola County planners have sent the developer back to the drawing board, ordering a redesign of the Preliminary Subdivision Plan after AV Homes eliminated an entitled apartment complex which reduced the project’s density by half.

The PSP was scheduled to go to the county’s Development Review Committee this week, but AV Homes pulled it based on staff comments that it lacked the density to be a true Transit-Oriented Development.

“They’re going to have to resubmit,” Planning Director Kerry Godwin told GrowthSpotter. “We don’t need single-family homes next to SunRail stations.”

Osceola County's planning staff rejected the Preliminary Subdivision plan AV Homes submitted for its proposed Solstice community.
Osceola County’s planning staff rejected the Preliminary Subdivision plan AV Homes submitted for its proposed Solstice community.

Last year AV Homes won approval for a Planned Development on the 82-acre site for a TOD project with a maximum of 300 single-family homes and 400 multifamily units, which would have been concentrated on the southern appendage of the site, closest to the station.

The PSP called for a total of 328 residential units: 116 townhomes and 211 single-family homes in separate gated communities. The southern appendage would have been used as a stormwater pond, though it would have included pedestrian access to the station.

County staff said the changes were so dramatic they would have required a major PD amendment. Further, they felt the deletion of the apartments in favor of what was essentially open space, so close to SunRail, wouldn’t be “in keeping with the county’s Strategic Goals or Sustainability Plan.”

AV Homes’ consultant Tony Reddick said the developer had legitimate reasons for replacing the apartments with a pond at that location. One of the main problems is the elevation change between the AV Homes property and the rebuilt S. Rail Avenue, which makes it difficult to connect the parcels.

The other issue is that the undeveloped adjacent properties are still zoned and vested for industrial use on the east and high-density multi-story product on the west. Reddick said AV Homes opted for a pond between the two uses to minimize the impact on those property owners.

John Adams of Rj Whidden & Associates worked with AV Homes on the PD. He said the county has never worked with the Poinciana property owners and stakeholders to develop a master plan for the station area.

“I know AV reached out and tried to acquire and coordinate the additional properties they don’t own in that area, and they were unsuccessful,” Adams told GrowthSpotter on Friday. “The future plans are really right now up in the air.”

Adams said he can understand why the county wants high density at the SunRail stations, but noted that it’s impractical to design true TOD projects at Poinciana because the area lacks any other transit facilities. Lynx opted not to provide bus service to the SunRail station, he said.

“So now you’ve got a SunRail station sitting out there, but without any mass transit opportunities it’s going to turn into a commuter station,” Adams added. “Maybe instead of building apartments out there, AV ought to build a parking lot.”

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