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An updated look at the seven subdistricts in the I-Drive Development Plan, and their transect zone types. The "Special Zone" designation now applied to property in and around SeaWorld could also be applied to much of subdistrict 7 and nearby property now owned by Universal Orlando affiliates.
An updated look at the seven subdistricts in the I-Drive Development Plan, and their transect zone types. The "Special Zone" designation now applied to property in and around SeaWorld could also be applied to much of subdistrict 7 and nearby property now owned by Universal Orlando affiliates. (Orange County Planning)

The new transect-based development code for a 4,000-acre study area around International Drive could be fully adopted by Orange County Commissioners by early September, following a presentation Tuesday by planning manager Alberto Vargas.

But the shape of subdistricts in that code may still change, with Universal Orlando delivering a sketch on Monday to Vargas' office that outlines the company's proposed boundary of a theme park "Special Zone" (SZ) that could overlap a handful of the established subdistricts, or redefine completely Subdistrict 7.

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"I have not had the opportunity to review this informal sketch they delivered," Vargas told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday. "Subdistrict 7 has always been defined by a dashed line. Now (Universal) is suggesting how that line could be better defined to reflect a theme park-like T6 zone, like we have for SeaWorld."

Learn what mass grading and stormwater retention work was left unfinished by former owner Stan Thomas, and what steps are next for Universal's affiliate.

As the Orlando Sentinel reported on Monday, Universal has been talking with Orange County planners for a few weeks about defining a theme park SZ around much of the 474 acres the company bought in December from Colony Capital, via affiliate SLRC Holdings.

Of the seven themed subdistricts currently in the Development Code, Subdistrict 7 covers the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort property south of Destination Parkway, and land northwest of it that is primarily owned by the Universal affiliate, with a few hundred acres owned by affiliates of Atlanta-area developer Stan Thomas.

That property is currently designated for the "General" transect zone, which calls for a mesh of interconnective roads to make up small city blocks, and building height requirements that promote an urban environment.

The vast width of Universal Boulevard could allow redesign of the thoroughfare to include features like on-street parking that are not possible on the more narrow International Drive.

The SZ-Theme Park would be generally free of those requirements, and is already being applied in the new code to much of SeaWorld's property in Subdistrict 4.

Vargas' presentation Tuesday to Orange's BCC was a work session to update commissioners on what has changed with the I-Drive Development Code, since it was last shown to them in November 2015.

Developer Chuck Whittall's public desire to redevelop the Sleuth's Mystery Dinner Theater property has put its owners in a position of strength for potential sale negotiations.

Moving forward, the Comprehensive Plan update should be adopted by August, and the CPD ordinance amendment will go before Planning & Zoning Commission on June 16, BCC on July 12 and BCC again on Aug. 2. Final adoption should occur by early September.

Other local governments in Osceola, Ocoee and Winter Garden have enacted temporary moratoriums for new development in the past year for as they study design guidelines for key thoroughfares.

A moratorium like that wasn't feasible for I-Drive during Orange County's vision plan development over the past year and a half, Vargas said.

A seven-subdistrict future for the tourism corridor faces initial review by County Commissioners on Tuesday. While a battle over height limits for I-Drive attractions has grabbed the most attention, the plan's vision is much bigger than that.

"We recognized development was not like a water spigot you could turn on and off, you can't disrupt the economy in that way," he said. "We've had a better experience engaging and coaching new development applicants through their process."

In the interim, developers have opted to cooperate with Orange planners over the past year to embrace themes of the Vision Plan code in new projects in the tourism corridor. Those include plans on I-Drive for the UNIQ Hotel and parking garage, the Starflyer and the Skyplex entertainment complex, and on Universal Boulevard the proposed Empire Hotel, Andretti Karting & Games and the Destination Shoppes.

"This whole process is a public investment meant as a catalyst for private investment, and we've seen that occur in the past year," said Vargas, who added that local developers, civil engineers and architects are welcome to come view the I-Drive Development Code document at the county's planning department.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at bmoser@growthspotter.com, (407) 420-5685 or @bobmoser333. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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