Orange County planners are working to ensure a neighborhood with large lots, grazing cattle and older homes a mile south of Lake Nona doesn’t lose its rural character to all of the fast-approaching urban growth.
The county is in the midst of updating its long-term comprehensive plan to shape how the Orlando area should look by the year 2050. One point of focus is a roughly one-mile stretch of Boggy Creek Road between S.R. 417 and the Osceola County line that’s currently being widened from two to four lanes.
The corridor already has a number of multi-family and mixed-use projects either under development or pending approval. Once complete, they’ll bring more than 315,000 square feet of commercial space and more than 2,000 apartment units to an area less than a mile south of Lake Nona, the 40th best-selling master planned community in the nation, according to RCLCO Real Estate Consulting.
Meanwhile, residents of the nearby Orlando Kissimmee Farms neighborhood are looking out with trepidation as the urban development inches nearer and nearer to their doorstep.
Some of the houses here were built in the early 1990′s on lots as large as five acres.
“This community is very rural in character and these folks who live here want the character to stay the same,” Alberto Vargas, the planning manager of Orange County, told GrowthSpotter. “You have a lot of uncertainty, everywhere residents look, development is taking place. So how do you bring certainty and predictability as to what’s going to happen here?”
For about a year, the county has been working on a solution to provide some peace of mind to these residents without going as far as to stifle the development momentum that continues to push beyond the airport.
After community meetings and surveys, the county’s plan is to keep urban development within a square-mile of Kissimmee Farms by designating it a “rural residential enclave.”
According to Orange County’s website, a rural residential enclave is a single-family neighborhood with a homogenous and stable pattern of development, well-defined geographic boundaries, and low residential densities characteristic of rural settings. Rural enclaves are predominantly located within the Urban Service Area (USA), where infill and redevelopment are actively encouraged through intensification and diversification of land uses.
Currently, four neighborhoods in Orange County have this designation: Chickasaw South and Berry Dease, on either side of State Road 417 just seven miles east of downtown Orlando; Rocking Horse, just north of University Boulevard along the Seminole border; and Lake Mabel, just north of Walt Disney World.
Vargas said the plan for Boggy Creek Road would allow high density and intensity in a 400-foot span on the eastern edge of the roadway, creating a small downtown-like area in an urban corridor. Further east, a medium-to-low density community of housing units would form a buffer between the urban uses and the rural Kissimmee Farms neighborhood, he said.
“Anything along the corridor will be a lot more urban in nature and then you’ll scale down density and intensity the closer you get to the neighborhood,” Vargas said.
Once all of the development is finished, the end result would bring a small, pedestrian-friendly urban city center to this section of Boggy Creek Road with high-density mixed-use buildings that include shops, restaurants, offices and residential units.
“We want a destination,” said Vargas, “Not only for those within the square mile (of Kissimmee Farms), but also for new residents who will be living in the area.
The provision will impact the way developer Daryl Carter builds out his plan for 23 acres of ranch land on the east side of Boggy Creek Road, between Whispering Pines Road and the Osceola County line. The Bennett Place property backs right up to Kissimmee Farms.
For two years, he’s sought approval of mixed-use project that would bring 50,000 square feet of commercial and medical office space, a possible hospital or care facility with up to 150 beds, a hotel with up to 200 rooms and 350 multifamily units.
Carter told GrowthSpotter that he’s had multiple meetings with residents of the Kissimmee Farms community and county staff about plans and the new land-use expectations. He said he understands why the rules have changed and that he’ll make sure his project complies.
“It’s not unusual to have a transition between more intense uses near a major set of employment centers and then having a five-acre tract where folks have horses, cows and a more rural lifestyle. That happens all over Orange County,” Carter said.
Growth in this area is inevitable though, he added, noting that one of the largest airports in the United States is two miles up the road, while Medical City and Lake Nona are a mile away.
In response to the population growth and development activity, the county is paying $10.5 million to widen Boggy Creek 1.1 mile from the county line to S.R. 417. The widening will include sidewalks, bicycle lanes, roadway lighting, and median landscaping. Carter says the infrastructure improvements make the corridor even more attractive for urban development.
But he hopes the end product is something that newcomers to the area as well as residents who live within Kissimmee Farms can enjoy.
“It’s about striking a balance,” he said. “If a principle of planning is to build where you have infrastructure and jobs, then this is the place to put it. But at the same time, if property owners want to maintain a rural lifestyle, they get the best of both worlds. They can still have a more rural setting, but when they want to go to the drugstore, the grocery store or a bank, it’s all right there for them.”
Other development projects would have to abide by the new requirements as well.
On the east side of Boggy Creek Road, north of Beth Road, Lake Mary-based Integra Land Company is developing the 364-unit multifamily portion of a mixed-use project that was annexed into the city in 2020. That project could also the development of 78,700 square feet of commercial and 92 townhomes.
Across from where Integra is building its apartment complex, DHI Communities, a wholly-owned subsidiary of D.R. Horton, is planning 660 multi-family units, 166 townhomes, 160 senior housing units, 150,000 square feet of retail use and 150,000 square feet of office uses.
The Tyson Ranch PD sits just south of that project. Construction is underway here for ten acres of commercial and 1,000 housing units, including a 324-unit apartment community developed by The Bainbridge Companies.
South of Tyson Ranch, Birmingham-based Arlington Properties is currently building one of its Tapestry-branded apartment communities.
The plan for Boggy Creek Road is part of the county’s broader Vision 2050 effort. By 2050 the county’s population is estimated to increase by 700,000, exceeding two million residents. That’s why a revision of the long-term comprehensive plan guiding growth is necessary, according to the county.
“We need to prepare for this growth in a smart and responsible way,” the county website says. “Smart Growth and Sustainability are two of Orange County’s key planning goals. Together, we must rethink how we envision our communities by managing infrastructure growth while preserving our priceless cultural, historic and natural resources.”
The plan is expected to go before the county commission in August for approval.
Development activity on Boggy Creek Road continues into Osceola County. The county is planning to widen the road another 5.9 miles from Simpson Road to Narcoossee Road. The project is scheduled for construction in 2023 and includes drainage improvements, storm water ponds, street lighting, landscaping and modification of the signalized intersections at Nele Road, Turnberry Boulevard, and Narcoossee Road.