Car dealer Don Mealey won approval Tuesday morning to build his new Sport Subaru dealership across from the Walmart at John Young Parkway and Princeton Street as part his proposed 71-acre District West mixed-use project. But first he will have to remove over 1,000 truckloads of waste and contaminants that have been dumped illegally on the vacant site for decades.
Orlando’s Municipal Planning Board unanimously approved the Activity Center Zoning and Master Plan for District West Tuesday morning. The MPB also granted a Conditional Use permit for a new car dealership at the site.
The new dealership will anchor the commercial portion of the district. The plan also calls for a handful of outparcels fronting on Princeton and John Young and accessed by an internal road. James Johnston, attorney with Shutts & Bowen, told the board that it was necessary to reconfigure the boundaries of the conservation area so the entrance road could line up with the signalized intersection at the Walmart. The final plan results in a net gain of 1.35 acres of conservation land.
He also explained that Mealey revised the master plan – dropping a proposed industrial warehouse section in favor of medium-density residential – after holding a neighborhood meeting to respond to concerns from the residents. That portion of the site abuts the Princeton Oaks industrial park and is across the street from a Frito-Lay distribution plant.
“We think that’s appropriate for the southern portion of the property, and it provides an appropriate transition to all those uses,” Johnston said.
Robyn Neely, environmental law specialist with Ackerman, represents the seller, Keybank National Association Trust, and has worked with Mealy and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to evaluate the designated brownfield and come up with a plan for remediation.
She said prior to developing the site, Mealey would excavate and properly dispose of roughly 30,000 cubic yards of waste and debris that was illegally dumped on the property.
“That may not sound like much, but that’s over 1,071 dump truck loads of material that needs to be taken off that property, and it will improve the overall condition of the property and the surrounding community,” Neely said. “The cost to remove that 30,000 cubic yards of material to be removed is over $2 million.”
The site stretches from Princeton to W.D. Judge Drive. Tad Dixon, president of First Team Commercial, has been working with Mealey for over a year on the site selection and planning for District West.
Dixon told GrowthSpotter he’s already received developer interest for the multifamily site, but the first priority will be to get the new dealership underway, hopefully by early 2020.
“We want to get through this process first,” Dixon said.
Mealey said his current Subaru dealership has outgrown the building it shares with Mitsubishi at 3772 W. Colonial Dr. The new dealership is Subaru-prototype that was recently introduced in Las Vegas. This will be the first in Florida for the highly-amenitized design with a car wash and inside new-car delivery.
The project drew opposition from many of the same activists and political candidates who also fought the Princeton Oaks project and, more recently, the Fern Grove senior housing complex on W.D. Judge Drive. They claimed, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that the site consisted of pristine forest and class 1 wetlands.
Board member Tim Baker acknowledged that they had heard several cases from the same neighborhood during a short period of time, but he was satisfied that Mealey would leave the property in better condition that it’s in today.
Vice Chair Morgan Lea agreed. “I heard from the public, regarding this property, I do believe that the applicant of the owner did sufficiently address those concerns,” Lea said. “I don’t have any other concerns with respect to this project. I think they are are greatly enhancing what is already there.”