The Howey-in-the-Hills Town Council has rejected smaller lot sizes for new residential developments, killing the Mission Rise project on a 4-1 vote Monday night.
Developer Hanover Capital Partners had applied for a rezoning of the L-shaped parcel near the western end of the town extending from State Road 19 to Number Two Road east of Silverwood Lane to planned unit development. Hanover intended to build 629 single-family units on 40-, 50- and 60-foot-wide lots.
For years, standard lot size in Howey-in-the-Hills was considered to be 100-by-150 feet. After the real estate crash, town planners eventually allowed the Venezia development at State Road 19 and Venezia Boulevard to build on 75-foot lots, and the recent Talichet and Whispering Hills projects received the thumbs-up on 75-foot lots.
The verdict on the smaller lots was a resounding "no."
Mayor David Nebel was the only affirmative vote, and he told GrowthSpotter his action was procedural to allow the issue to go to a second reading before the council and give Hanover the opportunity to make adjustments to the conceptual land use plan.
That's not likely to happen.
Matt Orosz, co-president and director of Hanover Family Builders and Hanover Capital Partners, told GrowthSpotter, "Our proposed plan provided a diverse product line, exceptional amenities focused on lifestyle unlike any other in the area and at a price point that is appropriate for our Central Florida community. That seemed like a win-win.
"We will not be pursuing the plan any further based exclusively on 75-foot lots."
In a March 15 memo to town council members and town officials, planning consultant Thomas Harowski stated that the Hanover project complied with the allowable density for a village mixed use development, and that specific lot size is not directed by the town comprehensive plan. "The size of lots to be permitted is a community values issue for the Town Council to decide," Harowski said.
He noted that the Hanover plan "does reflect a statewide trend toward smaller lots."
Hanover's Orosz reinforced that sentiment. "The market in this area easily proves that today's buyers want to spend their money more on living space they can enjoy rather than more grass to cut," he said. "It doesn't do any good to build what the actual consumers don't value … If we did, we wouldn't be around very long, and we have been here for almost 40 years."
Hanover was proposing to build 227 homes on 40-foot lots, 183 on 50-foot lots, and 219 on 60-foot lots in three phases. Mission Rise would have spanned 241 acres.
Howey mayor Nebel said he was troubled with the message the town vote might send to other residential developers. He noted that the Howey-in-the-Hills tax base is dependent on impact fees from new development and property taxes.
"I always favor large lots, but I'm a realist," Nebel said. "If we just turned down one medium- or small-sized developer, these big guys are going to say, 'We're not going to go there.' Our outlook for future revenue is not so good."
At Hanover, Orosz added, "We certainly share his disappointment."