Town leaders in Howey-in-the-Hills have directed two developers to stick with their original subdivision plans, denying requested changes to the Venezia North and Whispering Pines projects, set to add a significant amount of homes in the Lake County town.
"We do want new residential areas and some commercial areas," Town Clerk and Finance Director Dairian Burke said. "But we want to keep the quaint, quietness of Howey-in-the-Hills."
Howey-in-the-Hills Town Council first said "no" in August to Venezia Partners LLC, which requested several site changes including higher density at Venezia North where 93 single-family homes are approved. In October it declined Red Jacket Development's ask for a zone change at Whispering Pines where 154 single-family homes are approved.
Ultimately, town leaders decided the requests did not meet town code or match the vision for Howey, Burke said.
Growth – and Howey certainly has grown – is good, Burke said, but town leadership wants it controlled. The number of housing units in Howey rose by 41 percent between 2000 and 2015, from 451 to 638 units, according to the U.S. Census and local housing data.
Howey-in-the-Hills is located about 40 miles north west of Orlando off of the Florida Turnpike, where a new Minneola interchange has aided access to the toll highway. Requests for comment from the developers were not returned.
Venezia North, north of FL-19 and south of W. Central Avenue, is part of a bigger Venezia project that includes Venezia South, south of FL-19 and north of Revel Road and nearly complete. In recent weeks, Meritage Homes recently bought the last 38 residential lots in Venezia South, a 172-lot development.
Venezia asked for permission to add 72 units to Venezia North, rename it Talichet, and make other adjustments.
But the Planning and Zoning Commission and Town Council disagreed unanimously with the density change and also said town code requires the developer build two distinct access points and shorter cul-de-sacs. According to town planners, the new proposal also didn't address off-site traffic impacts or illustrate how the 15 percent non-residential land use requirement has been fulfilled regarding recreational uses.
At Whispering Hills, east of Revels Road on N. Buckhill Road, bordering the Sara Maude Mason Nature Preserve and providing lakefront lots along Little Lake Harris, Red Jacket in May had asked and gotten approval to add 47 more units according to town meeting minutes.
But in August the developer asked for a zone change, from Medium Residential Density 1 to Medium Residential Density 2. Town Council voted down the request Oct. 8, Burke said.