Under pressure from a special magistrate’s ruling, the Clermont City Council on Tuesday approved a gated, 204-unit apartment complex by Skorman Construction.
The project will be located on 17 acres southwest of the Hooks Street and Excalibur Road intersection, adjacent to East Ridge Middle School.
Developer Kevin Skorman, vice president of Orlando’s Skorman Construction, described the project as an “upscale family development that is necessary to fill a growing demand in Clermont.”
He said the development would have amenities such as a resort-style swimming pool and a clubhouse.
The council had previously voted down the proposal, but the special magistrate ruled in August that the development should move forward and that the city should change zoning from Urban Estate to Planned Unit Development because it conformed with existing zoning and land use regulations.
City staff also recommended approval.
Several residents appeared during a public hearing to oppose the project, largely concerned about increased traffic in the area near the middle school. But Tara Tedrow, an attorney with Lowndes who represented Skorman, dismissed those concerns.
“Traffic is an issue in every land use hearing I handle,” she said after the meeting. “In this case, our traffic impacts were nearly de minimis under the city’s standards. The traffic study we had prepared by James Taylor at Kimley-Horn was independently evaluated by the city’s own professional engineer and staff. The conclusion was clear – at full buildout our project produced no adverse traffic impacts and met the requirements for obtaining a staff recommendation for approval under the city’s code and comprehensive plan.”
One resident said the council should challenge the development in Circuit Court, calling for a “test case” in the matter and saying the council should “have some guts, take your chances, go to court.”
But Council Member Jim Purvis said the developers are not to blame for traffic at the middle school.
“The school board does nothing to alleviate the traffic they dump on the streets,” he said. “They’re all great schools, but they suck at traffic control.”
After the meeting, Tedrow said Skorman would have prevailed in Circuit Court if the council had denied the zoning. “The hearing before the special magistrate concluded that no competent substantial evidence was produced to support a denial of our project and that we had met every criteria for approval,” she said, adding, “the magistrate found that denial of the project would be an unfair and unreasonable burden on the property. The findings were compelling in support of a recommendation of approval, and we are confident a circuit court would have concluded the same.”
Skorman said construction drawings are currently being finalized and that permits will be filed after completion of the drawings. The conceptual site plan calls for some split-level mid-rise apartment buildings that are three stories on western elevation and four stories on the eastern elevation. The residents enter on the second floor.
The council set conditions on the project, including that the primary entrance and exit point should be at Hook Street and that the Excalibur Road entrance be closed at drop-off and pickup hours at the middle school. In addition, all leases must last at least one year, and tenants must undergo a criminal background check.
Skorman added that the changes requested by the council would address all concerns of the council and nearby residents.
“We are confident this project will be a huge success and benefit to the community,” he said. “I believe the city made the right decision. This project isn’t just a win for us as the applicant, it will truly be a win for the city too.”
The company recently completed the 297-unit Minneola Hills apartment community and is designing a second phase, which will bring the total number of multifamily units in the masterplanned community to 625. Skorman also recently took over the commercial development of Hills of Minneola, which includes a future hospital.