The Lake County Planning & Zoning Board voted March 1 to recommend denial of a six-month moratorium on submission of preliminary plats for new subdivisions while the county staff finishes updating residential subdivision standards.
The ordinance to enact a moratorium is set to go to the Lake County Board of County Commissioners on March 28, according to county Public Information Officer Sarah Lux. The board voted 3-2 to recommend the denial.
The Lake BOCC adopted the standards for new rural conservation subdivisions in January, and staff presented a corresponding ordinance regulating residential subdivisions and new home designs that month with the expectation that it would go to the Board in February. But the county’s P&Z board tabled the ordinance in January, saying it was too vague in some sections and unenforceable in others.
It was supposed to come back to P&Z in February but was tabled again. Now the staff says it will take six months to rewrite the ordinance, according to the document. It states the moratorium would give the county time “to undertake a thorough analysis of its residential subdivision regulations,” including buffering, park and open space requirements, and architectural guidelines.
[ RELATED: Lake County working to refine ordinance setting new subdivision standards ]
Three Planning & Zoning board members disagreed with the moratorium. And several from the building industry spoke against it.
“To me, it sends the wrong message to anybody moving into this area,” said Board Chair Gary Santoro. “It says we are closing shop.” He recommended that if the county staff is too overwhelmed to work on the new subdivision standards, that it outsource some of the work.
Board Member Bruce Peterman moved to recommend denial of the moratorium, saying he has dealt with them in other locations and has never been a fan.
Among the builders asking the board to recommend denial of the moratorium, Tina Lee of Ashton Woods said pausing approvals for new subdivision plans creates gaps in development times and puts a strain on builders.
“The cost of new homes to accommodate a lot of these design criteria adds $599 a month to the mortgage, or over $3,000 a month.”
Peter Chichetto , land manager for D.R. Horton, the nation’s largest homebuilder, said he empathizes with what the county is trying to accomplish.
“I understand the need for some guidelines… but it is not a moratorium that gets you there. Just adding a front porch to a house is $10,000. It takes the affordability factor out for a lot of buyers.
Both builders and board members have stated that some of the criteria recommended by staff would turn Lake County into a cookie-cutter community, adding rear-loading garages that take up space that might be used for pools, dictating architectural decisions that should be left to the developer and adding amenities that make homes much more expensive, such as the front porches to which Chichetto alluded.
If the moratorium is approved by the county commission, the county will not accept preliminary plats for new subdivisions as of March 1 unless they are located within a rural conservation subdivision or if they are part of a Planned Unit Development that already has adopted design guidelines. This exception would apply to many of the larger projects in the county that already have PUD zoning.
“A preliminary plat is the first official submission of a Subdivision plan to the County, which consists of an application, a draft copy of any restrictive covenants, and the Subdivision design drawings,” a county spokesperson told GrowthSpotter. “The application moratorium is being considered to ensure new subdivisions are in line with updated design guidelines.”
The county office clarified that a builder or developer may submit a preliminary plat if they also execute a separate development agreement with the county specifying the design guidelines for the new subdivision.
Lisa Rayborn, executive director of the Lake-Sumter Home Builders Association, said her board has not taken a position on the moratorium and is not involved in the deliberations over the new subdivision standards.
Lake County is one of several jurisdictions engaged recently in rewriting its architectural standards for new home construction. The topic has become a flash point for homebuilders and developers, especially when the industry isn’t consulted on the proposed changes.
[ RELATED: St. Cloud Council approves interim architectural standards for new home construction ]
Greater Orlando Builders Association officials have begun meeting with officials in St. Cloud after the City Council approved the first reading of a set of temporary design guidelines for all new home construction. GOBA also represents dozens of Orlando-based builders and developers with active projects in Lake County.
“These guidelines for design standards are kind of a new hurdle that we need to overcome if we’re going to address affordability,” GOBA CEO Chassity Vega said. “A lot of what we’re seeing is adding $80,000 to the cost of a house.”
GOBA government affairs liaison Lee Steinhaugher said moratoriums generally do more harm than good and send an antibusiness message. “What’s the justification to stop development,” he pressed. “There’s no need to put in a moratorium so you can fix your standards.”
Greg Clark with Loma Land Co. said the moratorium will create short-term pain for the development community. “But if they get a good set of rules and standards that everyone can follow, it’s better for everyone in the long run,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this article ran on Feb. 27, 2023. It has been updated with new details following the P&Z meeting.
GrowthSpotter reporter Yvette C. Hammett contributed to this report. Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.