Lake County could be headed to court again after the Board of County Commissioners rejected a negotiated settlement over rezoning of 117-acres on the Lakeshore Drive corridor to Planned Unit Development.
The settlement would have allowed Clermont-based Pillar Homes, a family-owned homebuilder, to build 102-home subdivision called Lake Nellie Crossing. The issue had been sent before a special magistrate after the board voted 3-2 to reject the project in July. The magistrate said in September that both the County and the developer had announced that a settlement had been reached.
But after public comment at the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, Commissioners began to question the settlement, citing traffic issues, the possibility of flooding in the area, particularly on Lake Florence, density, school over-crowding, preservation of a rural area and an over-abundance of septic systems that would be created by the development.
Under the settlement negotiated by county staff and Pillar Homes, the developer agreed to change the plan by placing all of the homesites on the western side of the development while leaving the east side of the property for conservation, passive recreation and open space.
The homebuilder also agreed to create a “curvilinear” design on the development’s roads “to create a more rural feel to the community,” and landscaping would also bring a rural feel to the area. Under the settlement, the developer reluctantly agreed to purchase an additional parcel of land to alleviate area residents’ concerns about the possibility of future development.
Lots would be 75-to-85-ft. wide, which developers said was wider than existing developments in the area. The concept plan creates 31 lakefront lots, which are the largest in the community (85 feet x 150 feet).
Developers would also be required to make improvements Lakeshore Drive and incorporate a distributed wastewater system.
The agreement said that “in the event the Board does not approve the settlement agreement, the matter may be referred back to the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to hold a formal hearing after which the ALJ will issue a recommended order in accordance with the statutory requirements.”
According to the special magistrate’s order, the dispute centered on the impact of Lake County’s July 6 order denying a rezoning from Urban Residential District to PUD for the Lake Nellie Crossing project, whether the denial of the rezoning application was unreasonable or unfairly burdened the real property subject to the developer’s rezoning application, and whether some modification of developer’s proposed use of the property or adjustment to the denial of the rezoning application could be reached. The density of one unit per acre is permitted under the existing Rural Transition future land use.
County staff worked with the developers to come up with the new agreement, but commissioners were not enthusiastic about the deal.
While acknowledging that staff recommended approval of the measure, Board Chairman Sean Parks expressed reluctance to reconsidering the board’s previous denial of the project, emphasizing that although county staff negotiated and agreed to the settlement, it was not the board’s decision to bring up the measure.
“This is not something the board has brought forward,” Parks said. “This is a proposed settlement and staff has recommended approval. To be clear, this is not something the board has brought forward.”
During a public hearing prior to the vote, area residents expressed opposition to the plan. Resident Scott Shepherd told the board that he and his neighbors are concerned about traffic and density.
“If we understand that if this is approved, then we’re going to go through the heartache of catching up our utilities, roadways and schools for the next few years,” he said. “We’re looking at this as a long-term problem.”
But Cecelia Bonafay, an attorney from Akerman representing the developer, said the project would actually improve the area’s roads, adding that the school board has also indicated that it can handle the additional students.
“The only project that is improving this road today are the burdens and conditions that have been imposed on this applicant to resurface, expand, put in shoulders and sidewalks,” she said.
Ultimately, commissioners could not accept the new plan and voted 4-1 to deny the rezoning.
Bonafay did not respond to requests for an interview after the vote.