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Lake County Developments

Minneola puts brakes on latest town center project

A 325-acre mixed-use development just west of Hills of Minneola hit a major stumbling block on Nov. 1 when the City Council pushed back hard on the landowners for not completing a much-needed road nearby that would quell traffic concerns in the area.

All city approvals for the project, previously known as Founder’s Ridge and now known as the Minneola Town Center, have been put on hold until January.

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Minneola Mayor Pat Kelley and Councilman Joseph Saunders both told the developer’s representative that they had heard many concerns over the project from nearby residents, especially that Scrub Jay Lane, described as “a country road,” has yet to be built out as promised.

The property, located at Citrus Grove Road and Scrub Jay Lane, was first approved for a Planned Unit Development in 2004 and has come back before the city council numerous times for various owners and developers.

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The Minneola Town Center would be developed in four phases, with the residential and industrial scheduled first.

This time, owners, Founders Ridge Development LLC, were seeking approval of a major comprehensive plan amendment that would change the land use classification from Single-Family Medium Density and Conservation to Mixed Use Development. The developer also sought a resolution approving the latest developer’s agreement, something the city council was not prepared to do.

A conceptual site plan has been submitted for the project, which calls for a mix of single-family homes, townhomes and apartments, as well as some commercial and industrial. Greg Beliveau, CEO of LPG Urban and Regional Planners is the planner for the project.

Aaron Blake, with Presco Realty, representing the owners, told the city council his clients have every intention of completing Scrub Jay Lane as previously promised. They have received $8 million from the state to assist with the road’s development.

That is fine with the city council, but its members want to see movement on that promise before moving forward with the overall project, they said.

Blake agreed to table all of it until January when he can show that some movement is being made on getting Scrub Jay Lane constructed.

Blake also said he has been meeting with nearby residents to address their many concerns over the project, including placing industrial uses on Citrus Grove Road, which many find offensive since it would be right across the street from their homes. The conceptual plan shows 912,000 square feet of industrial space on the 65 acres east of the power line easement that abuts the industrial section of The Hills of Minneola.

The Founder’s Ridge property was approved for more than 900 homes back in 2005. It has since gone through several owners and many changes to plans.

According to the latest developer’s agreement, which has not been approved, the project would include 962 residential units, of which 500 would be single-family homes, down from 722 previously, and 162 townhomes. It would also include 300 apartments, 783,389 square feet of commercial, 40,000 square feet for an assisted living complex and a 30,000 square-foot civic center.

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The project would be built in four phases, starting on opposite ends with residential on the west and industrial on the east.

Plans are now to schedule a city council workshop to go over the developer’s agreement and see what progress has been made on getting Scrub Jay Lane up to par.

“We like you, but we like the road better,” Kelley told Blake.

“Once the road is in, we start getting a shift in traffic,” Saunders said. “The road needs to go in to see how the water is going to flow so we can address the traffic situation. You get 100 on effort and passion,” he told Blake. “It’s just we have waited so long for this road.” More than 20 years all told, he said.

The neighbors also raised concerns about the addition of rental apartments and townhomes to the project.

Blake pledged to continue working with residents and city staff on all of those issues before coming back to the city council in January.

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