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Long-delayed subdivision project gets nod from Howey-in-the-Hills Council

The approved Preliminary Site Plan for Whispering Hills calls for 156 lots. The 20 lots on Little Lake Harris will be 100 feet wide, while the rest will be 75 feet wide.
The approved Preliminary Site Plan for Whispering Hills calls for 156 lots. The 20 lots on Little Lake Harris will be 100 feet wide, while the rest will be 75 feet wide. (Unroe Engineering)

The third time was the charm for Orlando-based Red Jacket Development and its effort to build a new subdivision on the western shore of Little Lake Harris.

The Howey-in-the-Hills Town Council voted 4-1 Monday night to approve the developer’s preliminary subdivision plan for Whispering Hills. The plan calls for a gated community of 156 lots, including 20 premium estate lots directly on the lake.

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This was the third time the developer had sought approval from the Town Council for the subdivision, which is located between Buckhill Road and Little Lake Harris.

“We originally applied for this project back in 2005, so it actually has been around for 15 years, but we’ve gone through multiple concepts,” Red Jacket Vice President Clay Frankel said.

Initially, the developer intended to build an estate subdivision with 107 homes on the 57-acre site, but Frankel said there simply wasn’t enough market demand to that product to move forward. So Red Jacket rezoned the property in 2019 to allow for smaller lot sizes.

“What we originally wanted to build, nobody wanted to buy,” Frankel said.

The neighborhood features a 70-foot elevation change, which will create a terrace-like effect and allow hilltop homes to enjoy views of Little Lake Harris.
The neighborhood features a 70-foot elevation change, which will create a terrace-like effect and allow hilltop homes to enjoy views of Little Lake Harris. (Lake County Property Appraiser)

Last November the developer came back with a PSP for 154 lot subdivision composed of 75-foot wide lots, except for the 20 lakefront lots, which would remain 100 feet wide. “We left the shoreline lots as untouched as possible,” Frankel said, noting that homeowners on those lots can apply for private dock permits.

David Nebel was the only council member who voted against the subdivision plan, saying the project wasn’t worthy of its lakefront location. “It’s trash housing on the waterfront,” he complained.

Red Jacket agreed to connect to the town’s sewer system to accommodate the higher density, which was a condition of the rezoning.

A 93-lot subdivision in Howey-in-the-Hills that had been “mothballed” during the 2007-08 recession is back on the drawing board, with Flagship

“The tradeoff we got from that was 107 lots on septic to 156 lots on city sewer, which I think is better for the town and the lake,” town planning consultant Tom Harosky told the council. “I see it as a net gain for the town, at least in terms of environmental impact.”

The community also would feature a 5-acre pond that would serve as a stormwater retention facility and double as a water source for the neighborhood’s private landscape irrigation system, which can be supplemented by Little Lake Harris if necessary. It also will have a dog park and trail network connecting to the Sara Maude Mason Nature Preserve.

The design highlights the neighborhood’s sharp elevation changes, so hilltop homes will enjoy views of Little Lake Harris, and homes can be designed with walk out basements. “What’s really interesting about this project is the topography is something that we’re respecting,” Frankel said. “We’ll build this project so the homes cascade down this steep topography.”

The developer paid to upgrade the town's water system, which clears the way for the first new subdivision in 50 years.

Frankel said the civil team from Unroe Engineering tweaked the design to accommodate requests from the town.

“The major difference between the two plans is that the town had asked us to the move the entrance from the central location to a more northerly location,” he said. “We to re-engineer the project, and we were able to pick up two additional lots as part of that process.”

The final construction plans should be ready to submit before the end of the year, and Frankel estimates construction could start in the spring.

Frankel said Red Jacket would consider selling the project at the plan approval stage or after site development, but they are prepared to see the project through to the completion and sale of the final house. The team is forecasting a starting price point of $385,000 for interior lot homes and $600,000+ for the shoreline estate homes.

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Nearby, Meritage Homes is actively building Venezia, a 172-home community where home prices start at about $270,000.

Right across Little Lake Harris, TKC Platinum Properties and the Mary K. Eddy Trust are partnering on a 60-lot subdivision called Colina del Lago in the town of Astatula.

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 FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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