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Leesburg Planning Commission rejects proposed estate subdivision on Lake Harris

Most of the land in the proposed Sunnyside PUD already has Estate Residential land use (green). The portion east of Sunnyside Drive outlined in red would be annexed and assigned the same land use.
Most of the land in the proposed Sunnyside PUD already has Estate Residential land use (green). The portion east of Sunnyside Drive outlined in red would be annexed and assigned the same land use. (City of Leesburg)

Leesburg’s City Council introduced a trio of ordinances this week to create a new 159-home subdivision in a rural enclave off Sunnyside Drive, but the real debate will take place in late October when the cases come back for a vote.

The city’s Planning Commission voted unanimously in August to deny the requested annexation, Comprehensive Plan Amendment and rezoning for the proposed Sunnyside PUD after a contentious 2-hour public hearing. Homeowners in the largely rural area and west of Lake Harris oppose the project, most of which falls on a 120-acre assemblage that previously was approved for a PUD.

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The owner, Dr. Eric Coe, is seeking to annex nearly 18 acres east of Sunnyside Drive, some with frontage on Lake Harris, that would bring the total project size to 137.4 acres. The 2005 PUD was approved for 120 homes, or a density of one home per acre, but it expired in 2007 and the entitlements are not vested.

The conceptual site plan shows the layout of the Sunnyside PUD. The 18-acre site would be annexed into the city and add 18 estate lots that would be at least a half acre in size.
The conceptual site plan shows the layout of the Sunnyside PUD. The 18-acre site would be annexed into the city and add 18 estate lots that would be at least a half acre in size. (LPG Urban & Regional Planners)

Coe engaged Greg Beliveau, owner of LPG Urban & Regional Planners, to seek approval for a new Sunnyside PUD for the slightly larger subdivision that would have a density of 1.1 homes per acre. The 120-acre parent parcel is in the city, but the 18-acre expansion site would need to be annexed and assigned a future land use of Estate Residential.

The plan creates a community primarily consisting of 70- and 80-foot lots. All of the lots in the annexed area would be a minimum of half acre in size, and the lots adjacent to Sunnyside on the west side would have to be 80-feet wide. The community would restrict building heights to 35 feet, and the neighborhood would have a minimum house sizes of 1,800, 2,000 and 2,400 square feet depending on the size of the lots. The PUD also establishes guidelines for recreational amenities and architecture standards.

“We have over 40 acres of open space and recreation,” Beliveau said. “There’s a designated site where it will be heavily amenitized. The developer will have the option of doing a pool and cabana, and other types of recreational facilities, like basketball courts. This is going to be a community for families.”

Beliveau said the denial at P&Z was based largely on neighborhood complaints about traffic and safety concerns on Sunnyside Drive, longstanding problems that predate this project.

Home prices will start in the low $200s in this community, which is across from Lake Harris.

“It was denied at Planning Commission because of the road, which I have no control over because it’s a county road,” he told GrowthSpotter. “We’ve met with the county. Our project does not degrade the level of service on that road.”

He said the previous landowner has already dedicated right-of-way to the county to “soften” one of the three sharp curves on Sunnyside Drive, and the developer will pay for that improvement. Coe also has agreed to dedicate right-of-way an pay for road improvements on the portion of Sunnyside that abuts the new 18-acre parcel. But he said it’s up to the county and the other property owners on Sunnyside to work out a solution for the other two curves. “Those property owners have not dedicated right of way.”

Beliveau also disputed a claim by some opponents that the project violates an earlier Sunnyside Task Force study, which recommended new development in the area be restricted to a density of one unit per 3 acres. The study’s recommendations were approved by Leesburg’s City Council, but the city never updated its Land Development Code to implement them.

“The city never codified the task force study,” he said.

The new Richmond American Homes community will be tucked between Lake Harris and the Sleepy Hollow Sports Complex.

City staff has recommended approval of the PUD. Since the CPA must clear Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, a process that takes about 30 days, the second reading and public hearing will take place either in late October or early November.

The PUD is in an area of Leesburg that is transitioning to more traditional single family residential development. Just north of the property, Adams Homes and Richmond American Homes are actively selling in Park Hill, Seasons at Park Hill and Seasons at Hillside.

Hanover Family Builders also have active projects in Leesburg, and last month received approval for a 542-home subdivision on State Road 48. The city’s Planning Commission had also recommended denial for that subdivision.

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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