The future of The Vue at Clermont development is unclear after the Clermont City Council shot down two measures that would have allowed part of the 31-acre property to change from low density to commercial, with another 6.7 acres south of Hooks Street to be used for multi-family units.
The proposed development straddles Hook Street with a north and south section and would be developed by two different firms, AC Commercial and Woodfield Development of Tampa. AC Commercial received Planned Unit Development approval in 2016 for the $90 million mixed-use project at the junction of State Road 50 and Miss Florida Avenue. The PUD was approved for 258 multifamily units.
The developers were seeking approval to build 30,000 square feet of commercial fronting on S.R. 50, along with a total of 292 multi-family units, with 220 on the north side of Hooks Street and 72 units on the 6.7-acres south of Hooks Street. The southern parcel currently is zoned to allow for a maximum of 19 dwelling units. The developers had initially sought a Workforce Housing Density Bonus but removed the request before the case made it to Council.
Both city planning staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of the two requests, first for a companion Small Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment to change the Future Land Use designation on a portion of the property from Low Density Residential to Commercial, with the second to add the land south of Hooks Street to a Planned Unit Development to be utilized for multi-family use.
Attorney Jimmy D. Crawford, who represented the developers, said the project would address a growing need for affordable housing in Clermont, an issue which he said has brought about worker shortages to the area.
Crawford appealed to the council’s awareness of the need for affordable housing, saying that rents have in the area have increased 35 percent in the past two years.
“Working people have a hard time finding a place to live in this area,” he said. “There’s no inventory.”
While council members expressed agreement about affordable housing, the argument was not enough to get the measures approved and after lengthy discussion and the council voted 3-2 to deny both requests.
The land is especially hilly and council member Jim Purvis said he referred to the area as “goat mountain, because you have to be a goat to walk it,” and he questioned whether the natural topography could be retained if the development was completed.
The south end of the property was also of particular concern to the council, and increased traffic was also cited as a point of interest.
“I don’t support the development on the south side of Hooks,” Purvis said. “I think it’s three pounds of chocolate in a two-pound box. I’m not crazy about the whole layout. It’s just too much.”
Also of concern to council members was the height and durability of a 13-ft. terraced retaining wall proposed on the south portion of the site. “If they don’t have the money, it won’t be fixed,” Purvis said.
“I don’t like the ideas of terrace walls or whatever you want to call them,” said council member Michele Pines.
In addition, council members wanted a second entrance to the development for emergency vehicles.
Crawford argued for approval because “we need affordable housing too badly,” and as it became apparent that the go-ahead was not coming, he asked for a delay on the vote.
Purvis told the developers to come back with a new proposal.
But the developers’ loan extensions have expired, and Crawford pushed for approval because lenders expected positive action from the council.
Crawford did not respond to a request for an interview after the council’s vote.