A Maitland developer is asking the Clermont City Council for revisions to the stalled mixed-use project, dubbed The Vue at Clermont, so they can take advantage of the county’s affordable housing density bonus.
AC Commercial Properties received Planned Unit Development approval in 2016 for the $90 million mixed-use project at the junction of Highway 50, Miss Florida Avenue and straddling Hooks Street. The PUD was approved for 258 multifamily units. Now the developer is asking for approvals to build 322 units, 97 of which would offer reduced rents as qualified workforce housing.
The latest site plan would create four commercial parcels fronting on S.R. 50. The developer is seeking a small-scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment for 6.63 acres and an amendment to the Planned Unit Development on the remaining 30 acres to allow multi-family units and to include additional acreage with workforce housing density bonus criteria.
Clermont attorney Jimmy D. Crawford, representing AC Commercial Properties and its owner Jonathan Moore, said the proposal meets a need for affordable housing in the area.
But approval of the entire project may prove difficult.
The Clermont Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6-1 to deny both applications earlier this month, citing traffic and safety issues over emergency vehicle access. The developers had failed to submit a traffic study to Planning and Zoning in time for its meeting, further creating concern from commissioners.
Crawford told the P&Z board that the development would actually create less traffic, saying it would generate 4,000 daily trips, fewer than the 4,200 currently allowed, although Crawford told the commission that the traffic issue was “not an ideal situation.” The study would be complete by the time the case goes to City Council for consideration, he added.
City staff has also recommended denial. According to a staff report, “the adopted Objective and Policy from the Comprehensive Plan do not support the applicant’s request to utilize approximately 50 percent of the land area for residential use.” The report added that the land is desired for employment and non-residential uses.
The proposed development straddles Hooks Street with a north and south section, to be developed by two different firms, AC Commercial and Woodfield Development of Tampa. The project north of Hooks Street would have 250 units, of which 25 would be offered at reduced rates. The 72-unit complex south of Hooks Street would all be workforce housing.
Moore said the project to the south would be modeled after Woodwinds, a 96-unit affordable housing development on South Grand Highway in Clermont. The owner would construct the project in partnership with Provident Housing Solutions, an affordable housing non-profit organization. He told the P&Z board the workforce units south of Hooks Street would be comparable to the market rate units, but he could not guarantee that that they would have identical finishes and materials because the communities are being built by two different communities.
Moore told Planning and Zoning that the city’s view of workforce housing as defined by the city is confusing.
“What I’ve learned pretty quickly is that the leadership of Clermont had, I’m going to categorically call it two different categories, has different definitions of workforce housing they wanted to accomplish,” Moore said. “Whether it be city commissioners or staff I would hear comments on that, and their definition was different.”
Moore said the city cannot seem to define whether it wants housing for the working poor or middle-class professionals such as firefighters, teachers and nurses.
“This is the first project that has come before you that accomplishes what I’ve heard you all want, workforce housing, I don’t care how you define it,” Moore said.
Further complicating the matter for the developers, the proposal would place The Vue complex near the recently approved Skorman project, about which city council members also expressed concern because of density and traffic.
The Clermont City Council, under pressure from a special magistrate’s ruling earlier this year, approved the gated, 204-unit apartment complex by Skorman Construction. The Skorman project will be located on 17 acres southwest of the Hooks Street and Excalibur Road intersection, adjacent to East Ridge Middle School.
Developer Kevin Skorman described the project as an “upscale family development that is necessary to fill a growing demand in Clermont.”
The council had previously voted down the proposal, but the special magistrate ruled in August that the development should move forward because it conformed with existing zoning and land use regulations.
Moore and Crawford did not return calls and emails,The measure was introduced to the City Council without immediate action Tuesday. The council may consider the measures at the next meeting on Oct. 26.