Osceola County Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. told GrowthSpotter on Wednesday he expects a major rewrite of a controversial building moratorium ordinance around the Alligator Chain of Lakes before it reaches the board on March 20.
Hawkins said the draft ordinance that was slated to halt new construction and permitting for a year across 54 square miles went far beyond its intent, after he initially asked for the moratorium.
The item was on the board's March 6 agenda, but that meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum.
"We're not going to stop commercial development along U.S. 192 -- that is not our goal," Hawkins said. "Before this comes to a vote, you're going to see it narrowed quite a bit. It's probably a good thing it was delayed Monday."
As it was drafted, the ordinance would have put a hold on the acceptance, processing or approval of any new permits or development orders in the Chain of Lakes watershed -- an area about five times the size of Winter Park.
Hawkins said he first proposed the moratorium in response to outcry from homeowners on the lake about the approval of Hanover Lakes, a 558-home boating community with a lift providing direct access to Alligator Lake. The plan also includes boat ramps to both the 45-acre internal lagoon and to Alligator Lake.
"It's called keyhole development – where a developer has hundreds of acres of uplands and they have a small sliver of land on the lake where they put in a boat lift to provide access to hundreds of boaters," Hawkins said. "I don't think it's good development, and I think it's a disservice to those who actually own lakefront property."
Osceola Commissioners approved the rezoning for the community, but the site plan was approved at the staff level. The developer, Orlando-based Hanover Capital Partners, received its final permits earlier this year from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a dredge to accommodate the boat lift.
"I want to be clear -- Hanover has not done anything wrong," he said. "They followed all the rules that were in place."
He said he asked for a moratorium on all lakefront property in the Chain of Lakes, but staff expanded it to include the entire watershed since high-density residential developments as far away as Hickory Tree Road could affect the water quality of the lakes.
Boating safety is another concern. Hawkins wants to require developments over a certain size to provide lake impact studies as part of their permitting process -- just as they do with traffic studies.
"These lakes are not like Lake Toho and East Lake Toho," he said. "Those lakes are large enough to handle the number of boaters."
Lake Tohopekaliga, for example, is 22,700 acres -- about three times the size of the 11 lakes in the Alligator Chain. At 3,406 acres, Alligator Lake is the largest in the system -- but it's just 11 feet deep.
County officials are expecting a large turnout for the public hearing, both from stakeholders who support the moratorium and from developers who argue it denies them fair use of their property.
"All this is going to be a big discussion," Hawkins said. "I think we're still going to grow in other parts of the county. I don't think we're going to infringe on anyone's personal property rights."