County officials pledged to work together in the next year to develop an overlay district to regulate land use and development throughout the Four Corners area Wednesday during the 2018 Four Corners Area Council One Vision Summit.
The Kissimmee Area Chamber of Commerce engaged Thomas Kohler, a real estate adviser with GAI Consultants, to create a cohesive plan that addresses how the counties can coordinate planning, zoning, transportation and housing.
He told GrowthSpotter the study would be successful if officials from Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk counties move beyond the talking phase and create a steering committee to draft the overlay guidelines.
"The next step is implementation," he said. "People don't want another study that ends up on a shelf."
Osceola County Manager Don Fisher said the leadership has to come from elected officials and the private sector.
"As a region, we can't let the value of the area deteriorate," he said. "It's really the elected officials who need to direct us to work together. Who from the private sector will have a vested interest? You guys have to beat your fist on the table."
Kohler said the timing could be fortuitous because Osceola's W192 Development Authority is already developing design guidelines for the the tourism corridor and Orange County is knee-deep in rewriting its land development code, which could include an overlay district.
"Our planning staff would be happy to be a part of the committee," Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks said.
Polk County Deputy County Manager Tom Deardorff said his staff could create a Selected Area Plan to incorporate the overlay standards, but he thinks the committee should look beyond land use and focus on cross county transportation planning, as well. He said Polk is getting ready to spend $18 million to widen Lake Wilson Road, but the project will end at the Osceola County line.
The committee also needs to adopt a map that defines the boundary for the overlay.
"We're updating our 2040 Plan, and we will build into the scope of services to define a subset of the plan that's specific to the Four Corners Area," Deardorff said. "That's why we need a map."
Lake and Orange counties currently coordinate their transportation planning on major corridors, such as the Wellness Way, Western Way and the future CFX toll road connecting U.S. 27 to S.R. 429.
"I think that can happen, and it happens fairly quickly," Parks said. "That's the beauty of toll roads."
Parks said the toll road would be designed to accommodate transit and autonomous vehicles. The interlocal agreement could serve as a template for expanding into Osceola and Polk counties.
Eric Raasch, chief planner for Orange County, suggested the committee take a look at school planning, as well, to keep up with the explosive residential growth in Four Corners. He said Horizon West did 2,000 units of housing last year, and that development is moving south into the Four Corners area.
"We don't have any schools in the southwest portion of the county, and we're seeing demand for more residential," he said.
Polk County also desperately needs another high school and more elementary schools in the Four Corners area, Deardorff said. Ridge Community High School in Davenport is the county's most overcrowded, he said.
RIDA Senior Vice President Marc Reicher said the idea of an overlay district is long overdue, so getting the counties to agree to establish a steering committee and keep the consultant was an important step, but the real test will come when each county has to commit funding to capital improvements.
"This area is a massive contributor, not only to the bed tax, but also to each county's ad valorum taxes," he said.