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Plans for boating community on Lake Toho face approval today

An overview of the initial concept plan for Bella Tara, a mixed-use development planned as a boating community on the southeast side of Lake Toho in Osceola County.
An overview of the initial concept plan for Bella Tara, a mixed-use development planned as a boating community on the southeast side of Lake Toho in Osceola County.(RJ Whidden & Associates)

Bella Tara, a 297-acre mixed-use development on Osceola County's Lake Toho, could be one of the first projects activated within the lake's conceptual master plan area. Its initial concept plan goes before the county's Development Review Committee today.

The proposed development lies south of Kissimmee Park Road, west of Florida's Turnpike and east of Lake Tohopekaliga Road. It will include 950 single-family homes, 1,060 multi-family town home units, two neighborhood centers with 20,000 square feet of commercial use and 20,000 square feet of office use. It will have five acres of public park space.

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Bella Tara would be marketed as a boating community, with navigable waterways dug throughout the property and a boat lift that provides access to Lake Toho, said John F. Adams, planner on the project for Rj Whidden & Associates.

If approved, the project's next step would be a site development plan, which includes engineering, design and development details for the property. However, property owner and developer Centerline Green LLC will likely put Bella Tara on hold and wait for market demand to improve near the lakefront, said Craig Perry, development manager.

"We wanted to invest in our entitlement rights up to this point and are doing so with this design, we now have to wait and watch the market after (Wednesday)," he said. "The area is still just a bit far from shopping and schools, but everything seems to be progressing toward the Lake Toho area."

Development of Bella Tara could remain on hold for another two to three years, Perry said, or could move quickly if demand for mixed-use real estate on the lake heats up. He conceded it's a chicken-or-egg debate of whether development or demand should come first.

Bella Tara is one of six communities with master plans approved in the late 2000s to urbanize growth along Osceola's largest lake, sites which have since gone mostly undeveloped.

Osceola County adopted a Comprehensive Plan in 2007, and conceptual master plans were developed in the years that followed for the South, Northeast and East Lake Toho districts to steer future waterfront growth toward urban, mixed-use concepts, said Jeff Jones, strategic initiatives director for Osceola County.

Those East and South district conceptual master plans comprise about 25,000 acres, 75,000 residential units, 16 million square feet of commercial and office space, 6 million square feet of civic space and some 22 miles of Toho lakefront.

"This is our effort to develop more efficiently, and to follow through on a recommendation made by the Urban Land Institute, which came here in 2006 with land development professionals from around the country, and recommended to our Board (of County Commissioners) to stop approving projects, and start building communities," Jones said.

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"That's what the mixed-use districts are trying to do," he continued. "They're multiple properties with property lines, but they're being built as complete communities, regardless of where those lines may fall. Bella Tara is a just a piece fitting into that larger puzzle."

The zoning district known as Bella Tara Development of County Impact Planned Development (DCI PD) was originally approved by Osceola County in March 2009. The county rezoned the property as mixed-use in December 2013.

Bella Tara covers nearly 60 percent of the approved East of Lake Toho Conceptual Master Plan.

bmoser@growthspotter.com or (407) 420-5685

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