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Trio of residential projects could add thousands of homes to Hickory Tree Road

D.R. Horton is under contract to buy Buena Lago, an approved 537-home subdivision on Hickory Tree road that will have several lots on Alligator Lake. Just down the road, Triple H Ranch has applied to change the future land use of the 201-acre site outlined in red to Community Center.
D.R. Horton is under contract to buy Buena Lago, an approved 537-home subdivision on Hickory Tree road that will have several lots on Alligator Lake. Just down the road, Triple H Ranch has applied to change the future land use of the 201-acre site outlined in red to Community Center. (Osceola County Property Appraiser)

Homebuilder D.R. Horton is under contract to buy a 545-lot subdivision on Osceola County’s Alligator Lake, and it’s one of three residential projects that could add thousands of homesites to the Hickory Tree Road corridor in the coming years.

Snow Construction owner Nick Gross received site development plan approvals in 2014 for Buena Lago and completed the mass grading of the community, but the project stalled after that. It was initially approved for for a mix of townhomes and single family homes built around a 31.4-acre internal lake with its own beach and clubhouse. The lot sizes ranged from 100-foot estate lots on Alligator Lake to 75-foot internal lake lots, and 60-foot lots fronting on the existing state managed canal that connects Alligator Lake to Lake Gentry. A boat lift to the canal that would provide access to Alligator Lake was grandfathered in with the SDP.

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In 2017, Osceola County Commissioners enacted an ordinance restricting marinas and boat lifts on the Alligator Chain of Lakes. In June D.R. Horton filed an amended SDP for Buena Lago that eliminates the boat lift and private docks, a move that should appeal to Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr., who lives on Alligator Lake and was the main driver of the ordinance.

The developer of a controversial boating community on Alligator Lake won the right to install a boat lift after suing the county.

Gross said with the mass grading completed, D.R. Horton should be able to start construction as soon as the deal closes later this year.

Meanwhile, the Winter Park developer who paid $12 million last December for the 500-acre Triple H Ranch property, which abuts Buena Lago, is seeking a Large Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment to change the future land use from Low Density Residential to Community Center. The application applies to 201 acres of the ranch property, according to county records.

The LDR future land use and zoning allows a density of 3-8 dwelling units per acre, but the Community Center designation would establish a residential density of 8-18 units per acre – with a minimum density of 18 units per acre in the center’s core. It also would require a mix of retail and other non-residential uses.

Douglas Partners CEO Douglas Hoeksema, who heads the family investment group that bought the ranch property, could not be reached for comment. The Hoeksema family followed its $12 million investment with several more acquisitions of neighboring properties for a total of $3.54 million. Those purchases expanded the family’s holdings by another 100 acres.

The land is a productive citrus grove and cattle pasture, but it's also on corridor that is transitioning from rural to residential uses.

Clyde Wells, an agent for Maury L. Carter and Associates, represented Hoeksema on the $12 million acquisition. He said the family did not have immediate plans to develop the site.

“The plans were to buy it as a hold for a while, but he was going to go ahead and get moving on some of the entitlement work,” Wells said. “He’s certainly not in a rush to get it developed. The utilities are still quite a ways away.”

Tom Jordan is seeking final approvals for a 114-unit townhouse community called Hickory Tree Reserve.
Tom Jordan is seeking final approvals for a 114-unit townhouse community called Hickory Tree Reserve. (Jordan Companies)

Meanwhile, a third development is in the works on Hickory Tree Road just south of the Nolte Road intersection. Jordan Companies President Thomas Jordan had an approved preliminary subdivision plan for Hickory Tree Reserve, a 14.5-acre townhouse development across from the Twin Lakes retirement community. A county-initiated CPA changed the future land use to community center, which allows the townhomes but also requires a portion of the property be set aside for non-residential use.

Jordan met with Osceola’s Development Review Committee last week to go over the revised plan before submitting it. The new plan would designate 2 acres closest to the intersection with Nolte for a commercial use, and the number of townhomes was reduced by 20 units, to 114. The project would include an east-west road linking Hickory Tree Road to Old Hickory Tree Road.

Jimmie Wells, an engineer at Jordan Companies, said the plan is to put the project on the market once the entitlements are approved.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the total number lots in Buena Lago.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @byLauraKinsler. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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