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Osceola approves Sunbridge rezoning that clears way for 6,000-home gated retirement community

The new Sunbridge Planned Development creates new boundaries for the staging areas, moving the bulk of what had been in Stage 2 into Stage 1. That allows the developer to commence work on the 6,000-home active adult community at an earlier date.
The new Sunbridge Planned Development creates new boundaries for the staging areas, moving the bulk of what had been in Stage 2 into Stage 1. That allows the developer to commence work on the 6,000-home active adult community at an earlier date. (Osceola County)

Osceola County Commissioners this month voted to create a new Sunbridge land use category for the 19,000-acre master-planned development in the former Northeast District and swap out the Mixed-Use zoning for Planned Development to accommodate the developer’s plans to build a 6,000-home gated community.

Tavistock Development Company first made reference to a large-scale active adult community in Sunbridge back in the spring when it filed the Phase 2 Concept plan, which designated five different gate locations for the private streets mostly east and south of Lake Preston. Tavistock officials have not confirmed that Disney is the development and branding partner for the project, but the initial planning occurred while the company was in negotiations with Tavistock to move thousands of jobs from California to a new campus in Lake Nona.

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Dave Tomek, Community Development Director for Osceola County, said the size and scale of the gated community simply couldn’t be accommodated within the Mixed-Use zoning restrictions, so they agreed to take a different approach.

The new Sunbridge PD identifies the future neighborhoods in Stage 1, including Weslyn Park (C and D), the Marina District (E), the Northeast neighborhood and the East Side Active Adult neighborhood.
The new Sunbridge PD identifies the future neighborhoods in Stage 1, including Weslyn Park (C and D), the Marina District (E), the Northeast neighborhood and the East Side Active Adult neighborhood. (Osceola County)

“I mean, we were able to make the Del Webb piece fit, but we had to really rework the roadway network around it,” Tomek said. “So for this particular one, they really couldn’t meet the intent (of Mixed-Use), and we were beating our head against the wall trying to work with them to meet the standards and do all this. So we all came to the conclusion that OK, maybe we could shift gears and make this more in the form of a Celebration, Poinciana or Harmony kind of thing, where we would give them their own land use and give them their own set of guidelines, because it’s really an important part of the county.”

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Consulting Planner Richard Levey said the private streets weren’t the only element that conflicted with the Mixed-Use zoning. “I think with the Mixed-Use District, trying to have the diversity of product type was a big challenge for us,” he noted.

Levey stressed that the active adult community won’t be all detached homes and villas. “There’s still a wide variety of housing product types”, he said. And it has two lakefront community activity centers that allow for higher density uses, retail and commercial development, as well as hospitality uses.

Another benefit of PD zoning is that it allows the flexibility to include neighborhoods with larger lot sizes.

“We wanted to develop some executive housing, which the county has made a priority of for their long-term interests, and the Mixed-Use District just didn’t allow for the larger lot sizes for executive housing,” Levey said. “So we’ve got some components of that in our plan, as well. So yes, the active adult was one of the bigger driving forces, but it wasn’t the only reason.”

The Sunbridge PD moves the entire East Side Active Adult community into the Stage 1 development phase, meaning the construction could run concurrently with the planned Marina District (Neighborhood E.) The sales launch for Weslyn Park, the first non-age restricted neighborhood in Sunbridge, is now scheduled for February, and the county is reviewing the submitted plans for the second phase of Weslyn Park, labeled Neighborhood D in the regulating plan.

Osceola County is currently reviewing a preliminary subdivision plan for the Weslyn Park Phase 2, which is on Cyrils Drive and immediately south of a future K-8 school site.
Osceola County is currently reviewing a preliminary subdivision plan for the Weslyn Park Phase 2, which is on Cyrils Drive and immediately south of a future K-8 school site. (Poulos & Bennett)

Along with the new PD zoning, the county also approved a new developers’ agreement with Tavistock that spells out who will be responsible for close to $600 million in road improvements within the Sunbridge project and the surrounding community.

“We want to make sure that we took a holistic look at the roadway networks, but with this agreement, we actually proportion their costs for the major roadways that are needed to function,” Tomek said. “But we also facilitated the funding of all of the off-site roads, so that within the next 10 years, literally, that road network that’s needed for that whole region, both inside and outside of Sunbridge will be completed. So that’s a major accomplishment. That’s the first time we’ve done that with a development agreement of this, this sort.”

The agreement calls for nearly $280 million in transportation improvements outside of Sunbridge by Osceola County. Those include improvements to Jack Brack Road and Jones Road. The county and developer will share the cost of building Nova Road and Sunbridge Parkway from U.S. 192 to the Sunbridge Boundary.

The county and developer have committed to spending about $600 million on a transportation network that includes a mix of framework streets, neighborhood collector streets and major corridors like Sunbridge Parkway.
The county and developer have committed to spending about $600 million on a transportation network that includes a mix of framework streets, neighborhood collector streets and major corridors like Sunbridge Parkway. (Osceola County)

The developer would spend approximately $300 million on transportation improvements within Sunbridge, including the construction of Sunbridge Parkway through the length of the project up to the Orange County line. The developer will be eligible for about $52 million in mobility fee credits toward those projects.

Additionally, Tavistock will construct Sunbridge Parkway in Orange County to S.R. 528 — at a projected cost of $62 million. The developer would be eligible to earn up to $27 million in impact fee credits from Orange County.

“The reason we wanted to fund all these roads is because when they’re all in place, we will have the network well-spaced and improved to where the number of lanes and everything should accommodate the future,” Tomek said. “When they get Sunbridge Parkway in there, that’ll be a great relief for Narcoossee Road.”

Narcoossee Road is a 4-lane divided roadway, but it was designed with enough right-of-way to allow for widening to six lanes. But Tomek said that widening may not be needed.

“We’re looking at a network, so putting another two lanes on Narcoossee will just direct more cars there to get more congestion,” Tomek said. “So we can spread that out over the area, then people that are closer to Sunbridge can use Sunbridge Parkway, and people that are closer to Narcoossee can use Narcoossee, and hopefully they’ll relieve each other.”

It will take over a year excavate the 47-acre marina basin that will become community's signature landmark.

The development agreement also requires Tavistock to create two regional parks. One will be a typical active park with sports fields, located on Rummel Road in what is now Stage 2.

The first park will be in a Special District named “The Sanctuary,” which is on Sunbridge Parkway, tucked between Lake Myrtle and Lake Preston. The regulating plan states that the “Sanctuary Special District is intended to provide for limited development of multi-family, hotel/hospitality, and civic uses. The existing oak hammock habitat is the primary driving design feature of the district. Protection of the natural landscape should be the primary design focus.”

Jessi Blakley, Tavistock Vice President, told GrowthSpotter that preserving the natural environment and protecting water quality will be design priorities for Sunbridge. So while the developer is building a man-made marina as the centerpiece of the community, private docks will not be allowed on the natural lakes. The policy regarding boating activity on the chain of lakes is still a work in progress.

“We’re looking at it from a sustainability-first model,” Blakley said. “We’re approaching everything with the idea that we want to preserve the character and the pristine quality of the environment, which makes it so special. And these lakes are the crux of that.”

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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 FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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