Osceola County's W192 Development Authority will lay the groundwork next year to make underground utility lines a design requirement for new projects on the county's main tourism corridor.
Authority members on Thursday agreed to hire a new design consultant in the next fiscal year to develop a comprehensive set of design standards for new construction and redevelopment projects on the 15-mile corridor. Authority Chairman Mark Miller also said he would appoint a subcommittee on utility-line burial, and charge that group to begin discussions with Duke Energy.
Executive Director David Buchheit said he recognized that the issue was a high priority for board members, and for the corridor's aesthetics, but the reality is that the agency will be spending the bulk of its capital over the next two years on its sign replacement program.
"If we could start the process of getting the utilities off the corridor – it's not conducive to tourism," authority member Mel Pearlman said. "Could we pass an ordinance that any new project or redevelopment has to bury utility lines? Maybe that becomes a design requirement."
In 2013, Duke estimated it would cost $3.4 million to bury the powerlines on the 1.5-mile segment between Interstate 4 and Poinciana Boulevard.
County staff is already in the process of updating the Land Development Code for the corridor. The authority agreed to publish a request for proposals later this year for a firm to assist in writing a comprehensive set of design and architectural standards for the redevelopment district.
Buchheit said there is no better way to transform the look of an area than to adopt a codified set of design standards. Those guidelines could address building height and orientation, color scheme, landscaping and design. The document could have separate policies for properties that are directly on U.S. 192 and for property without road frontage.
"This is not a short process," Buchheit said. "This is a very intensive project with regard to public involvement. This is going to impact every new building that comes in. your design guidelines will shape how the corridor looks."
Colorado-based planning firm Logan Simpson worked with the authority on its master plan and sign standards, but board members said they want to bring in someone new for the design standards contract.
"I'm not against switching our design team if we want to do it," Miller said. "What I don't want is someone to come in and start at square one again; I think a lot of what we have on the books is very valuable."
Authority members also agreed to launch an incentive program next year for residential projects on the segment between Hoagland Boulevard and S.R. 535. Buchheit said the goal is to encourage development of more apartment complexes and workforce housing on the corridor.