Osceola to exempt CRE & affordable housing in planned moratorium

Osceola County Manager Don Fisher said new construction in the county wouldn't grind to a halt for the next six months if commissioners pass a controversial six-month moratorium scheduled for a vote Nov. 6. 

But it would force local developers and homebuilders to take a much needed pause, he told GrowthSpotter. And Fisher said he's not concerned about economic ramifications of a moratorium. 

"The slowdown and thoughtful consideration for development is the right thing," Fisher said. "We are second-fastest growing MSA in the country, and Osceola County is growing twice as fast as Orange and Seminole."

Fisher said the county's Mixed-Use Districts in northeast Osceola and along Lake Tohopekaliga are already approved for 65,000 single-family lots. Commissioners are concerned about the growing number of residential subdivisions that are popping up outside of those areas without adequate commercial and office development. 

Commissioners first suggested the moratorium at their Oct. 16 meeting, voting 4-1 for staff to bring them an ordinance to prohibit the county from approving any new Comprehensive Plan or Zoning Map amendments within the county's urban growth area.

The actual ordinance carves out exemptions for any development that already has commercial zoning or land use, approved Planned Developments, mixed-use projects and new Transit-Oriented Developments, as long as they provide for a density of more than eight residential units per acre.

Affordable housing developments would also be exempt, as long as they meet the eight units per acre density requirement. 

Any land owner who already has Low Density Residential zoning would still be able to move through the permitting process. 

Property owners with existing PDs could expand or contract their boundaries, as long as they maintain the same density. They also could apply to rezone to any zoning designation except Low Density Residential. That applies to multiple projects that are in the process of rezoning from PD to Commercial Tourist zoning.

"If they already have entitlements, they’ll be permitted to change those entitlements," Fisher said. 

The Greater Orando Builders Association has come out against the moratorium, saying it would have a chilling effect on economic development and investment in the county. 

"The commissioners continue to send a strong anti-economic growth and development message," spokesman Lee Steinhauer said. "Through their actions, they have created an unfriendly, uncertain environment for the building industry and its employees in Osceola County."

Fisher said he's received positive and negative feedback about the moratorium.

"We’ve received two avenues of reaction," he said. "One is skepticism. The other is accolades from a lot of people who have seen the growth and are thanking commissioners for taking this bold step."

The six-month moratorium would provide enough time for the county's planning staff to update its Land Development Code, implement higher development standards and reevaluate mobility fees and school impact fees before any new projects go through the process. 

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

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