Osceola Commissioners are scheduled to vote March 20 on a one-year moratorium for new development that could affect 35,000 acres on and around the Alligator Chain of Lakes, to conduct an environmental study of the watershed.
The item was on the board's March 6 agenda, but that meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum.
If approved later this month, the ordinance would put a hold on the acceptance, processing or approval of any new permits or development orders in the Chain of Lakes watershed.
"They want to do a more thorough study of the impacts on the various types of uses on the long-term sustainability of the lake," Community Development Administrator David Tomek told GrowthSpotter on Tuesday. "The plan is to take a pause and hire some folks to do the study and see what kind of standards we need to develop to ensure a long-term, vibrant lake system."
The goal would be to set new policies regulating the boating activities, including potential restrictions on boat size, numbers and types, and how they access the lakes. "It's called a lake carrying capacity study," Tomek said.
Thousands more homes have also been entitled through a series of projects in the watershed, many of them with boat access either via private marinas and/or boat lifts. Any project with an approved Preliminary Subdivision Plan would not be affected, Tomek said.
"The intent is not to all of a sudden stop development," Tomek said. "The boat lifts are not really a big deal. We get maybe one every 10 years."
County officials estimate the moratorium could affect 54 square miles (35,000 acres) of eastern Osceola County, including the entire Hickory Tree Road corridor. That's roughly five times the size of Winter Park, and it has some property owners up in arms.
"What I have to say about it is that it's a theft," said Daryl Carter, president of Maury L. Carter & Associates. "They're taking away development rights from people without compensation. It's a taking, and it ought to be illegal."
Carter's family is heavily invested in lakefront property on Coon Lake.
"We don't have an immediate need for the property on Coon Lake, but that misses the point," Carter said. "It has an impact on the property. I just don't think a moratorium is ever the right answer. If you want to plan, plan all you want -- but don't take people's property rights away as you're planning."
The site plan calls 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 canal-front lots.
And Lake Gentry Landings, located just south of Mildred Bass Road, is already slated for a 700-home community to be built around a man-made lagoon with its own marina and boat lift.
Tomek said the moratorium carves out exemptions for any property owner who wants to make improvements to their property, and it would not prevent someone from receiving a building permit for an existing buildable lot.
It also excludes Buck Lake and Cat Lake, which are regulated under the Harmony Development Agreement. Those communities don't allow motorized boats on the lakes.
The commissioners are also scheduled to vote March 20 on an update to the Land Development Code that provides new language and regulations for marinas, boat ramps and lifts.