Osceola County planners have drafted an ordinance that would increase densities and create design standards for new construction around SunRail stations, but some developers say the new rules are unrealistic.
The Transit Oriented Design (TOD) ordinance would create overlay districts extending a mile from the two SunRail stations -- Tupperware and Poinciana -- located mostly in unincorporated Osceola County and along U.S. 192, which is slated for enhanced bus service called Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in the future.
Overlay districts would have three TOD zones: TOD1 is located within a quarter-mile of a SunRail station and promotes the highest density and intensity (minimum 40 residential units/acre); TOD2 is up to a half-mile from a SunRail station or a quarter-mile from a BRT stop (minimum 15 dwelling units/arce); and TOD3 would extend a mile from SunRail or a half-mile from a BRT facility (minimum 6 dwelling units/acre.)
The county has already built incentives into its code -- such as a 25 percent mobility fee discount -- to encourage TOD. Planner Joshua DeVries said the TOD ordinance builds in additional incentives for developers to "maximize the use of their property."
Land Planner John Adams, who chairs the county's Growth Management Task Force, said the ordinance, as it's written, creates conflicts with property owners and developers who already have vested rights. For example, the ordinance says the county's "desired uses" in TOD1 districts include commercial and employment commercial -- not residential or industrial.
"You've got vesting down there in Poinciana," Adams said. "You've got industrial uses vested -- and that doesn't fit into the urban form."
Tom Roehlk, senior vice president of Tupperware, said the company already has contracts with a developer to build multifamily housing on two parcels near the Tupperware station. The first would be 350 units on 29 acres, which is less than a third of the 40 units/acre minimum density. It also wouldn't comply with the new regulation that projects greater than 18 acres include a mix of uses.
"They want it to be super-dense," Roehlk told GrowthSpotter Monday. "There's a problem with developers doing that because the market doesn't support it, and because lenders won't lend for projects with that level of density."
The other project, 200 age-restricted multifamily units, would be built just over the Orange County line, so the ordinance wouldn't apply.
Roehlk said he and other stakeholders have already voiced their concerns to the county. "They've got to take the realities of the market into account," he said. "We all want standards that are going to work and that the market will recognize."
Density isn't the only concern. The TOD ordinance governs everything from street grids to block length to building placement and architecture design. It's intended to create walkable, bikeable communities that, over time, will become traditional downtown urban centers with the tallest buildings. At full build-out, half of the buildable space should be used for commercial/office space, while just 15 percent would be used for housing.
Osceola's SunRail stations are scheduled to open in 2018.
"Certainly we don't have our SunRail stations open, and until they do we're not going to come close to the density and intensity that's being proposed," Adams said. "We want to maintain the form and allow the market the evolve. What a developer can sell next year is not the ultimate goal. The ordinance needs to allow for evolution of the market but maintains the form of development."
All building facades would be required to differentiate between the ground floor and upper floors, with a cornice-type element at the roofline.
DeVries has presented the draft TOD ordinance to members of the W192 Development Authority, the county's Growth Management Task Force and to stakeholders around the SunRail stations. He said he hopes to take it to the Board of Commissioners for approval in August.
Adams said one stakeholder that hasn't been at the table -- and probably should be -- is the city of Kissimmee.
"There's been a serious lack of coordination," he said. "They ought to be at the table."
Downtown Kissimmee will be home to one SunRail station, and the city limits extend to properties near to the Tupperware and Poinciana stations. The city also has its own planned BRT line along Vine Street (U.S. 192) that would connect to service on E192 -- including the future Judge Farms research park.
John Hambley, senior planner for the city, said this encourages TOD development, but it isn't defined or codified by city policy.
David Buccheit, executive director of the W192 Development Authority, told his members last week that the agency was already planning to develop design and building standards for the tourism corridor next year. "This flows nicely into that," he said. "Let's use this as a building block for our own design guidelines."