Osceola's W192 board launches study for tourism corridor design guidelines

For years Osceola County's W192 Development Authority has talked about the need for design guidelines to regulate development along the tourism corridor. Now the board is closer to making it a reality.

This week, the board had a kick-off meeting with planning consultants from Logan Simpson, who will lead the 14-month process. Principal Planner Bruce Meighen told the board the ultimate goal will be to develop a realistic set of criteria that can be implemented by code along the corridor and, in some cases, county-wide.

The Colorado-based firm worked with the W192 board on its first master plan and helped design the monument signs that all business owners must install by 2022. The plan incorporates the updated color palettes and landscape plans that were recommended by GAI Consultants in February.

"This is a joint effort between Planning and Design," Meighen said. "We'll look at a lot of pictures, but the end of this is a really boring text document."

The design guideline booklet should be completed by February 2019, and the final Land Development Code update would go to the Board of County Commissioners in September of that year. 

Commissioners adopted strict design standards for the E192 CRA district in 2016 to support NeoCity and guarantee it would be developed as an urban area. 

Meighan said the W192 standards could vary for each of the eight designated subdistricts on the corridor to reflect each neighborhood's unique theme. The goal is to create standards that support the businesses on the corridor and the people who live there. 

"We need to make sure we don't overregulate," he added.

When a big project comes in, like Margaritaville, the guidelines should expand the palette and landscape theme on both sides of the highway without creating too much of a financial strain on business owners, he said.

"The Margaritaville plan is extremely expensive," Meighan said. "The other side of the road could add colorful awnings and other touches to try to mimic the look."

Board Member Mary Ellen Kerber pointed out that the authority has no jurisdiction over property across from Margaritaville because the north side of the highway is in Orange County. 

Executive Director David Buchheit noted that the Four Corners Area Council is strongly engaged in the effort to create a more unified look on the western segments of the corridor in Orange, Polk and Lake counties. 

"The best-case scenario is we'd have something in place so a guest who visits that area doesn't know they're in different counties," he said. "The worst-case is we have a sidewalk and landscaping on one side of the street and nothing on the other."

The consultants spent much of Thursday afternoon interviewing key members of county staff. Over the next few weeks, they'll meet with stakeholders along the corridor to get input on the initial set of recommendations.

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