Osceola County's planning staff is recommending the county designate a huge swath of land in the Four Corners area along the Polk County line as an extension of its West 192 tourism corridor.
The county's Development Review Committee will consider a large-scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) for 3,417 acres to change the future land use from Mixed Use to Tourist Commercial, which allows higher density development and puts a greater emphasis on vacation rentals, timeshares and hotels. The land use and Tourist Commercial zoning also permit theme parks, themed restaurants and other uses that promote tourism.
"It's not specific to vacation rentals, but it is specific to the fact that we're seeing a continuation of those uses on that corridor," Osceola County Planning Director Kerry Godwin told GrowthSpotter. "The obvious thing is we're really not seeing a lot of multi-family in that corridor."
A Tourist Commercial designation allows up to 40 residential units per acre, compared to 25 per acre under Mixed Use. The county estimates that given current market conditions, the proposed CPA could increase the potential density by more than 4,000 units - and that doesn't include the two developments of regional impact (DRIs) that bookend the district. Those DRIs make up 40 percent of the total acreage involved.
Stoneybrook South is already being developed and marketed by Lennar Homes as an extension of the ChampionsGate resort. And the north end of the district includes the Westside DRI, which is being rescinded but is already vested for nearly 3,300 homes.
In between lie 2,050 acres of mostly undeveloped land linked by Westside Boulevard. The district includes the site of the Four Corners Charter School, the Bahama Bay condominium community, future site of Osceola's first Crystal Lagoon resort, and Pulte Homes' Windsor at Westside, a luxury vacation home community.
Jay Wells, a real estate agent who specializes in Disney-area vacation home sales, said there is already huge demand for vacation homes in the Four Corners area, and he expects it to grow. "I will say if you're going to build a vacation home community, amenities are key," he said.
Windsor at Westside, for example, features a clubhouse with restaurant, fitness center, resort pool and lazy river. The community, which features everything from town homes to luxury vacation homes, is almost completely sold out.
"There seems to be a larger demand for the homes with eight and nine bedrooms," Wells said. "That's what I'm selling right now. I think they could continue to build there, and vacationers would continue to stay there."
He said another key selling point is if the community is gated - a feature that is typically discouraged in mixed use design.
Osceola County has three other Mixed Use districts within its urban growth boundary: South Lake Toho district, East of Lake Toho district and the Northeast district.
Godwin said the district in Four Corners has always been "disconnected" from the others. In addition, the large amount of wetlands in the undeveloped parcels would not allow for the typical street connectivity required for mixed use development.
"Those properties, the way they're situated, mixed use really did not help the development of those parcels," Godwin said.
In her staff report, project manager Cori Carpenter wrote that Tourist Commercial land use is better suited to the area because it protects the wetlands while allowing for more flexibility in site plan design as well as greater densities and intensities.
Amendments of this scale typically go to the DRC twice before advancing to the county's planning commission and, finally, Board of Commissioners. If approved locally, the county would transmit the amendment to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for the final approval.