Osceola County's planning staff has drafted a set of interim design guidelines for commercial projects that were stalled as a result of the six-month building moratorium for the E192 Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) District.
But Rj Whidden & Associates, the firm that was hired to create the permanent design guidelines, wasn't involved in the interim rules. Planner John Adams told GrowthSpotter he immediately sees potential for conflict.
"Yes, these conflict with the direction we're going," Adams said.
Rj Whidden has interviewed top members of the administration and all five commissioners to begin preparing a vision plan that would precede the design ordinance. Adams said it's a policy decision whether to implement temporary guidelines during the moratorium, which is in effect until Oct. 29.
The purpose of the moratorium, which applies to the 1,852-acre CRA district, was to develop a set of guidelines that transform the corridor into a dynamic, urban corridor. The district includes Osceola Heritage Park and the future Judge Farms research park, which is home to the $100 million Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center now under construction.
County Manager Don Fisher said he proposed the interim guidelines as a compromise to allow a handful of commercial projects to move forward during the moratorium. He mentioned three by name: a 7-Eleven, Waffle House and Auto Zone.
"What we're trying to do with the moratorium is work with any developer who is close to permitting," Fisher said. "If we can come to an agreement using design standards from another jurisdiction, like city of Orlando, then we can approve the permit."
So, for example, the new 7-Eleven could move forward if the developer agrees to use the design concepts for the existing stores in Orlando.
"The moratorium wasn't about stopping a particular use – we just want to get the right form," Fisher said.
The interim rules would require buildings and parking areas to be placed closer to the highway - no more than 15 feet from the right-of-way. Parking areas would have to be screened with knee walls utilizing either brick or stone finishes.
The guidelines also include rules covering architectural features, such as windows, entrances, rooflines and exterior treatments. Landscaping and signage are also regulated.
Community Development Director Kerry Godwin said the ordinance must be advertised, so the earliest it could go to the Board of Commissioners would be July 11.
"I'll have to make sure I'm there on July 11," Adams said. He doesn't want commissioners to get locked into one set of standards without having considered other options.
"Implementation is what I have a concern about with these interim standards," he said. "I believe, with what info we have, we are going to be presenting a different way to implement the urban form."
Adams explained that one of the biggest challenges to create an urban corridor on E192 is the design of the road itself. The highway is a rural road that doesn't necessarily lend itself to the type of pedestrian experience commissioners want for the area.
"One way to do it is to move the buildings up to the right-of-way," he said. "The other way to do it is to build frontage roads. These are the types of things we're considering to present to the Board of Commissioners."
And moving forward now with a 15-foot maximum setback would take the frontage road option off the table. "I'm not saying this is right or wrong," Adams said. "It is just one option, and there are other options available."