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Dwight Saathoff, developer of The Grow, answers questions during one of the community meetings that were held with area residents, the vast majority of which were against the project.
Dwight Saathoff, developer of The Grow, answers questions during one of the community meetings that were held with area residents, the vast majority of which were against the project. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel)

Don't expect a rush to development in the Lake Pickett area now that The Grow has received Orange County Commission approval.

The long, bitter battle for the 2,256-residential unit project to finally get approval early Wednesday morning has left a few feeling hesitant about future development in that rural pocket of east Orange County, even with major road improvements coming.

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The Grow's developer, Dwight Saathoff, doesn't see his project opening the door to many others, feeling "there would not be a political appetite for it" given all the debate and opposition The Grow experienced from residents in the area. During three public hearings at a local middle school hundreds of attendees decried the project, calling it out of character with the community and generally ill conceived.

Saathoff said he feels his land falls within a generally developed zone, but the area outside it is very, very rural, "and I just don't see that getting approved for development for at least 20 years."

The roadwork in particular "certainly makes it more desirable to be out there," said Clint Ball, vice president of land for the North Florida Division of Pulte Group.

Saathoff agreed with the county to pay nearly $30 million in road improvements so that the area's main artery, State Road 50, could be widened to six lanes from four over a two-mile stretch and for Chuluota Road to widen to four lanes from two, also over two miles.

"But you are still up against going out and getting a land use change because everything out there is (zoned for) low density use," said Ball, whose company recently opened a small residential development in the Lake Pickett area.

The Grow is zoned for one home per 10 acres, which Saathoff has proposed changing to allow higher density on 1,237 acres.

Another project like The Grow would probably not be feasible, with the best bet from a rezoning perspective being "something like 50-lot communities," Ball said.

The Grow, also known as Lake Pickett South, along with another proposal, Lake Pickett North, which was withdrawn at the 11th hour, served for the last four years as lightning rods for controversy over what constitutes the right kind of development for a rural area.

After facing opposition, Saathoff came up with a more rural concept to his 1,237 acres project, which is to contain 2,219 single family homes and 742 multi-family.

The Lake Pickett area is located east of the University of Central Florida and north of State Road 50.

The Grow project will now be sent to the state's Department of Economic Opportunity for review. The state will review the project and provide comment before sending the projects back to Orange County.

From there, Saathoff will have to address any significant comments, and then the project would go to the local planning agency for an adoption hearing Oct. 15, and a final adoption hearing before the county commissioners Nov. 10.

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