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Multi-Family Residential Developments

Orange County officials object to 216-unit affordable housing community on wetland site

Wetlands consume all but one acre of the 7.1-acre property, and the developer is looking to use all of the space to maximize density and reduce the per-unit cost of construction.

California-based Lincoln Avenue Capital is proposing to build a 216-unit age-restricted affordable housing community along Apopka Vineland Drive — a product the developer says is needed in an area surrounded by luxury apartments.

But even as Orange County officials are pushing for more lower-rent housing options like this, they’re unable to ignore what they see as a problem with the site of this planned development.

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Wetlands consume 86% of the site, all but one acre of the 7.1-acre property. The developer is looking to use all of the space to maximize density and reduce the per-unit cost of construction.

A conceptual site plan for the proposed Jade Bridge Senior Apartments project shows a 5-story multifamily building attached to central community clubhouse.

At a development review committee meeting Wednesday, Orange County employees told the development team that they wouldn’t approve the Jade Bridge housing project unless it’s drastically scaled back to mitigate environmental risks.

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The land, according to the county, serves as a major drainage basin to Lake Bryan.

“Without minimization of the impact to the wetlands it appears that you’re just essentially obliterating all of the wetlands on the property,” Jennifer Moreau, the county’s zoning division manager, told the development team.

She called it an example of a project that “completely ignores all of the regulations the county has put in place to protect properties.”

She added, “I whole-heartedly do not think that this should be supported.”

Meanwhile, the developer and its team of civil engineers at Kimley Horn say that building fewer units on this site is not a simple, or cheap, solution.

The developer is looking to utilize 4% Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) in order to build the affordable senior housing community.

“Under this program, it is imperative that projects provide the maximum allowable density to amortize the fixed development costs across a greater amount of units,” Tyler Enright, a land development analyst with Kimley Horn wrote in a response to concerns raised by the county.

The fewer units, he argued, the higher the cost.

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“Given the fixed development and operational costs of 4% LIHTC communities, reducing total units has a significant negative impact on the project’s economic feasibility. In the case of the proposed affordable housing community, a reduction of 10 units results in the project no longer being financially feasible.”

Lincoln Avenue Capital has developed more than 100 affordable housing communities totaling more than 19,000 units across the nation, serving more than 50,000 residents.

New construction utilizing 4% and 9% tax credits is a major focus for Lincoln Avenue Capital, its website says.

A goal of the company is to provide “long-term stability for working families that are often priced out of supply-constrained neighborhoods...by deploying innovative strategies to preserve at-risk naturally occurring affordable housing and target serving residents earning between 60% and 120% of the area median income,” according to its website.

At the meeting Wednesday, Jordan Richter, the company’s vice president and project partner of development, made his pitch for the project as submitted, speaking of the need for affordable housing on a site surrounded by high-end apartments.

The large mixed-use site known as Sunrise City sits Just to the south of the property in Osceola County, where two luxury apartments stand, one is under construction and two more are planned.

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A Canadian investment firm paid $108 million this month for the recently completed Prime apartments in Osceola's Sunrise City.

To the north of the Lincoln Avenue Capital site, Aventon Companies is building its luxury 308-unit Aventon Opal apartment community on Poinciana Boulevard across the street from the luxury 296-unit SUR Lake Buena Vista.

An outlet mall, Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, borders the site to the west.

While Lincoln Avenue Capital has not yet purchased the land, which is currently zoned for A-2, they see it as an ideal spot for affordable housing.

An early conceptual site plan submitted to the county shows a 5-story multifamily building and a 2-story clubhouse. Amenities include a swimming pool, fitness center, crafts room, and a large lounge area with a fire pit. Units will feature a mix of one-, two- and three bedrooms, equipped with kitchen islands and balconies.

“We initially identified this site due to its proximity to all the development going on,” Richter told county staff. “I think everybody at this table knows how many Class A (apartment) projects are within a mile are under construction and going through planning right now. Everybody knows how challenging it is to find affordable housing in this environment.”

The county’s Environmental Protection Division deferred the matter to the DRC after receiving a conservation area permit request from the applicant.

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As a basis for its position, county staff refers to a section of county code that reads: “Where wetlands serve a significant and productive environmental function, the public health, safety, and welfare require that any alteration or development affecting such lands should be so designed and regulated as to minimize or eliminate any impact upon the beneficial environmental productivity of such lands, consistent with the development rights of property owners.”

At the same time, Orange County is encouraging developers to build more affordable housing units. Its recently implemented “Housing for All initiative” aims to address housing affordability and supply by removing regulatory barriers, creating new financial resources, targeting areas of access and opportunity, and engaging the community and industry.

Alberto Vargas, the county’s planning director, recently told GrowthSpotter that the county anticipates having submittals for 80,300 new multifamily units by 2030. Of that number, the county’s goal is for 30% of those units to be designated as affordable.

“Obviously this is an affordable housing project and we have a lot to consider here,” he said at Wednesday’s meeting. “But the project itself needs to be redesigned.”

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at (407)-800-1161 or dwyatt@GrowthSpotter.com, or tweet me at @DustinWyattGS. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


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