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Multi-Family Residential Developments

Multifamily developer hopes to strike deal with county over trash removal at old landfill site

MMI Development plans to build a mixed-use community called Fieldstream Village with 1,500 apartment unts and 100,000 square feet of commercial space on landfill property — a project that’s expected to generate $3 million a year in taxable revenue to the county.

Orlando-based MMI Development wants to build a mixed-use community with 1,500 apartment units and 100,000 square feet of commercial space on the site of a former county-operated landfill on Lake Underhill Road.

Before the apartments can go up, all of the trash must come out. MMI is willing to handle the excavation work to move forward with its Fieldstream Village project, but company leaders expect that effort alone to cost up to $55 million.

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Developers want the county to foot the bill for some or all of the clean-up. MMI is proposing the creation of a TIF District (Tax Increment Finance) on the property, where tax revenues that are generated will be used to refund the costs of the cleanup.

At a planning and zoning meeting on Aug. 30 — when commissioners approved a land-use amendment related to the mixed-use project — the county’s chief planner Greg Golgowski said that an agreement between the county and developer is being worked out.

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But as the county commission prepares to take up this matter at an upcoming meeting, the county notes that the complete removal of trash from the landfill is only necessary for the project MMI wants to build.

“A key consideration for the County is the developer’s request to use tax dollars for site cleanup, which is driven by the developer’s desire to build residential units,” the county said in a fact sheet ahead of the not-yet-scheduled commission discussion. “Site cleanup is not necessarily required for other uses.”

David Brim, MMI’s chief operating officer and vice president of investor relations, views it differently. He told GrowthSpotter that the county should be responsible for the current state of the dump, which ceased operations nearly 40 years ago.

Amid planning for the project, the developer has won support from residents who live near the site.

The developer also hired American Environmental Consulting Inc., to investigate the former landfill. A 72-page report sent to Administrator Byron Brooks called attention to past letters from the state that called the landfill “non-compliant” and said its waste is “seriously degrading both ground and surface water quality.”

“The county has dropped the ball in a major way,” Brim said. “I think the right thing is for Orange County to take its trash to Orange County’s dump on Orange County’s dime.”

County leaders say that report by the engineering firm doesn’t tell the whole story.

The county leased 200 acres of the Cloyd’s Dairy Landfill between 1964 and 1972 to use as a sanitary landfill. After landfill activity ceased in 1980, the debris was covered with soil.

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Since 1983, the county says parties have been conducting groundwater monitoring at the former landfill site and in surrounding neighborhoods. On June 1, 2004, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection notified the property owner and Orange County that they were considered the parties responsible for site rehabilitation. In a letter to the county, the DEP voiced concern about high levels of benzene and vinyl chloride from the dump.

However, DEP said that the contamination did not pose a hazard to neighboring residents.

A short time later, the county began implementing a Natural Attenuation Monitoring (NAM) Plan.

The county operated a landfill on this site from 1963 to 1980. The waste was never removed.

“NAM relies upon natural chemical, biological and physical processes to remove or reduce the concentration of pollutants,” county officials said. It “is appropriate in a case such as this in which public water is available for consumption, the concentrations of contaminants are relatively low, and the groundwater plume is not increasing in size.”

County officials say the plan ultimately reduced the concentration of contaminants and that DEP did not require waste to be removed from the site.

Led by president Mike Wright, MMI is one of those rare developers that actively seeks the most challenging value-add properties available.

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Several years ago, the company purchased 35 acres of land that was used as an illegal dumping site in Maitland and constructed a half-diamond interchange at Marden Road and State Road 414 in Apopka to enable the development of more than 150 acres in the area.

MMI does not yet own the 70-acre landfill site near State Road 408 and Lockheed Martin’s east Orlando campus, but is under contract to buy it.

The state of the landfill isn’t the only matter of contention for its Fieldstream Village project. The condition of Lake Underhill Road is also a factor. More than a decade ago, the county announced its intentions to widen a stretch near the former dump, between Dean Road and Rouse Road, to ease congestion.

And while county leaders say the road effort is funded, with right-of-way secured, it’s unknown when residents will see relief.

MMI is also offering to handle those long-awaited infrastructure improvements.

Brim said the project has support from members of the surrounding community.

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“We’ve taken the time to talk to residents to understand their needs and really try and be good neighbors and do the right thing,” he said. “The residents have faith in us and the plan.”

In a show of support for MMI’s project, four homeowner association presidents of surrounding subdivisions — Vic Lowell, Jose Marcano, George Sanchez and Bonnie Lucas — co-signed a letter that was sent to Brooks on May 31.

In the letter, they said their chief concern is Lake Underhill Road, which they say is “dreadfully overwhelmed by traffic, especially during peak hours.”

“The mistakes that were made are not your fault, nor can we blame any current member of the Orange County administration,” the letter continues, “But we know the solution proposed by MMI is one that will right the wrongs committed so many years ago and will do so much faster than can be done by Orange County alone, and it substantially mitigates the cost to Orange County.”

The letter ends with a request.

MMI Development plans to build a mixed-use community called Fieldstream Village with 1,500 apartment unts and 100,000 square feet of commercial space on landfill property — a project that’s expected to generate $3 million a year in taxable revenue to the county.

“We urge you to do what is necessary to bring Orange County’s various departments together and devise a solution to fix Lake Underhill Road as soon as possible,” the letter says.

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County officials say a developer’s agreement, along with several associated term sheets for future subject-specific agreements, are being drafted to memorialize the developer’s commitments.

“The (developer) is proposing an ambitious project,” county planner Golgowski told the planning commission in September. “It’s a complicated project, and as you might imagine it’s an expensive project to get this site in fighting form. So we are anticipating an agreement to be worked out between the county and the developer to cover some or all of these improvements to ensure they happen and they are performed in the proper manner.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story has been updated to include more details about the agreement the developer is seeking with the county.

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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