In a policy decision that’s already caused at least one multifamily developer to abandon a lower-rent, boutique product planned for the area, the Winter Springs City Commission on Monday adopted a 90-day moratorium on new development.
City leaders say the move is in response to flooding within the city that occurred due to Hurricane Ian.
The Seminole County Fire Department reported on Sept. 29 that they rescued more than 80 residents from rising waters near Hayes Road, Holiday Lane, Mockingbird Lane and Lido Road.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that Hacienda Village, a 55-and-over manufactured housing community in Winter Springs, flooded and left residents without power and fresh drinking water for days.
“There’s clearly an issue when we have hundreds of our residents with homes being flooded,”Mayor Kevin McCann said at the meeting. “There’s clearly a problem. So the idea is that we need time to do further research. We need to find out what’s going on; we need to address this. When we have hundreds of families losing their homes, we have a responsibility. We need to find some resolution.”
According to the ordinance, the 90-day window will allow staff and consultants to study and investigate the city’s stormwater system and find solutions “unhindered by developments that could frustrate the objective of the review.”
The temporary moratorium may be extended for up to an additional 90 days, according to the ordinance.
The moratorium is not intended to impact projects that were filed on or before Oct 10 or development projects that do not require permitting and construction of a stormwater management and/or drainage system, the ordinance says.
“I know that for developers, this is not something they want to see,” McCann added. “And I do understand that. But are we a commission for the residents and people who live here or are we a commission for people out-of-state, out-of-city who have a business interest here?”
Shortly after the commission approved the ordinance Monday, Chuck Hollis, President of Third Wave Development, presented plans to bring one of the company’s Avid-branded apartment communities to the city with 80 units priced below market rate.
The item was scheduled in advance and included on the agenda.
“We have been working to create a product that addresses housing needs in our community,” he told the commission. “It is a less intense type of housing development that is really geared to be of a boutique nature.”
He was eyeing land at the northwest intersection of Tuscawilla Road and Milky Way, within walking distance of a retail shopping center on S.R. 434 anchored by a Publix grocery store.
When Hollis finished his presentation, the commission gave little feedback or direction.
“Apartments are a tough one in Winter Springs,” Mayor McCann told Hollis.
Days later, Hollis informed City Manager Shawn Boyle that he was no longer pursuing the project.
“Please be advised that after much consideration this week, we have elected not to move forward with the attainably priced housing community in Winter Springs,” he wrote in an email provided to GrowthSpotter. “Based on the lack of feedback from the Commission relative to our project, and the moratorium which was enacted, we cannot make a feasible business case to proceed.”
This would have been Third Wave’s third Avid-branded community in the pipeline for the Orlando area. Avid at Loma Vista is planned for southwest Oviedo with 30 units ranging in size from 728 square feet to 1,005 square feet. Plans were recently submitted to the city of Sanford for Avid at Lake Minnie, which calls for 120 units.
Both of these projects are described by Hollis as “missing middle” housing — a term coined by urbanist Daniel Parolek in 2010 to describe highly walkable urban lifestyle housing alternatives, usually seen in infill development sites, that are compatible with the surrounding community.
Lee Steinhauer, the general counsel of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando, said he understands why Winter Springs felt the need to take action following the hurricane.
“It’s understandable; it’s a reaction to the flooding that took place and they want to take a hard look at your infrastructure and processes to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said.
However, he questions whether a moratorium was the right approach.
“From our perspective, moratoriums are never a good idea,” Steinhauer said. “You send a negative message to businesses, to developers. If you can shut down development at any point, it doesn’t make for a very positive climate. Hopefully, they can get through this moratorium without any extension and fix what they need to fix so development can continue.”
He noted that this region as a whole has a dire need for affordable and attainable housing. Florida needs 570,000 additional apartment units by 2030 to meet population demand, according to the state’s apartment association.
“Anytime you see an affordable or attainable housing project, for whatever reason, being denied or not allowed to move forward, that is something that is concerning,” Steinhauer said.
Winter Springs isn’t the only city in Central Florida to issue a moratorium on growth following Hurricane Ian. This week, New Smyrna Beach in Volusia County imposed a six-month moratorium on large-scale development projects within flood zones in the city.
Similarly, the city is using the moratorium to study why some 850 homes in New Smyrna Beach flooded after Hurricane Ian’s arrival in late September, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
The storm dumped more than 21 inches of rain on New Smyrna Beach in less than 24 hours. Winter Springs saw a historic 17 inches of rain in a 24-hour period, causing “unprecedented flooding,” city manager Boyles said in an email.
“The City Commission authorized staff and its stormwater consultant to expeditiously evaluate and recommend improvements to the City’s stormwater system and regulations,” he said. “This comprehensive evaluation includes reviewing all waterways, bridges, storm drains, roadside swales, wetlands and retention ponds. This evaluation is already underway and has a target completion of 90 days from the date of adoption of the moratorium.”
Boyle said that developers can continue to file applications during the moratorium period, they just won’t go before the city commission for final approval until the moratorium expires.
“The City’s primary and overriding concern with respect to the moratorium is to expeditiously evaluate and recommend stromwater improvements to attempt to prevent future flooding in the community that was suffered during Hurricane Ian,” Boyle said.