A Lake Mary real estate investor, who once represented western Seminole County in the state House of Representatives, is challenging the county’s rural land protections with a proposed 669-acre mixed-use development.
Chris Dorworth, now a lobbyist for Ballard Partners, filed conceptual plans earlier this month with Seminole as part of a rezoning and Large-Scale Future Land Use amendment request.
Dubbed "River Cross," the initial development program includes 80 estate-sized single-family home lots; 520 single-family lots with widths of 40 to 70 feet; 270 townhomes; 500 multifamily units; and 1.5 million square feet of office/commercial space, according to Dorworth's application made by Appian Engineering.
The development would cover an environmentally-sensitive area in southeast Seminole that's bordered by the Econlockhatchee River, C.R. 419, the Orange County line and Riverwoods Trail. The land is owned by Hi-Oaks LLC, a company led by Orlando attorney and investor Kenneth M. Clayton.
Now grazing and agricultural land, the proposed project would lie within an area that Seminole County voters, in a 2004 referendum, chose to protect from high-density development.
However a House bill last month would have done away with rural protections within three miles of a state university. Dorworth's land under contract lies within three miles of the University of Central Florida. The bill died after the state Senate did not hear the proposal.
Dorworth is believed to have lobbied the Legislature to enact that provision, the Orlando Sentinel reported in early March. He did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
The massive project is scheduled for a hearing Wednesday before the county’s Development Review Committee. Dorworth also applied earlier this month for stormwater management permits from the St. Johns River Water Management District.
Dorworth and his civil engineer told county planners they want to know what steps to take to move the county’s rural boundary. He also is seeking a Comprehensive Plan amendment from rural zoning to Planned Development, and to have the property rezoned from agricultural to PD.
Dorworth's chances of earning approval for such extensive land use changes from Seminole commissioners may be slim, based on how they've defended the rural boundary in recent years.
Any new development east of the Econ River in Orange and Seminole counties is considered environmentally sensitive. Seminole commissioners successfully lobbied their counterparts in Orange back in November 2016 to deny plans for the 2,000-home Lake Pickett North project, which ran along the counties' border.
Seminole planners, in comments attached to the DRC agenda, said the County Commission can remove a property from the rural area by amending the Seminole County Charter’s rural boundary.
Commissioners must also approve all changes to the Future Land Use designation of properties in the rural area regardless of if the property is in a municipality. The planners noted that amending the Comp Plan to change the urban/rural charter boundary is a separate process.
The urban-rural boundary can only be changed after the applicant meets a lengthy list of standards, including documenting though data and analysis that additional urban land is needed to accommodate population, housing or employment based on population projections used by the current Comp Plan.