By overhauling its land development code for the first time in roughly three decades, Seminole County hopes to streamline the review process for new projects — particularly mixed-use and townhome concepts — and encourage the construction of more affordable and workforce multifamily housing units.
Proposed amendments to the 319-page county rulebook governing growth —including updated requirements for on-site parking lots, with a new section on electric vehicles —are slated to go before the county commission on Sept. 20 and would take effect in early 2023 if approval is granted, Mary Moskowitz, the manager of the county’s planning and development division told GrowthSpotter.
“We really haven’t had a complete, comprehensive look at the code in about 25 or 30 years,” she said. “We kept coming before the board (of county commissioners) with little changes here and there and the board felt it was time to update it and modernize it. We just wanted to clean up items.”
One area of focus for the revised code is to allow some development projects to move through the review process faster. This falls in line with steps other counties are taking at a time of high demand for more housing. Orange County, for example, is in the midst of fine-tuning its development review process to make it more consistent and predictable.
The more time developers are left waiting to get final approvals, the more expensive the project, studies show. And that ultimately goes into what home-buyers and renters are asked to pay.
For Seminole County, an emphasis has been placed on speeding up the wait time for mixed-use and townhome projects.
Moskowitz said the county’s land development code doesn’t currently have a mixed-use zoning classification. That will change under the revised code.
“That’s really going to allow us to streamline some of those mixed-use developments that we want to see along our transportation corridor and near the SunRail station. Hopefully by implementing this code change, it will make it easier for those types of developments to occur.”.
The current code, as it’s written, also doesn’t provide rules for other single-family home types such as townhomes, which are growing in popularity.
Moskowitz said that townhomes provide another option for individuals and families who prefer not to live in an apartment community but aren’t quite ready to move into a larger, more expensive single-family home.
“We are seeing a lot more desire (by developers) to do that thing in the middle: The townhomes, the quadplexes,” she said. “We want to allow our code to be able to accommodate those types of uses. We certainly want to see more of those located in the right place.”
The goal, she added, is to incentivize these housing product types in urban and infill areas by expediting the process.
“We are seeking to provide Seminole County residents the opportunity to have more attainable housing choices,” she said.
Without mixed-use or townhome projects defined in the code, developers have to go through extra steps to get approval.
“Let’s make it easier,” Moskowitz said.
As for multifamily, the county wants more affordable and workforce housing units. That also mirrors a goal by other counties.
Orange County recently implemented its “Housing for All initiative” which 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, according to its website.
As part of the effort, the county is looking to incentivize developers to build apartment communities with a mix of market-rate and affordable units.
Developers of projects that introduce a mixed-income program could see benefits such as an expedited review process, reduced impact fees, and other financial incentives.
Seminole is eyeing a similar approach.
“We are trying to find ways where if you choose to have that (affordable option) you can get incentives,” Moskowitz said.
She added that while the county already does some of that, the revision of the land development code allows the county to put some of those efforts in writing.
One minor proposed tweak to the development code deals with parking lots and access to electric vehicles.
“We want to modernize our code to accommodate different types of vehicles that are out there,” Moskowitz said.
A proposed change to the code would require a certain percentage of parking spaces to be designated for electric vehicle charging stations.
The purpose of the commission work session scheduled for Sept. 20 is to “provide the Board of County Commissioners an opportunity to review the complete draft of the land code revisions and discuss specific topics including but not limited to solar, parking, accessory structures, street trees, and open space,” agenda materials say.