Developer to engineer mixed-use plan to win over St. Cloud Council for annexation

The would-be developer of a 46-acre mixed-use project near the intersection of U.S. 192 and Narcoossee Road is making a bold and costly gesture to win approval from St. Cloud's City Council for the annexation.

Engineer Randy June last week asked for a two-month continuance on the annexation vote so he could come back in August with a fully engineered Site Development Plan for the project, known as Thompson Grove. He told GrowthSpotter the SDP would cost at least $50,000.

The site is just north of Live Oak Lake and west of a new 329-home subdivision now in development by Pulte Homes

June was seeking approval for Mixed-Use land use and zoning to allow up to 120,000 square feet of commercial uses along E192, 30,000 square feet of office and a maximum of 278 detached homes.

The move came two months after St. Cloud's council rejected a voluntary annexation request for Center Lake Ranch, a 2,000-acre mixed-use community that had the support of city staff, planning commissioners and neighbors.

The City Council had already unanimously approved the Thompson Grove annexation and related items during the first hearing back in April. But when the matter came up for a final vote last week, it was clear some council members wanted to exert more control over the development. 

It was also clear that despite city policy to encourage mixed-use development, which allows a density range of between five and 25 units per acre, the council does not embrace mixed-use principles that call for compact, walkable communities with street connectivity.

Councilwoman Linette Matheny wanted a condition to prohibit multifamily development, as well as a 35-foot building height restriction. 

Councilman Donald Shroyer told June he would only support the project if the developer guaranteed that the average lot size would be 62.5 feet wide -- which equals the city's minimum for Low Density Residential zoning. However, the city's land development code doesn't regulate lot size in Mixed-Use zoning districts.

"We've got houses galore," he said. "We've got choices galore, and you're bringing more houses to the area. I don't want you to cut your product, and I don't want to tell you you can't build your product. But I want you to meet those standards in a way that we have lot sizes that are a little bigger than the norm. That's my personal belief. If you guarantee lot sizes, you'll have my support."

June said he would hold workshops with neighboring homeowners and bring back detailed engineering plans for the council to consider, along with the annexation. 

"I was trying not to do that because it's a pretty extreme investment on my part," he told the council. "The detail will have grading, lot sizes, pond siting and landscaping. We'll throw the lighting in, and we'll throw in the (buffer) walls."

June even offered to present building elevations of possible homes to convince council members that Thompson Grove would satisfy their demand for more upscale housing product. The council has enacted policies -- such as setting minimum lot sizes and home sizes and restricting townhomes -- which discourage construction of affordable, workforce housing.

Daniel Blackford, a broker with NAI Realvest, lives in the neighboring Live Oak Estates subdivision, and said he supports the new development as long as the developer agrees to build a wall separating the two communities and manages the construction site.

"I support the annexation and mixed-use," he said. "But the 62.5 foot lots -- boy, you'd have to have half-acre lots to get that average. In my experience as a land guy, the larger lot sizes don't mean you get larger homes. It just doesn't."

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at lkinsler@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261, or tweet me at @LKinslerOGrowth. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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