Wednesday, April 29, 2009

County Commission Votes 7-0 to Move Magic Gym

ORLANDO, April 29--The Orange County Commissioners voted 7-0 on a motion by District 1 Commissioner Scott Boyd to begin negotiations with the City of Winter Garden to relocate the Orlando Magic Gym.

The City of Winter Garden committed to paying $900,000 for site preparation. This will save Orange County taxpayers at least $1 million, including $100,000 needed to remediate lead at the Dr. Phillips site, formerly a gun club. Dr. Phillips leader Robert Kelly spoke of the community's desire not to host the Magic Gym in a single family residential neighborhood.

Orange County Parks official Matt Sudemeyer recommended the Winter Garden location. The Winter Garden location is near the 429 beltway, making it accessible to a larger portion of West Orange County. Officials expect the Winter Garden location to serve more children, in nearby lower income neighborhoods, who otherwise do not have regular access to YMCA-type facilities.

The County and City will negotiate a joint use agreement.

Rick Geller's comments: This is a win-win for Dr. Phillips, Winter Garden, and Commissioner Boyd, who is making it happen.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

New Horizon West Code On Way to Commission

Classic Summerport Home--no garage in front

ORLANDO, April 18 - Orange County's Planning and Zoning Board unanimously approved sweeping changes to the Horizon West Code in an attempt to steer development back to the original vision. The County Commission will consider the new Code for final adoption.

Instead of development along the lines of that seen in Baldwin Park, Avalon Park, or Celebration, development in Horizon West has mostly followed the suburban sprawl model, with isolated single-uses, according to District 1 Planning and Zoning Commissioner Rick Geller. "Development has taken on some characteristics of New Urbanism--small lots for example--but without enough mixing of uses."

The new Code provides incentives to developers and builders to: (1) construct a small corner general store in neighborhood centers to lessen traffic outside of neighborhoods; (2) serve more homes with alleys or side-entry garages to lessen the number of front-entry garages; and (3) dress up stormwater retention ponds with trees, pathways, park benches, reflecting pools, and other amenities.

Entrance to Independence

The new Code encourages the mixing of uses--with apartments over offices and retail, like that seen in Avalon Park.

Mixing uses creates character--Avalon Park apartments over retail

One of the more disappointing aspects of Horizon West has been suburban-style, single-use apartment sprawl, said Geller. The new Code brings apartment buildings to the street in block formations, with parking both on-street and hidden behind buildings, like in the Baldwin Park Town Center, with more architectural variety.

Apartment sprawl in Horizon West

"Post Properties REIT did it right in Baldwin Park," said Geller. "Seventeen buildings scattered about the Town Center, none looking the same."

Post Lake Apartments at Baldwin Park -- 17 Scattered Buildings with Different Architecture

The County faced economic pressures to place neighborhood commercial areas on the arterial roadways, instead of in the center of neighborhoods. The result, according to Geller, is a less walkable neighorhood. "No one will walk a half-mile from the Altis Apartments along C.R. 535 to the Subway up by Chase Road," said Geller. "We need to do a better job of locating commercial uses where they're in easy walking distance from where people live, in an attractive Main Street setting, and not across a highways."

Baldwin Park Town Center--pedestrian oriented and within walking distance of numerous homes, condominiums, and apartments, including those on the top floors

Lake Burden Neighborhood Center in Horizon West--isolated by wetlands and eight lanes of highway