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