Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Text of Email to Neighbors of Windermere Community Church

I wanted to thank all of you for emailing me about the Windermere Community Church application [to add independent and assisted senior living], which the Orange County Planning and Zoning Board heard last Thursday.

I considered all testimony and evidence carefully and made a motion to deny the application's transmittal for lack of consistency with the County's comprehensive plan and compatibility with the adjacent neighborhoods. My motion carried 6-1. The Planning and Zoning Board's recommendation will go to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration in the next month or so.
The ballfields, a condition in the development plan approved by Orange County in 2000, fulfilled the Church's 5% open space/civic requirement under the Horizon West Code. (Our revised Code increased the requirement to 7.5%). As I pointed out, the County's Future Land Use Element made the civic space contribution "permanent." In any event, I can't imagine a school on the church property without ballfields.

I presented information from the County's demographic study. Over the next two decades the need for senior housing to accommodate our aging population will become acute. The Lakeside Village Special Area Plan and the County's Comprehensive Plan require a mixing of uses and housing choices for all age groups.

My sense, at the end of the hearing, was that no one felt good about the discord in our community. Perhaps no one felt more pain than Pastor Matheson, who had no intention to upset the Church's neighbors.
I am hopeful that, before the Board of County Commissioners considers the application, representatives of the Church and the surrounding neighborhoods can come together and reach a consensus that: (1) preserves the ballfields and establishes a time-frame for their establishment; (2) preserves and extends a pine tree buffer between the Church property and the neighborhoods; (3) allows a reasonable amount of senior housing in a pleasing, aesthetic form that enhances our community.

I would ask those neighbors who walked door-to-door, conducted research, organized the email campaign, and otherwise took the lead, to form a committee to meet with Pastor Matheson and other Church representatives. I am asking for everyone's reasonableness and good faith.

My role with this application is officially done, but please let me know if I can assist you in any way.  I am truly appreciative for the community's very passionate interest and involvement--and wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Rick Geller

(Jan. 26, 2010 UPDATE: Windermere Community Church withdrew the application before the County Commission could act on it.  The Church indicated an intent to submit a revised application.)