Friday, September 16, 2011

FDOT Should Consider Pedestrian Refuge Islands

FDOT held a community meeting on September 14 to engage the public in its planned widening of Maitland Boulevard, between I-4 and Maitland Avenue, which gets congested during peak hours. 

The intersection of Maitland Boulevard and Maitland Avenue has a kid attraction--the JCC--and is near the future Maitland SunRail station.  In a conversation at the community meeting, a prestigious architect told a Maitland City Commissioner that pedestrians often cross the intersection. 

Jurgen Duncan, transportation planner with Canin Associates, proposed a conceptual modification, adding pedestrian refuge islands to shorten the crossing distance.  Jurgen's proposal would not reduce the intersection's vehicle capacity. 

FDOT should also consider pedestrian refuges at the medians.  Countdown clocks would reduce the number of pedestrians getting stranded in the middle of the thoroughfare. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Road Diets = Economic Revitalization

The City of Orlando put Edgewater Drive in College Park on a road diet.  The City has seen substantial economic rewards, not to mention a sharp decrease in motorist crashes.  Rush hour travel time barely increased, or even decreased.  We should consider road diets as an economic revitalization tool in Pine Hills and other struggling areas built more for pass-by traffic than for nearby residents.  Dan Burden, formerly with the FDOT, gave a stellar presentation to the Winter Park Health Foundation last spring, highlighting example after example of economic rejuvenation following implementation of a road diet.  Here's a video featuring Dan released by the folks at

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thom Rumberger, 1933-2011

"Some would say that the reaon I have gotten so involved with these public now that I'm getting older, I'm looking for a straight shot into heaven...well, okay, as long as the Everglades are protected first."

Thom Rumberger, co-founder of the Rumberger Kirk & Caldwell law firm, where I worked for a dozen years, passed away last night. 
Thom relished his stature as a green Republican in the great tradition of Teddy Roosevelt.  The Everglades are cleaner and Florida has more manatees thanks to him.  He made having an environmental conscience a requirement for elected officials of both parties. Thom's influence in Florida's environmental policies is immeasurable. 

Admiration for Thom transcended political party lines:

United States Senate Resolution honoring Thom Rumberger, co-sponsored by Senator Nelson and Senator Rubio. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

What Should a Rural Settlement Look Like?

Chancellor's proposed West Windermere Hamlet
Architecture by Tory Parish, Jackson-Parish Architects
3-D modeling by AzulArc, Atlanta, Georgia
 The Orange County Commission voted 6-1 to transmit a Land Use amendment allowing Chancellor Investments, LLC, a client of my law firm, to develop the corner of C.R. 535 and Fiquette-Hancock Road, in West Orange County.  The buildings face inward, away from C.R. 535, creating the rural village Main Street environment depicted above, which even the project's critics concede is beautiful.  The site falls within, and sits at the edge of the West Windermere Rural Settlement. 

The application has raised passions about Orange County's rural settlements.  At the transmittal hearing on August 30, a half dozen leaders from various Rural Settlements spoke in opposition, concerned that approval of Chancellor's application would set a precedent for more commercial development in their own Rural Settlements. 

My law partner, Kurt Ardaman, former president of the Gotha Rural Settlement's community association, created a record demonstrating how the West Windermere Rural Settlement is unlike any other.  Suburban subdivisions--mostly gated--predominate West Windermere: Keene's Point, Lake Butler Sound, Glenmuire, Waterstone, Oxford Moor, Tildens Grove, to name a half dozen.   Most West Windermere residents live a suburban lifestyle--without the horses, livestock, and large tracts of open land typical of other Rural Settlements.  Commissioners Russell, Edwards, Brummer, and Damiani stated that approval would not set a precedent.

Bellaria--A typical gated suburban subdvision in West Windermere.
Upscale new homes in Waterstone, a gated subdivision in West Windermere.   
My daughter, Hannah, walking to stables for horseback riding in the Avalon Rural Settlement--an environment very different from suburban West Windermere.  
The protections of living in a Rural Settlement are not absolute.  The County's Future Land Use policies have permitted intrusion of surburban sprawl into Rural Settlements--both residential (allowed by the County's Comprehensive Plan as "clustering") and commercial: 
Glenmuire--A gated subdivision in West Windermere. 

Clarcona Rural Settlement--intersection of Apopka-Vineland and Clarcona-Ocoee Road

Christmas Rural Settlement.
Commercial sprawl like that depicted above is of particular concern by Rural Settlement leaders.  This raises the question: what should a Rural Settlement look like?  The current zoning code--regulating use, intensity, and density--inadequately preserves the look and feel of a Rural Settlement. 

In Gotha, where time stands still on a quaint rural village Main Street, a Mediterranean mansion intrudes. 

Gotha Rural Village Main Street (Hempel Avenue)

Architectural incongruity.  This suburban Mediterranean home, though beautiful, is inconsistent with Gotha's historic, Old Florida structures next door and across the street. 
Form-based zoning standards could help avoid architectural debasement of Rural Settlements.  Standards proposed by Chancellor--requiring Florida vernacular architecture--could help.  

The County removed considerable land from the Lake Whippoorwill Rural Settlement along Narcoosie Road last year--a reaction to the highway's six-laning--for new commercial and office uses. The intersection of Conroy-Windermere and Apopka-Vineland Road, removed from the West Windermere Rural Settlement in the 1990's when the roads became four-lane highways, now features hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial and office development.  The widening of Clarcona-Ocoee Road into a multi-lane highway will increase pressures in the Clarcona Rural Settlement.  Rural Settlement leaders should pay close attention to the County's Capital Improvements Element, as it goes through the approval process each year, and urge transportation network alternatives to widening roads in and adjacent to Rural Settlements, including improving connectivity.  When roads become highways, commercial pressures--and pressures to chip away at Rural Settlements--surely follow.