Mayor Jacobs and Commissioners,
On 2/25/2014 I attended a community meeting hosted by the planning department and District 4 regarding a rezoning on the corner of Woodbury and Hwy 50 from commercial to apartments.
Why should I care about a rezoning from commercial to 200+ apartments seeing I don’t live close by the property or travel the roads immediately around them? I care because of the trend that has formed over many years in East Orange County. Developments are allowed to be built without regard for the overall traffic issues in the area and the developer is only required to pay for their impact to the roads even if the road has already failed. I understand that there are other factors that come into play such as the 2011 law but I also know there are ways to develop responsibly and we must find a way to break this ever repeating trend.
We were actually told at the meeting by the developer in a very forward way that if Orange County tried to stop this development from going in based on traffic, there would be lawsuits against the county due to state bill 360 that was passed in 2011. When I expressed concern over traffic in the entire area, I was brought back in line and told that this was about this property and not the entire area. I had to state that this was a community meeting and we, the residents, were there to express our feelings and traffic in the entire area is our concern and this development will impact the overall traffic and add to the problem. Yes, the community meeting was about this property but it will affect everyone in the area who drives on Hwy 50 and only add to an already exasperated situation.
I understand that this property in all likelihood will be approved but this one single property is not the main issue. The issue is what has happened to East Orange County and what will happen as more and more of this occurs. If the roads were adequate and not failing, I wouldn’t care if this property was rezoned but it is the situation we have that makes it important.
I also know that the two properties on Lake Pickett are much different than this property. Traffic issues can prevent these properties from being developed because they require a change to the Comprehensive Plan and FLUM. We as residents are at a major disadvantage because we are not versed in all of the zoning laws and do not understand and are not educated on all this. We all work and have jobs that prevent us from really getting involved so we have to rely on you, our elected officials, to protect us. We knew there was some significance to the Comprehensive Plan but now know how ultra-important that it remain preserved. It is the only shield we have against more development which translate to more traffic. Personally, I want you to know that I am not against the developers. I like their plans and what they are proposing to do with these properties and feel I have a good relationship with both parties but we cannot rely on their money only because the traffic problem in East Orange County is far beyond their means to fix. In fact it is far beyond the county’s means to fix. This has become a regional and state problem now. If Orange County accepts the road plans proposed by the developers, the trend continues and will get worse.
The main bottleneck in East Orange County is Hwy 50 at the 408 which is Expressway Authority and a state road. The bottleneck is one mile to the east and west of the Hwy 50/408 intersection. There are eight lights in a two mile distance on Hwy 50 that slows and halts traffic so now people are choosing alternative routes to get to their destination. No matter how much money developers throw at the county roads, they cannot fix this problem. It will take the state, Expressway Authority, MetroPlan, Orange County, Seminole County, Research Park, UCF, the residents and the developers to fix this. We all have to be on the same train heading the same way. Developers can only do so much and it is simply not enough. These other organizations must also be part of the solution.
At this time, we, the residents of East Orange County, cannot allow our shield, the Comprehensive Plan and FLUM, to be changed until the traffic issues are addressed which means a fully funded traffic plan. It is our only defense against increased traffic problems and must be kept intact. I urge you to form a regional task force to focus on the traffic issues in East Orange County and come up with a regional plan to fix it long into the foreseeable future.
Please know that I and many people who live out here want to be involved and help. Please call on us to do what you need us to do to help solve this problem.