8/28/2015 – How do we fix McCulloch and N. Tanner and help Hwy 50? The Richard Crotty Parkway!

We start with the Richard Crotty Parkway!  This has to be the first step.  It is all about connectivity and getting the east connected to the west.

What is the Richard Crotty Parkway?  It is a proposed East-West roadway on the Long Range Transportation Plan that starts at 436 and runs all the way to N. Tanner.  It is not a direct route.  It begins at 436 and runs along Hanging Moss Road which is halfway between Hwy 50 and University Blvd on 436.  It sort of winds its way over to Goldenrod Road and then follows a right-of-way that takes it along the Blanchard Park Trial to Dean Road.  It goes up Dean Road to Buck Road.  It follows Buck Road and then goes through to Research Parkway.

Richard Crotty Parkway

Richard Crotty Parkway

It follows Research Parkway through Research Park and here is where it gets interesting and why it is important to us in East Orange County.  It extends Research Parkway over to N. Tanner Road providing  another East-West conduit for traffic.  This extension would bring instant relief to N. Tanner and McCulloch Road and also help Hwy 50 as drivers who live around Bonneville could take this road over to Alafaya Trail.

I am going to focus specifically on the section of Richard Crotty from the end of Research Parkway to N. Tanner as it is where we get the best bang for the buck in East Orange County.  This is the red line on the map below.

Richard Crotty extension

Richard Crotty extension

To anyone that travels McCulloch and N. Tanner, I think it is very easy to see what the effect this road would have on traffic.  I would expect a very large percentage of the cars that would normally travel to McCulloch would take this option instead thus relieving congestion on N. Tanner and McCulloch.  This also provides a entrance to UCF and Research Park as well as easy access to Alafaya and University Blvd.  It seems like a no brainer, right?

In addition to this, there is already a utility easement as straight as an arrow that goes down the entire length of this one mile section so there are no houses that are in the way.  A one mile section of two lane road would cost about 3-4 million and four lanes would cost about 8 million.  No bridges, no right-of-way issues, just a straight road to N. Tanner.  Sounds great, right!

Richard Crotty Parkway looking East from Libra Drive in UCF

Richard Crotty Parkway looking East from Libra Drive in UCF

Richard Crotty Parkway looking West from Bonneville Road

Richard Crotty Parkway looking West from Bonneville Road

Richard Crotty Parkway looking East from Bonneville Road

Richard Crotty Parkway looking East from Bonneville Road

 

Richard Crotty Parkway looking West from N Tanner Road

Richard Crotty Parkway looking West from N Tanner Road

Not so fast.  We have issues.

Money is one of them.  When the Richard Crotty Parkway was put on the Long Range Transportation Plan it was before the recession.  When the recession hit, money became scarce and the parkway just sat on the plan unfunded.  It is still unfunded  Perhaps this portion of it can be accelerated through the “Invest” program.

Accident at Worchester and McCulloch

Accident at Worchester and McCulloch

But the big stumbling block is who owns the right of way.  I have heard that UCF owns the utility easement and Research Park maintains Research Parkway so the county cannot just move ahead and put in the road.  Research Park does not want this road to go through because it would increase through traffic in Research Park.  UCF has been silent on the issue.  While it is understandable that Research Park does not want pass through traffic, the traffic we have now is at a point where another East-West connecting road is sorely needed and this need will only increase.  It is just a matter of time before this road will have to be built to move traffic.  We all know that when the UCF Fall semester started, traffic on N. Tanner and McCulloch tripled and we have all seen or heard about more accidents.  I viewed one myself just west of the University Estates entrance a few days ago.  It is only fair that UCF and Research Park whose traffic contributes to the problem we have take part in the solution.

My personal feeling is this road will most definitely increase traffic on Research Parkway but I also feel the good news for Research Park is it will relieve cut through traffic on Discovery Drive by allowing cars that would otherwise use Discovery Drive to move through this new road and onto Bonneville Road and N. Tanner.

I believe it is time UCF, Research Park and Orange County come to an agreement on this road.    It is inevitable that this road will be built sometime in the future, why wait until it is way to late and do it now when we need it the most?

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8/20/2015 – “The Grow” 2,256 units – where did that number come from?

Lake Pickett South Farm Sketch

Lake Pickett South Farm Sketch

If you have been following my posts you already know that the Lake Pickett Text Amendment was approved for transmittal and is in the Adoption phase.  The same is true for the Lake Pickett South application.

Have you ever wondering where the magic number of 2,256 units and 237,000 square feet of commercial property come from?

One concerning fact is there is no cap on the density in the text amendment itself. Nothing states 2,256 units and nothing limits the density on these properties except the implied capacity of the Transects (T1, T2, T3 and T4).  I have heard people say that 3,700 units could be built on the LPS land under the current Transect zones within the text amendment.  That density is way to high for an area that is supposed to transition from the urban service area west of the Econ to the rural service area east of the Econ.  So if the developer could build 3,700 units, why are they limiting themselves to just 2,256 units?


High Impact Urban

High Impact Urban

The intent of the Lake Pickett Text Amendment and the idea of Transect Zones is not to continue the urban area out towards the east.  It is to provide a transitional area that goes from urban to rural.  I can’t think of anyone I know who wants the Urban Service Area line to move east.  It is currently at the Econ and should stay at the Econ.  The purple north/south line on the map is the Rural Service Boundary line.  By building these communities in this transitional way will preserve the rural areas farther east.


Sandhills Conservation Area

Sandhills Conservation Area

The developer originally wanted to build 3,300 units with apartments.  But some very smart people  who realized that the text amendment could be approved met with the developer, Dwight Saathoff, and told him no one out here would be receptive to that many units especially with apartments.  No residents would accept apartments.  And the  higher density needed to be close to Hwy 50, not S. Tanner and Lake Pickett.  At some time the idea emerged to use a rural theme with one acre lots along S. Tanner and Lake Pickett with horse pastures and a barn that could access the 706 acre Sandhills Conservation Area trails.  This included buffer zones to further protect the residents.  The project had to be compatible with the surrounding area.

serenbe community masterplan

serenbe community masterplan

The developer researched rural communities like Serenbe in Atlanta and spoke to other developers and found the idea of a farm community appealing.  The density dropped from 3,300 units to 2,900 units and then dropped again to 2,600 units until it finally settled at 2,256 units.  This is the best number that gives the developer a reasonable profit while still provides a true transition from urban to rural.  2.256 units equals 2.6 units per net acre (not gross).  Typical urban is upwards of 4 units per acre.  Rural is 1 unit per acre or lower.  This is somewhere in between urban and rural densities.

It also provides enough money to fix the roads LPS affects which are Hwy 50 and Chuluota Road.

The next step was to ensure the property would never be changed from this agreement.  We have all heard the horror stories of great intentions at the start of past projects only to have the property change hands several times and the end result is not what was originally proposed.  How can we be assured that a catastrophe like this never happens?

deed restrictions

deed restrictions


The Deed Restriction:

This can only be achieved using a deed restriction.  You most likely do not know this but there is actually a signed deed restriction that runs with the land.  It states the density and the amount of commercial allowed.  It does not dissolve if the property changes hands but stays with the land.  So any owner of this land must comply with the deed restriction.  This was negotiated by some residents and the developer over the last few months.

You need to really appreciate what this means because a developer signing a deed restriction is very rare.  Developers do not like deed restrictions because it limits them and increases their liability.  What if economic forces change and they find this model no longer works.  They are tied into it and must comply with the deed restriction just as homeowners inside HOAs have to comply with their deed restrictions no matter who owns the house.  Dwight Saathoff is taking a huge risk agreeing to this deed restriction.  I have to take my hat off to him for agreeing to this deed restriction as well as persuading the land owners to agree to it.  This was not an easy task and I am amazed he was able to hold the deal together.

Having this area developed as one cohesive project is good.  The alternative is a nightmare.  Small individual plots of lands being developed piece meal is not good for anyone and would in fact increase the overall density when it is all done and over.  The idea of developing this land at one unit per 10 acres will never happen as the owners of the land would never develop at this low a density.  Not to mention the road system that would be built with roads running here and there in no order whatsoever.  It would be a nightmare for the county to manage.


This project almost fell apart by itself several times and still could.

  • The owners didn’t like the lower densities and thought they could do better on their own.
  • One owner was prepared to submit their own application that would have put 2,000 units on just one of the owners land.
  • The county listening to the residents complain about traffic and were making sure there was money to fix the roads.  The only way to give the county more money was to increase the density so there was some talk about increasing the density another 250 units to 2,506 in order to get the 8 million needed for roads.

This is how fragile the agreement was at the hearing on July 28th and is why there was no road agreement at that time.  The county and developer ran out of time negotiating.

There can certainly be no guarantees but from my perspective, Dwight Saathoff handled himself in a very professional and up front manner.  He stuck to his word and insisted that the number of units be 2,256 and also signed a deed restriction.  The development community is not happy with this because it could set a precedence going forward.  This agreement ensures that no changes take place in the future unless the owner of the land go through the entire process all over again.  I don’t know how anyone who really thinks this through could be unhappy with this outcome.  I guess it takes a bit of faith and trust.

LPN Requirements to Transmit

LPN Requirements to Transmit


Lake Pickett North (Sustany):

Now Lake Pickett North (Sustany) has to follow suit if they want their application approved when they come back.  They heard loud and clear that their density of 1,999 units is too high.  They heard Commissioner Clarke express a desire to have a community along the lines of Wedgefield.  They know Seminole wants a large buffer and the Lake Pickett Rural Settlement wants the lots adjacent to their property to be of like density as the settlement and they heard Majorie Holt express the Sierra Club’s displeasure with the T3 along the Sandhills Conservation Area.  And they need to sign a deed restriction on the land that locks down what they say they will do. And of course the roads have to be fixed.

I can’t take credit for any of what occurred but I thank the people who had the forethought to do all this for our community.  We should all thank them.  This land will be developed responsibly.  And if we can overcome the other obstacles we face with “The DMZ Zone” our roads will be fixed.


Our future:

If this is done right the Econ will forever remain the dividing line between the Urban Service Area and the Rural Service Area and we will protect rural lands east of the Econ for generations to come.  I applaud the folks who want to defend the rural lands and stand with them.  But I think that the time to say “No development at all” on the Lake Pickett properties is over and we need to work together to make sure this land is developed responsibly as a true transition between the urban area and rural area.  We need to be the watchdogs for our children and their children to ensure East Orange County is developed responsibly.

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Charter Review Commission

8/19/2015 – Should the Rural Service Boundary move east past the Econ?

Kevin Shaughnessy

Kevin Shaughnessy

At a recent Charter Review Commission Meeting, members of Save Orange County (SOC) made public comment to ask the Commission for charter protection of the Rural Service Boundary east of the Econ.  I was surprised to see the chairman of the committee, Kevin Shaughnessy, ask legal council to take up the issue and report back at the next meeting.  He made the comment that he was not sure that the Charter Review Commission can take away the approval process from the Board of County Commissioners so the question the lawyer needs to answer is if the charter can control a land use issue such as the Urban Service Area.    If you are interested, click here to view the video.  I am not quite sure what the committee would do other than ratify the Rural Service Boundary at the Econ.  I can’t imagine the committee trying to control the zoning of the Lake Pickett properties as there is already a defined process in place to deal with zoning changes through the Board of County Commissioners.  That would create havoc for future zoning requests.  Maybe I am missing something and will be eagerly awaiting the next meeting to hear what he has to say.

High Impact Urban

High Impact Urban

There is some fear that if the Lake Pickett properties are developed the Rural Service Boundary between the Urban Service Area (USA) and the Rural Service Area (RSA) which currently runs along the Econ river will shift east.  You can see the line on the map in purple running along the Econ south to north.  The USA is easy to recognize by the “High Impact Urban” red area west of the Econ while the RSA is the greener area to the east of the purple line.

I don’t know one person who thinks that this line should move east.  In fact I think this is one point that everyone no matter what your opinion is of how the Lake Pickett properties should be developed agrees.  The dividing line needs to remain at the Econ.

The Comprehensive Plan shows the Econ as the Rural Service Boundary between the USA and the RSA.  The map on the left came out of the Comprehensive Plan itself and shows the purple line that we all agree should be the Rural Service Boundary between the USA and the RSA.  But some feel that the text amendment for the Lake Pickett properties violates the rural service boundary and creates an urban area within the rural area.  I suppose one could argue that point.  However, if that is the point then it has already been violated many times over with Corner Lakes, Cypress Lakes and other suburban communities east of the Econ that also show up red in this map.  Even portions of Wedgefield show up in red.  They are classified as “High Impact Urban”.

The idea behind the Lake Pickett Text Amendment is not to promote more urban east of the Econ but instead to stop it.  The purpose is to create a transition area between the USA and RSA.  The density in the Lake Pickett South property has been reduced to 2,256 units.  It is not the lower density of the RSA but on the flip side it is also not the higher density of the USA.  It is in between which is the intention.  By creating this transition zone, no urban can be built east of this land.  That is the whole purpose behind the Transect idea and that is why Lake Pickett has it’s very own LP designation in the Comprehensive Plan.  Nowhere else in Orange County will there be an LP designation because it stands for “Lake Pickett”.

When it comes to preserving the rural area, I think we all have that very same goal in mind.  The differences lie in the paths each of us take to get to the destination.

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8/19/2015 – Will the Lake Pickett Text Amendment be Adopted?

The Grow at Lake Pickett

The Grow at Lake Pickett

The big question is, “Will the Text Amendment and Lake Pickett South (LPS) be Adopted?”

I asked this simple question of several people.  “How many applications that have been transmitted are denied at adoption?”  No one can remember any that have been denied.  I am sure there are probably some that have been withdrawn by the applicant or even denied but from what I hear, most succeed.  This leaves the odds in favor of adoption but there are issues that still need to be worked out.

A lot needs to happen between now and the adoption hearing so this is by no means a slam-dunk as some might think.  You have to listen very closely to the last 15 minutes of the 7 hours of video to truly understand what occurred and what exactly was transmitted.  There were conditions for transmittal that may make this whole thing fall apart.  The developer may find the county requests to be too demanding and just withdraw on their own.

I do have to commend the Board of County Commissioners for sticking to their convictions and voted how they each saw the issues.  There is no doubt there was influence from the crowd but in the end it came down to well thought out decision by each board member.   I was not at all unhappy with the outcome and I viewed the votes as “collective wisdom” as I phrased it to them recently at public comment.


One thing we all have to make sure happens regardless of our individual positions on the text amendment and LPS.  Sins of the past cannot be repeated.  What I mean by that is we can’t allow something to be adopted and then have it changed many times over through variances.  If this is adopted we must all agree on one thing and that is to hold the county and the developers feet to the fire to do the honorable thing and make sure what happens is what was agreed. 


What were the conditions that must be met in order to be adopted?

Dwight Saathoff

Dwight Saathoff

The Road Agreement (explained by Dwight Saathoff at the hearing.  Most of this is verbatim from the video):

The number the county needs from the developer is 28 million and as the developer, Dwight Saathoff, explained he set up a schedule to meet the 28 million and the release for trips.  He said the deal is very close to being what was being asked of him by the county.  The only difference is Chuluota Road.  The issue the developer has is most steps to build the road are controlled by the county.

  • The steps start with PD&E which is the preliminary design and is a legal process which is lead by the county and takes approximately one year.
  • After that is the right of way acquisition which has to be done by the county because the county is the only entity that has power of eminent domain and also takes about a year
  • Design could be done by the developer but needs to be signed off by the county and takes six month to a year.
  • And finally construction.
  • The county will also approve the developers budget, the contractor and the construction contractor.

All that is left after that is making payments.  Dwight Saathoff said he does not want to be in a position where he has to call someone at the county asking them if they are working on his road deal, are they condemning the land and other questions.  What he wants to do is give the county the money and when Orange County is ready to spend money on design, the money will be available.  He said he doesn’t want to call the county every week for seven years to do what needs to be done.  With the amount of money that he has to put up front, he can’t afford to be stuck in mid-project and hope someone will answer his calls.  According to Dwight Saathoff this is the only twist on the deal.  The developer agreed to the money and if the county can agree to the terms then they can go forward and if not the the landowners will be breaking up and it would end “The Grow” as we know it.

The county’s idea is to take 3 million dollars of the “Invest” money and do the PD&E, then the developer would be ready for construction in 2-3 years and would construct the roads.  (Note:  remember the developer can construct roads 40% cheaper than the county so more bang for the buck).  The developer said “No”.  The developer said 25 million is all they would do otherwise they were going home.  Commissioner Edwards said the deal has changed and the developer wants the county to take the risk of cost over-runs which the county was not willing to assume at this time.  The county is willing to discuss these differences.

At this point in time there is no agreement on the roads.

Sewer Lines:

According to Commissioner Clarke there was an agreement made in 1998 that the sewer lines across the Econ would not be increased.  The sewer lines were specifically put in to accommodate the entitlements that were granted in 1991 and nothing more.  There was a comment made during the hearing by a developer that the lines were adequate for these communities.  This will most definitely be verified.  Increasing the lines would allow more development east of the Econ which most people are not in favor.  Read this article from way back in 1998 by the Orlando Sentinel.

The Grow’s Farm:

How will it be supported?  There is a growing number of golf courses that are intertwined in HOAs and going out of business.  District 4 is seeing this with Eastwood.  The owners of the golf courses want to convert the course into homes.  Of course the residents who bought into the HOA thinking the golf course was an amenity are not too happy.  However, how does the problem get solved.  The golf course owners end up allowing the course to fall into disarray because there is not enough money to support it.  How does “The Grow” ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to it’s farm.  Read this article earlier this year in the Orlando Sentinel regarding Eastwood.

And don’t forget the State of Florida.  Remember, the state and several agencies must sign off on the amendment.  Perhaps there will be something in this that does not meet their guidelines.  We will have to wait to see.

There is a lot of details to work through but if history is any indication of the future, we will see the text amendment adopted and “The Grow” built.  I also think we will see Sustany come back in the next cycle with reduced density and the issues that prevented it from being transmitted addressed.

In my next blog I will talk about how the density of 2,256 units came to be for LPS.  If you think this happened by magic, think again.

 

 

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8/11/2015 – What is the DMZ Zone

In my last post I talked about a DMZ Zone.  In this post I explain what it is and why people living in this area are living in a sort of no-mans land.  To fix our traffic problems some compromises might have to be made.

DMZ Zone

DMZ Zone

The DMZ Zone is the blue shaded area on this map.  To understand what is going on in this area, we need to understand the goals of several powers-that-be.

UCF:
UCF has always had a hands off approach to the roadways surrounding the campus.  The surrounding roads are built and maintained by Orange County.  Because UCF is a state entity and is not under the control of the county, UCF maintains the roads inside UCF property.  The campus has grown to 61,000 students with well over 10,000 employees so UCF certainly has an affect on the surrounding area.  While UCF has a great road system within the campus, no connecting roads to the east exist helping to create the DMZ Zone.

Richard Crotty extension

Richard Crotty extension

Research Park:

Research Park is also a large area just south of UCF whose companies employ in excess of 10,000 employees.  The roads within Research Park are private.  Research Park does not want pass through traffic and is not in favor of opening up it’s roadways to east – west traffic.  Yet the Richard Crotty Parkway is on the Orange County long range plan.  But Orange County can’t put it through because it goes from the end of Research Parkway which is private over to N. Tanner.  There are also two other connection points that could easily connect Bonneville to Research Park but they are also controlled by Research Park. (watch this video to understand the connectivity issues)  Research Park does not want these roads connected because it might prove detrimental to their business.  This is very understandable.

Because UCF and Research Park occupy the space between McCulloch and Hwy 50, all the connection points south of McCulloch and north of Hwy 50 are off limits creating the DMZ Zone.

Woodbury extension (broad line)

Woodbury extension (broad line)

Because the DMZ Zone exists, when the roads to accommodate Lake Pickett North was being planned, the road from Lake Pickett to Woodbury (the controversial road through the Montessori school) was being considered as it does not touch Research Park or UCF and sort of provides another east – west connection.

Seminole County:
Seminole County has no desire to assist in four laning McCulloch for a couple of reasons.  The east side of Seminole County is mostly rural and they want to keep it that way.  There is also the fear that four laning McCulloch would lead one step closer to crossing the Econ and bring urban life to the rural area.  Another reason is it would bring more traffic to McCulloch from Orange County which serves no benefit to Seminole County.

Orange County:
So where does that leave Orange County.  Orange County has a problem.  UCF and Research Park are blocking connectivity west of the DMZ Zone.  Seminole County is blocking the four laning of McCulloch.  But traffic keeps coming that has to be addressed.

Meanwhile we are living right in the middle of the DMZ Zone.

Where does that leave the residents who live on McCulloch and N. Tanner?  Anyone who lives on the south side of McCulloch (University Estates) or the West side of N. Tanner are in the worst position.  Because the natural flow of traffic out of sub-divisions is west to shopping centers and work centers, residents of University Estates have to cross a lane of traffic to get onto McCulloch.  The same is true for people who live on the west side of N. Tanner and want to travel McCulloch.  They have to cross a lane of traffic.  No matter where you live off N. Tanner or McCulloch, residents still have trouble getting out into the flow of never ending cars.

Where does that leave commuters who travel Hwy 50 or McCulloch?  Expect a never ending stream of cars on McCulloch and a long line of cars on N. Tanner.  It has backed up all the way to the middle school at times.  Lake Pickett will be backed up as well as S. Tanner from the stop sign as more cars traverse McCulloch and Hwy 50.  With the Fall UCF semester approaching, expect delays and long lines of cars.

But that’s not the end of the story.  To the residents of East Orange County it gets worse.  For the last couple of years, the emphasis on traffic has been spotlighted because of the Lake Pickett developments.  We have a reason to converse with Orange County and visa versa.  If the Lake Pickett text amendment is adopted along with Lake Pickett South and eventually Lake Pickett North is approved, we will lose our communication conduit to the county.  It is the land use issue and re-zoning that has keep the focus on traffic.

If the amendment is adopted, will the residents in East Orange County continue to have that intensely, burning passion that exists now or will it be reduced to a smoldering ember that will all but extinguish the spotlight on traffic and we fall back into oblivion and just accept things as they are.  Do we become the frog in the pan and not really understand the danger until it is too late?

We have unfinished business!  We need the powers-that-be to come together and compromise on McCulloch Road and connection points from east to west.  This is our community and we live here and have to drive these roads everyday.  We all need to stay involved and keep pressing the county to fix the roads.

 

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8/12/2015 – CFX Public Comment Notes

Item #7:  The 408 Eastern Extension PD&E study.  View the presentation here.  This was on the 8/13/2015 agenda.

A lot of the folks in East Orange County disagree on how to solve the traffic problems in our area but there are some things we all agree on:

  • We need more east – west lanes by
    • Expanding Hwy 50
    • Extending the 408
  • Leaving the rural areas as rural as possible
  • Not disrupting the Econ Basin

Option 1 would meet with extreme resistance as it runs out Lake Pickett Road and Fort Christmas road.  People are already upset that the county is talking about widening Lake Pickett to 4 lanes.  Can you imagine the outcry if the 408 went through there?

Option 3A would meet with resistance also as it runs right along the Econ which is sort of the sacred cow.

The presentation reads, “Corridor 3B (along SR 50) meets the transportation need west of SR 520, providing the greatest relief of traffic congestion along SR 50.”

I think this is also the best choice when it comes to the least effect on the environment and the one most likely to be accepted by the residents of East Orange County.

According to the project schedule the study will be completed late next year.  I certainly hope this will be approved.  East Orange County is growing.  The Lake Pickett text amendment was just transmitted along with the Lake Pickett South property and if all goes well will be adopted late this year.  This will bring 2256 more homes just north of Hwy 50 as well as commercial along Hwy 50.  Lake Pickett North was denied but I am sure the applicants will be back in the next cycle and we will see 1500 homes on that property.

Back in the 90s I used to work downtown and take the 408.  I used to wonder who the crazy people were who built this road to nowhere as I was the only car on the road past 436.  Now look at it.  What would we do without the 408?

I believe there is a need for the 408 extension right now and cars would pack it bringing relief to Hwy 50.  We have to think long term, past the 2030 time frame.  Widening Hwy 50 will get us to 2030 but not past.  All of our county roads as well as Hwy 50 are destined for failure by 2030 and we need the 408 extension to get us long past 2030.

Thank you.

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8/10/2015 – Who lives in the DMZ zone? Maybe you should read this!

DMZ Zone

DMZ Zone

If you live in the blue shaded area I am calling the “DMZ Zone” or travel the red shaded roads, you should read this to understand how you are affected.

If my assumptions are correct, this puts Orange County and my sub-division of University Estates with its 374 families in a very bad position as well as anyone who lives on N. Tanner or travels N. Tanner and McCulloch.

Anyone living in the DMZ Zone is negatively affected in some way.

I went to the Seminole County Planning and Zoning meeting on 8/5 to speak about traffic on McCulloch.  There is a project called “Legacy Pointe” going in on Old Lockwood Road that will definitely bring more traffic to McCulloch.  This is a great project but comes at a very bad time.

I got a huge wake up call when the chairman interrupted my public comment and said, “Connecting roads in Orange County is not what we’re talking about tonight so you need to get to some point that is relevant to Seminole County.”

The words, “relevant to Seminole County”, rang huge bells in my head.  So the question to answer is: “How could connecting roads that might fix McCulloch traffic not be relevant to Seminole County?”

Read the email I sent to both Orange County and Seminole County regarding McCulloch Road and this entire area.  What is extremely relevant to Orange County is extremely IRrelevant to Seminole County.

More on the “DMZ Zone” in the next blog.

Click here for a reference to the minutes from the Seminole County Planning and Zoning meeting.


From: rj@rjmueller.net [mailto:rj@rjmueller.net]

Sent: Sunday, August 9, 2015 9:58 AM
To: Orange County and Seminole County
Subject: The two land section of McCulloch Road – the dividing line between Seminole and Orange Counties

A few days ago the Seminole County Planning and Zoning Commission heard the application for the Legacy Pointe project on Old Lockwood Road.  I think everyone agrees this is the perfect project for this location but to residents in Orange County it comes at a time when we are facing some difficult traffic issue that will only compound the problems we have now.

I went to the meeting to give a public comment not to oppose the project but instead to highlight the traffic issues on the two lane section of McCulloch Road.  I attempted to explain how McCulloch was a critical East-West conduit by showing how it was one of only two roads (McCulloch and Hwy 50) in East Orange County moving traffic east to west.  I went into some details about UCF and Research Park that showed ways to help alleviate traffic on McCulloch.  Nearing the end of my presentation the chairman stopped me in mid-stream and asked what relevance my comments had on this project.

I was stunned and had to think about that for a while because to me, living in University Estates, more traffic on McCulloch is extremely relevant.  And being so immersed with the Lake Pickett projects I was looking at this from an Orange County point of view.

I felt a bit embarrassed and belittled when I was cut off in my public comment but in a way thankful it happened because it forced me to think differently.  Since then I have been trying to put myself in the Seminole County’s Planning and Zoning chairman’s place and from his perspective I can see how this short, one mile, two lane section of McCulloch Road is not relevant to Seminole County at all.  It is a road to nowhere from a Seminole County viewpoint as traffic disappears down into Orange County on N. Tanner.    It is also the section of road maintained by Orange County so that makes it even less important.  I would say it is almost a burden; an unwanted, forced inconvenience.  Perhaps what happened in this public comment highlights the problem we face and why traffic on McCulloch is so bad on this short section of roadway.

To Orange County this road is all important because it and Hwy 50 are the only two East-West roads drivers can take when crossing the Econ in this area.  But to Seminole County it is of little importance.  It all makes sense when you look at a map and see where Seminole County devoted funding and resources.  The county four laned Lockwood Blvd. ending right at UCF and four laned McCulloch Road from Lockwood Road to Alafaya Trail.  Seminole County has devoted it’s resource to make sure these roadways are the ones traveled.  Old Lockwood and the two lane stretch of McCulloch Road are not important to Seminole County.

Two Lane Section of McCulloch Road

Two Lane Section of McCulloch Road

If my assumptions are correct, this puts Orange County and my sub-division of University Estates with its 374 families in a very bad position.  Our geographical location places us right in the middle of this conflict.  Orange County wants this section four laned and Seminole County does not.  To Seminole County it means more cars on the four lane section of McCulloch Seminole County is responsible to maintain as well as a move closer to a possible crossing of the Econ.  To Orange County it is one of the ways of solving the traffic problems in East Orange County.

Here is a YouTube video of traffic on McCulloch I took a few months ago:

The safety of our residents in University Estates is all important.  So much so that for two weeks of the Fall semester we have hired an off-duty sheriff to direct traffic in the morning and evening rush hour.  When the UCF semester begins, McCulloch becomes chaos as UCF comes alive with people and traffic as you can plainly see from the video.  Most of the time it is a streaming string of never-ending cars.

I am not sure where we go from here but at least now I see this from a whole new perspective.

Sincerely,

RJ Mueller
407-913-5563
Resident of Orange County and University Estates

 

 

 

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8/10/2015 – SR 408 Eastern Extension PS&E Study

We have been hearing about a study that is being done to determine an extension of the 408 out  to 520.  Below are the viable routes.  It seems the corridor along Hwy 50 provides the greatest relief of traffic congestion and is the one being considered.  This Wednesday at 9 am at CFX there will be a presentation on this study during the board meeting.  You can view the agenda here.

Immediately following the board meeting is a workshop to discuss CFX visioning and the 2040 Master Plan.  To us in East Orange County this is very important as SR 408 is essential to the future of our community.  You can view the agenda here.

The meeting may be viewed in real time or after on Orange TV here.

SR 408 Eastern Extension PS&E Study - alternatives

SR 408 Eastern Extension PS&E Study – alternatives

SR 408 Eastern Extension PS&E Study - Hwy 50

SR 408 Eastern Extension PS&E Study – Hwy 50

You can view the PDF of the study here:  SR 408 Eastern Extension PD&E Study

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8/7/2015 – People don’t believe the 2030 chart

I came to the realization recently that people don’t believe the chart that shows every road in this area over capacity by 2030.  It struck me after talking to someone who questioned the validity of this chart and said they didn’t believe it.

Over capacity segments in 2030

Over capacity segments in 2030

So this brings up some very interesting thoughts.

My thought is are you willing to make a 15 year bet that you are right if you don’t think this chart is accurate.  Are you all in with your poker chips on the hunch that the roads will not be over capacity in 2030.   I was half joking in my public comment at the 7/28 BCC meeting when I said people either didn’t want to believe or they don’t care that by 2030 all these roads are over-capacity.

But after the meeting and talking to that person, I came to the hard realization that there are people who really don’t believe this chart and that it is wrong.  I will err on the side of caution and am not willing to make this 15 year bet and will rely on this traffic study until someone disproves it.

Planner for SOC

Planner for SOC

This planner showed up at the meeting hired by Save Orange County.  I was unable to catch his name from his public comment.  He said he has been a planner for many years in South Florida.   He also said the people in the room were the traffic experts and know what is needed when it comes to the roadways.  He obviously was not referring to me but to the people who had hired him.

He showed a chart from a “Traffic Impact Analysis” that I believe he got from Orange County.  He said this was not a detailed traffic study.  He said that a traffic analysis and a traffic study are different.  He said decisions are being made on a “Planning Level Analysis”and they are not good enough.  He said “they” need to get into a more “detailed traffic engineering operational type analysis”.

He also feels that intersections can be improved to fix the problems.  He also spoke about the 9 light problem from Alafaya to Avalon Parkway and a flyover.  These last ideas are not new at all and have been suggestions made in the past that he is simply echoing.  Refer to this public comment I made to the Central Florida Expressway Authority on the light issue as well as a flyover on 3/12/2015.  I think he must have watched this clip for these ideas.

Here is my problem with what this planner said.  He used the word, “they” and “you” referring to Orange County.  Well if the public does not believe the traffic studies given to them by Orange County now what will change that perception if Orange County does this “detailed traffic engineering operational type analysis” and it comes out with the same results of over capacity roads by 2030.  The burden of proof is not on Orange County, it is on the people trying to disprove the chart above.  If there is a feeling that by 2030 these roads are not going to be over-capacity then prove it.  I would suggest the people who hired this planner conduct their own “detailed traffic engineering operational type analysis” and submit those results to the county for review.  In the next few months there will be more work done on roadway ideas and studies and I am sure we will have positive results.

I am not in the camp that the roads are fine in 2030.  I also travel these roads and ride down McCulloch every single day and if the increased level of traffic I have experienced over the past 5 years is any indication of what is to come then something has to be done now to fix all the roads so we don’t end up with the mess this planner mentioned in his public comment.  I hear other people talk about the horrors on N. Tanner and Lake Pickett also so those roads aren’t fine either and need to be addressed in some way.

Just the fact that there is so much attention on our area is a good thing in my mind and with this much focus, these issues will be addressed and I think will be addressed to the satisfaction of most.  We are going to go through some rough roads of disagreement but in the end I do believe we will solve these problems and make this place a much better place to live.

 

 

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Board of County Commissioners

7/28/2015 – Board of County Commissioner Meeting update

Lake Pickett Text Amendment - Board of County Commissioner meeting

Lake Pickett Text Amendment – Board of County Commissioner meeting

The Board of County Commissioner (BCC) meeting on July 28th was “crazy”.  That’s the only word that comes to mind.  We will get into that soon but here is the issue when it comes to traffic.

This blog is more of a record of what happened at the meeting.  In my next blog I will explain why I think certain decisions were made and where I think this is heading.

Before I talk about the meeting, let me say one thing.  I think some people have the perception I am an unfeeling, single-minded, robotic, logic-driven Vulcan whose only mission in life is to destroy the rural life of people who live in this area.  I can’t think of anything farther from the truth.  You would have to be living under a rock if you don’t think these properties will be developed some day and I think it is better to be in control of your own destiny than have it controlled for you by someone else.  I know no one wants to hear this but change is coming to this area and my gut feeling told me this would be the time.  If SOC decides now to embrace this change and work with the developers to make these properties a showcase of East Orange County I will most certainly fight to keep the rural character intact as I have so far by pushing for bigger buffers and decreased density.  Whether we like it or not, it is us who have caused this by buying homes and living in the Rural Service Area in a suburban atmosphere.  At the meeting I saw someone showing pictures of cars blocking sidewalks and lined up on either side of roads in Corner Lakes like the one below.  That is not rural, it is most definitely suburban and shows that suburban has most definitely crossed the Econ already as someone mentioned.

Corner Lakes - residential road

Corner Lakes – residential road

Traffic Impact Study - 2030

Traffic Impact Study – 2030

The image to the right is the crux of the problem.  Somewhere along this path you will have to understand that even without these developments traffic will continue to worsen.  And the forecasts say that by 2030 all the roads will be overcapacity.  This is irreversibly as more and more people move out to the Rural Service Area and live in a suburban way.  The majority of people moving out here are not moving here to grow their own food or livestock, it is to find an alternative to the hustle and bustle of city life.  Or to find cheaper housing.  Most work West of here and that is the problem.  We need more East-West arterial roads to move traffic.  I beg you to embrace this and work together to come up with the ideas needed to fix this.  Commissioner Boyd asked for this at the meeting and he was very serious and genuine but when he asked what you want he was overwhelmed by the crowd just saying “NO”.  The mayor had to put a stop to it or it would have quickly gone out of control.  The commissioners need us to tell them how to fix this and saying no doesn’t fix anything.  We are their boots on the ground so to speak.  If you don’t want the developments then come up with another way to fix the problem we caused instead of saying things are fine.  Things are not fine and sooner or later you will have to realize these charts and traffic volume numbers don’t lie.


Why I am in the middle of all this mayhem!

Accident at Worchester and McCulloch

Accident at Worchester and McCulloch

I am not going to stand by and watch traffic get worse and worse until someone is killed at the University Estates entrance, my entrance, and then 10 years from now hear everyone scream, “fix the traffic” when we have the opportunity now.  The image in my mind that haunts me everyday when I ride my bike to work is to come around that corner and see a minivan with a mother and kids in it struck by a vehicle while she is trying to cross traffic at my intersection and I have done nothing to prevent it.  That is what drives me forward and that is why I am so passionate about this.  I took this picture after watching this accident unfold.  This is not the only accident I have seen at my entrance.  In fact there have been 105 accidents on this one mile stretch of roadway in a two year period.  I am about to write a blog about a project that might occur in Seminole county that will bring more traffic to McCulloch.  Is anyone watching or paying attention to that?

The big question in my mind is how do we not only get ourselves current on the roads but in fact get ahead of the curve.  It seems that everywhere is always playing catch up and never ever get ahead.  I think we can get ahead and have a very nice place to live with good safe roadways.  Call it a pipe dream if you want but you can never achieve if you don’t try.


Back to the BCC meeting

Let’s move on to the meeting.  As I said it was crazy.  I am not really sure why and I am sure it was for good reason but several high profile land use cases were scheduled on the same day.  And before you throw out that it is because the BCC didn’t want many people at the Lake Pickett hearings hoping people will leave, I am sure that is not the case and there is a very good reason.  Whatever the reason the meeting started at 2 pm but Lake Pickett didn’t come up until 7:30 pm.  The hearings lasted until 2:30 am.  7 hours of non-stop action.

There was a large turnout of red shirted Save Orange County people (red SOCs as I affectionately call them).  They were there in opposition with a few people in favor of the developments.  I was there because of traffic and what these developments could do to improve our traffic conditions.


Lake Pickett North Application

Sean Froelich - Lake Pickett North

Sean Froelich – Lake Pickett North

I didn’t think the process was conducted well as the first hearing encompassed both Lake Pickett North AND the Text Amendment.  It was confusing.  In my humble opinion the text amendment should have stood on it’s own first.  If it would have passed we would have been there until 4 am listening and commenting on two more hearing but if it failed we would have all gone home at 9 pm.  Lake Pickett North presented their development ideas and many, many residents who lived around the property marched one by one to the podium to express their displeasure with the development as did some who were for the development or others like myself who were concerned with traffic.  One person spoke well and suggested a impartial traffic study be conducted to look at ways to solve the traffic problems while maintaining the rural character of the area.  He suggested looking at a two lane road across the Econ at McCulloch.  Commissioner Baldocchi opened this door at the Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC) hearing.  All options should be considered keeping in mind the sensitivity of the Econ River Basin and wishes of Seminole County.  At this time, that option is too hot a potato to handle.

Commissioner Ted Edwards

Commissioner Ted Edwards

At the end of the public comment the Commissioners discussed the application.  Commissioner Edwards began as he is our district commissioner.  He called the Econ a great growth management tool and spoke about the sewer lines and their restrictions.  He thinks now is the time to look at developing across the Econ.  He talked about how this was all about transportation and all these roads are partnership roads and have to be developed with partnership dollars.  His position with the applicants is if they were not willing to address the roads, then he would not consider the applications.  The applicants agreed to put in the roads up front which is what we wanted at a cost to them of 27 million.  He also noted the opposition is coming from those who want to keep the area rural and from those that will be impacted by the widening of Lake Pickett Road.  With that Commissioner Edwards stopped to allow other commissioners to voice their opinion.

Commissioner Pete Clarke

Commissioner Pete Clarke

Commissioner Clarke came next and was opposed to LPN and crossing of the Econ.  He would like to see something like rural Wedgefield in this area.  He also mentioned the sewer lines and a promise made in 1998 not to increase the size of the sewer lines other than for the entitlements promised in 1991. He would like to see further work on this to see more to preserve the rural character of the area.

Commissioner Jennifer Thompson

Commissioner Jennifer Thompson

Commissioner Thompson was also against the LPN and said that when she heard about this she was absolutely opposed because she thought how could we put one more car on the roads.  On the opposite side of the fence she has a problem leaving $50 million on the table.  So she was torn but in terms of LPN she was concerned that we would be sold one thing and would end up with something else.  She does believe at some time we will cross the Econ and she did say that whether we want to admit it or not we are already across the Econ.  She does see this as a hole in the donut but that doesn’t mean she supports the hole in the donut.  She also talked about taking the money that may be spent on widening the roads into connectivity and also maybe we advance the money to FDOT to fund the widening of Hwy 50 from the bridge to 419.  She would like us to continue to look at this and maybe find other solutions that perhaps don’t involve the developers.

Mayor Teresa Jacobs

Mayor Teresa Jacobs

Following Commissioner Thompson, Mayor Jacobs said she did not anticipate that we would cross the Econ in her term with more utilities and more development but she also said that these two projects are substantially better than anything that has come before the board.  And the complement of road funding has made this extremely enticing to consider.  But at this point she is not persuaded this is the time to move forward with LPN.  To do something this big and impactful without 100% confidence and conviction that she lacks today, she was not comfortable moving forward with LPN.

Commissioner Scott Boyd

Commissioner Scott Boyd

Commissioner Nelson

Commissioner Nelson

Commissioner Boyd was next and considering what was being said and the temperature of the board he asked if the applicant wanted to speak.  While the applicant was discussing this among themselves, Commissioner Nelson spoke.

He commended Commissioner Edwards and his staff for all their hard work.  He thought perhaps there was a way to work this project and would like to see this project transmitted.

Commissioner Siplin

Commissioner Siplin

At this point in the discussion the vote was 3-3 and the deciding vote fell to Commissioner Siplin.  I sort of feel she was caught out unexpectedly and when she realized the situation that her vote meant going forward or not, reality struck.  No fault of hers but she was definitely put into a position that she handled well.  She had one note that said, “Too good to be true”.

So the unofficial vote was 4-3 against.  At this point in time the applicant decided to request a continuance.  After a minutes of discussion the applicant asked to withdraw.  What that meant is that the applicant can come back in six months with a revised application and re-submit.  If the BCC would have voted, the application would have been withdrawn and the applicant would not be allowed to re-submit for 2 years.  This was a smart move on the applicants part as it allows them to consider the objections to their application and find a way to resolve them.


Lake Pickett South Application

Dwight Saathoff

Dwight Saathoff

Mr. Saathoff didn’t start his presentation because of how the LPN discussion went.  It seemed at this point that everything was dead.  Mr. Testerman from Orange County planning said OC staff needed to make the presentation on Lake Pickett South and then the applicant could speak.

After staff finished his presentation, the staff recommendation was to transmit the applications.  LPS was also recommended to transmit.

Mr. Saathoff spoke about the close proximity to UCF and how there were more than 10,000 homes to the East of this project and east of the Econ was not really rural.  At the end of his presentation he asked for a poll of the board to see where they stood.  It seemed very obvious that he thought this was a wasted effort.

This point in the hearing was very awkward.  No one seemed to know what to do and how to proceed.  Discussions continued about the road money being provided by the developers to fix the roads.  At this point there was no agreement on the roads.  The issue that had not yet been finalized was the  timing of when money would be dispensed.

Public Comment - waiting to speak

Public Comment – waiting to speak

After this public comment followed with many people lining up to speak for 2 minutes.  Again, there was many people speaking in opposition that lived close to the property.  There were also people speaking in favor of the developments.  By the end of the public comment it was almost 2 am.

Commissioner Edwards spoke first.  He talked about the time and effort spent by Orange County staff and then said the decision comes down to the idea of crossing the Econ.  He did point out that it is on Hwy 50 and in more of an urban setting.  He left with a policy decision.

Commissioner Thompson went next.  She thinks the project is unique.  She has concerns about large tracks of land where owners walk away such as the situation with golf courses.  She is dealing with issues with Stoneybrooke and Eastwood in her district.  She was also concerned about the road agreement on Chuluota Road.  Mr. Jon Weiss said it would take 5 years to get to construction of any roads and 2 years to construct the road.  So any road improvements are 7 years out from now.  If the people that live in this community work at Research Park and UCF then there are issues getting people there.  The only avenue at this time is Hwy 50.  She did say that she didn’t know if the uniqueness of this project is enough to vote for crossing the Econ.  It seemed at this point she was a “NO”.

Next was Commissioner Boyd.  He finds the project unique and he has been trying to promote “Ag” in Horizon West.  He also talked about a blueberry pick farm that is very popular.  He is in favor of transmitting to work through the issues.

Commissioner Clarke was still opposed.  He researched Agri-Hood communities and noted that 70% of these communities were devoted to the farms.  The “Grow” is less than 50%.  He thinks we need to take a closer look at this and did mention Wedgefield as an example.  He would like to see less denser development.

Commissioner Siplin went next.  I guess she learned not to be last!  She asked about the road agreements and where we were with that.  Mr. Saathoff explained that he wanted the OC staff to lead the charge and not him.  He noted that he did not want to be in the position to try to get the county to do work.  He wants to give the county money and have OC do the work.  This was the issue with the road agreement.  He is ok with the money.

Commissioner Edwards was surprised that there seems to be interest in pursuing this project.  He explained the road agreement and what he thought it was.  Mr. Weiss, OC planning manager, clarified where OC staff was at now.  He explained that OC did not feel comfortable taking on the road constructions and the over-runs that could occur.  The risk is when the money would be available and available to the county.  Commissioner Edwards did not want to take the risk of transmitting without a road agreement.

Mayor Jacobs said the only way she would support transmittal is if there is an agreed upon road agreement.  Mr. Testerman said the project could be transmitted and a term sheet could come back in a couple weeks for review.

Commissioner Edwards made a motion to transmit under the condition that the terms of the road agreement would be acceptable to the county and contingent upon the Text Amendment.  This transmittal is completely contingent on the Term Sheet which is the road agreement.  If an agreement cannot be reached, the applicant can withdraw the application and come back in the next cycle.

Mayor Jacobs said she would support moving forward on the transmittal but noted compatibility issues as well as road issues that need to be resolved.

The vote for LPS was 5-2 with Commission Thompson and Commissioner Clarke opposed.

The vote for the Text Amendment was made by Commissioner Edwards and passed with a second by Commissioner Boyd with Commission Thompson and Commissioner Clarke opposed.  It was a 5-2 vote.

In my next blog I will explain where I think we are and if the text amendment will survive the adoption phase.  it all hinges on the State approving it and the Road Agreement.  More in my next blog…..

 

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