If you haven’t heard of “River Cross” and you live East of UCF and north of Hwy 50 then you should take notice and understand what this is and what the impact is to our area.
If you live in Orange County, you may say, the development is in Seminole County and we live in Orange, why care? If you have been keeping up on the recent development activity in the Lake Pickett area and have concerns then you will probably share the same concerns with “River Cross” magnified 100 times over. Did you hear about HB 883 and how it almost passed allowing urban development within a 3 mile radius of any state college? If not, educate yourself and read this article in the Sentinel. River Cross would have gone in and there would have been nothing any of us could have done to prevent it. That failed because many people stood up and let our elected officials know we were not in favor of a developer trying to usurp the will of the people with an end run through the legislature invading the rural boundary in Seminole County which was voted and passed by the residents of Seminole County. The article says, “He (Constantine) said he suspects Dorworth is pushing for the bill’s amendments.”.
Chris Dortworth is a real-estate investor from Lake Mary who is now attempting to get Seminole County to approve an urban development in the Seminole County rural area. As you can see by the picture above, this is full blown URBAN with 1.5 million square feet of office and retail stores, 500 apartments, 270 townhouses and 80 single family homes (http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/seminole/os-seminole-county-rural-river-cross-20180425-story.html). The Grow doesn’t hold a candle to this city. This is the Grow on mega steroids, an Arnold Schwarzenegger of developments. Sustany which bordered Seminole County had no commercial at all and was defeated in part because of the bridge proposed across the Econ. If Sustany failed, you would ask, what chance does this have?
Why is this on FixMyRoadway as FixMyRoadway is focused on traffic? Before getting into that, let’s first mention the environmental danger and damage this will cause. When Sustany was being proposed, a bridge was part of the plan that crossed the Econ at McCulloch Road. Most everyone was against it; Seminole County, East Orange County, many environmental groups and almost all the citizens who lived close by. Other than the developers, I can’t think of too many people that were in favor. Sustany was on the Rybolt land which borders Seminole County and is just east of the Econ river and north of Lake Pickett. River Cross is just north of the Seminole County line and just east of the Econ. It would border Sustany to the north. And, by the way, if you think Sustany is dead, most expect it to come back in some form in a year so stay tuned for that saga. And if River Cross somehow gets approved, you can be assured the developers of Sustany will use that to get their development through and at a much higher density.
The proof of pollution is in the picture of the development. Anyone can simply follow the flow of water from the stormwater runoff to the west right into the Econ River. Stormwater runoff is oil, grease, debris, fertilizer, grass clippings and garbage like plastic bags and bottles that end up in the retention ponds. Sure there is a filtration effect but that is not 100% and the river will be polluted.
The Econ is not the only environmental concern. The Econ is part of the Econ River Basin which is very flat. Watch my video below to see where the bridge would traverse the Econ and why it is just not a good idea.
Let’s talk about traffic.
McCulloch Road is only one of two roads that allow traffic to move east-west in this area and McCulloch is way over capacity now. Hwy 50 is the other one and was also over-capacity until it was 6-laned from Dean to Avalon Parkway. Whether you realize it or not, traffic is slowly building back up on Hwy 50 and by 2025 will again be over-capacity. You may be aware of two traffic studies underway to extend the 408 expressway to 520. One is by CFX and the other FDOT. The latest news is CFX is holding off on their plan while FDOT finished their study of the Colonial Parkway. The pendulum seems to be swinging in favor of Colonial Parkway but that saga is yet to unfold also.
McCulloch Road is ground zero. Read this post from 2016 and watch the video showing McCulloch Road an “F” rated road two years ago. At that time the Average Daily Volume was 21,000 cars per day. Today it is at 23,000 cars per day. Can you imagine what the traffic will be if a bridge is built across the Econ opening McCulloch up to even more traffic coming from River Cross and beyond? It is hard to imagine the traffic nightmare that will follow.
As mentioned above there are only two roads moving traffic east-west, McCulloch and Hwy 50. That’s all there is and the only option to move more traffic is to add more lanes. That’s why at some point McCulloch will be 4-laned and sooner or later one of the two options, either CFX or FDOT will be selected and built adding 4 more lanes to the Hwy 50 corridor. But even when that happens which will be many years down the road, inevitably these roads will go over capacity assuming development is continued in the same way it is done today. And that is where the real problem is and why all this lane building is only treating the symptom of the disease and not the disease itself.
Now I want to express an opinion that may not be very popular with some but has to be said and I am not alone in this thought. Many people are waking up to this opinion as I now have.
My opinion only. Feel free to agree or disagree. Back in 1993 my family and I moved to East Orange County and build a house in a sleepy little community called University Estates on a no name road called McCulloch. No one used the road at all because parts of Tanner were not paved and all the sub-divisions along Tanner were not there. Our house was the 4th house in out little community. I can’t remember if McCulloch was 4-lane yet but I can say there was nothing at all on it. We lived rural. And the 1/3rd acre lot was standard and no one thought it was a bad thing or even considered the environment; it was status quo; St. Augustine grass and all that nastiness that comes along with “the suburban life”. But we live in a different world today and resources are becoming scarce and there is just too much dependence on cars. If I knew what I know now and how devastating the development model we follow really is, I would never have built a house like I have now. Times have changed and unfortunately if we are to survive, we must also change and it all starts with how we develop going forward.
I think we are chasing cars, pun intended. There is just no way to stay ahead of development and the influx of people moving into the area. We are in fact falling behind and quickly. I don’t think we have a choice anymore and I think our elected officials are going to have to think out of the box and find ways to curtail car usage. How can that be done without taking away the American Way and pissing everyone off?
One thought is to entice developers to re-work dilapidated areas inside the urban service area and build up and not out. One success project that jumps out in my mind was a tired old strip mall at the corner of University Blvd and Alafaya Trail. The whole thing was torn down and a three story apartment complex with restaurants and shops below it took its place. Why aren’t developers enticed to do more of this instead of opting for cheap land in the rural service area that only continues urban sprawl and continues to exasperate the problem?
Another thought to ponder. The people who live in the rural service area want their quality of life and way of life preserved. And why shouldn’t they? We all want our way of life preserved. But take for example “The Grow”. If this development is to happen what sense does it make to continue urban sprawl and continue the dependency on cars which only adds to the problem. Multi-modal is not even considered and Lynx is not even part of this discussion. Why not? The Grow touted the reason for the development is because of it’s close proximity to UCF and Research Park yet there is no easy way for a bike commuter to get to that area. In fact the road called the Richard Crotty Parkway (read my blog on this subject) is a hard “NO” by Research Park. That road puts “The Grow” in bike striking distance to UCF and Research Park and without it, commuters are forced into cars.
And then the density. First, let me emphatically say I am a defender of the rural area, the environment and the way of life of the people who live east of the Econ so don’t start saying I am in cahoots with the developers or I somehow support building urban development in the rural area. That is just not the case. But let’s hypothetically say that The Grow is going to be built, 100% assurance. The people who live in the rural area and are dead set against any development because they want their way of life preserved are actually part of this problem. They insist on rural life and low densities and have fought to reduce the density of The Grow down to an average of 2.4 units per acre with more than 50% open space. A victory in driving the developer down to the lowest possible density. Yes a victory for the people who live around that area but this only adds to the problem and is urban sprawl at it’s finest and the worst possible scenario for the future of mobility and strengthens the never-ending dependence on cars.
If all this continues, “River Cross” will be no different and will continue the urban sprawl model where people will be forced into their cars to commute to work. It is assured that the developers will also highlight close proximity to UCF as the reason for the community but it might as well be 30 miles away as no alternative transportation options will be proposed. The developer will proudly say this is a community with walkable streets but how can that be if people have to get in a car to go to work. Sure they may be able to walk around inside the community but that doesn’t make it walkable because people who live there must travel outside of this community to work. If this development is proposed like all others, no public transit options will be made available. We are being duped into this mindset that if we build a community with high density, nice streets with sidewalks and bike paths that somehow that community is walkable. Even UCF with the close proximity of apartments in not walkable. How many students do you think walk across the street to UCF as opposed to driving over? Some within eye-shot of the destination. How do we wake people up and change this mindset?
If we are to move forward and actually fix our problem, the only way is to find ways to cut the number of cars on the roadways.
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