River Cross - Econ Wilderness Area Land Swap

Seminole County Land Swap – River Cross for the Econ Wilderness Area

To be clear, No one likes this deal and that includes the Seminole County Commissioners.  It is being driven by the developer and the lawsuit against Seminole County.  There’s a lot of passion right now but give these commissioners a break and trust that their main goal is to preserve the rural boundary.  Constantine, Dallari and Zembower are all passionate about the rural boundary and will protect it.  I firmly believe that.  Constantine especially has built a reputation as a defender of natural lands and voted to move forward for good reason.   Dallari and Zembower are right there with him.

Rural Protectors

I know, your probably laughing at my photoshop image but it is there for emphasis and it was fun to do.  And you may be wondering why Lockhart and Carey are not in the picture.  It’s because I don’t exactly know where they stand regarding the rural boundary.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t passionate, just that I haven’t got a feel on where they stand yet.  I’ve watched Constantine, Dallari and Zembower enough to know protection of the rural boundary is top priority.   There will be plenty of time to voice our opinion in the coming months when this moves through the process.

Here’s the facts.

Summary:

The Seminole County Commissioners met with legal council in a closed door meeting to consider the River Cross/Econ Wilderness Area swap. The board considered the proposal and voted 5-0 to move the process forward and see what the developer proposes. This is not an approval of the swap.

Pros:

  • The biggest advantage to this deal is it locks down the rural boundary and puts the River Cross property which is inside the rural service area under control of the county.  This land stretches from the Econ to 419 on the county line (see map).
  • This also helps prevent the mega-development (Sustany) on the Orange County rural side because Sustany can’t use River Cross as justification for their development citing compatible and consistent with the surrounding area.
  • The lawsuit is put on hold while this moves through the process.
  • The 1,200 foot buffer on the Econ means no building can occur next to the Econ and there will be access to the river for citizens on both sides of the river.  The most beautiful part of the Econ Wilderness Area is still accessible. (see map below)
  • Based on the previous River Cross plan (see map, it would seem there is not enough room for the level of development proposed on the River Cross property.  We must wait to see.
  • This is not an agreement with the developer to swap the land, it is only an agreement to move through the zoning process to see what will be proposed.
  • According to sources, although there are fewer acres in the Econ Wilderness Area, the Econ Wilderness Area has a much higher value than the River Cross parcel.  The word is this will not be a one-to-one trade.
  • Water and Sewer and other infrastructure such as roads, police, fire and schools already exist on the urban side.

Cons:

  • Sets a precedence for future land swaps.  This is a big concern.
  • We lose a beautiful untouched wildlife refuge within walking distance for thousands of people.  This hits me right in the heart.
  • Traffic is going to be crazy nuts on McCulloch.  It already is but this would gridlock McCulloch.
  • McCulloch will have to improved to handle the additional traffic.
  • Old Lockwood will have to improved to handle the additional traffic.
  • Urban style development butts right up against the rural boundary with fear of crossing over.
  • Because the Econ Wilderness Area is smaller, development could be more urban and built higher like Legacy Pointe across the street.
  • Cars are killing animals every day on these roads, this will only increase.
  • Wildlife will be pushed further out as more and more land is concreted over.
  • Regeneration of the aquifer is again damaged by impervious surfaces.

Details:

Entertaining this idea put a hold on the lawsuit.  No commitment has been made to proceed as though this is a done deal.  There is skepticism but I have to keep the faith knowing that the commissioners will protect the rural boundary.  Here are some factors at play that you should understand.

First, I love the Econ Wilderness Area.  It is a stone’s throw from my house and within walking distance.  It is 4 miles round trip walk to the river bank and I just would hate to see that change.   So while I am giving you the facts, just know, I, like you, don’t like the idea and wonder why this land?  Why the Econ Wilderness Area?  But knowing that, let’s see how this develops and keep an open mind.  I do believe the ultimate goal of the Seminole County Commissioners is protection of the rural boundary.

The Econ Wilderness Area is considered more valuable than River Cross.  The reasons are because it is in the Urban Service Area and already zoned for higher density.  Also there is water and sewer that do not have to be run across the river to River Cross as well as the benefit of other services such as police, fire and schools.  It is closer to UCF and Research Park and developing this land is far easier than developing land across the Econ.  Infrastructure in some fashion already exists and only changes to the roadway system need to be made, not completely new streets.

The River Cross land is known as the Hi-Oaks Ranch, owned by the Clayton family land company.  You may hear it referred to as the Clayton land.

Chris Dorworth

Chris Dorworth

Seminole County has a 1,200 foot buffer on the Econ so no building can occur in that protected area.  You can see the buffer on the map notated by the green stripped area.  The map shows the land that would be swapped.  On the right is River Cross that Chris Dorworth, the developer, owns.  This is 669 acres located in the rural service area.  The dividing line between the Urban Service Area and Rural Service Area is the Econ River shown in dark blue.  This land is zoned for one unit per 5 acres and the development was denied by the BCC prompting the developer to go to Federal Court to force the county to allow the developer to develop the land.  He cited discrimination as the main reason for his lawsuit.

On the left is the Econ Wilderness Area.  It is 238 acres.  The River Cross land area is 2.8 times greater than the Econ Wilderness Area.  The shaded areas inside River Cross in purple and yellow are the size of the Econ Wilderness Area so as you can see, River Cross is much larger in size.

River Cross - Econ Wilderness Area Land Swap

The map below shows the flood map for the area.  As you can see there is a large flood map area along the Econ River that is protected.  In addition, there are flood map areas inside the two properties that cannot be developed.  There is a tool called mitigation that allows developers to buy land in other areas so they can fill in the conservation areas for development.  This seems to be what is happening on the River Cross land as the River Cross concept plan shows units on flood plane property.  It could be that this tool could be used on the Econ Wilderness Area to fill in the center area but not along the river.

flood map of river cross and the econ wilderness area

The map below shows the original plan for River Cross.  It is massive with single, multifamily houses and commercial property covering the entire property.  It would have been a mixed use development consisting of 600 single ­family residential lots, 270 townhome lots, 500 multi­family units and 1.5 million square feet of commercial uses on approximately 669.4 acres.  That’s a lot.  It would be very difficult to fit all that on 238 acres with  large flood zone right in the middle unless the building goes up.

River Cross first plan

Old Lockwood is being developed and more and more sub-divisions are being built on that road. UCF is building an assisted living facility (Legacy Pointe) that is 6 stories right across the street from the Econ Wilderness Area so it is likely the developer will use that argument as consistent and compatible to justify building height.  Old Lockwood will most likely have to be improved if this project goes through.  In fact, the entire area in Orange and Seminole County will need to be studied to make sure the traffic issues are addressed.

Old Lockwood Road development

The big question in my mind is why does the developer want this particular parcel of land and not another piece of property that may be more suited for urban development such as, for example, the mall area in Oviedo?

Links:

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/seminole-county/os-ne-seminole-county-river-cross-settlement-land-swap-20200128-cjdzwdcyrvh7veerwvdhyeg3uu-story.html?fbclid=IwAR0BOwrwtsJXZvixGCFwdS4huD_kKBfzngL4e-Z-pVQgQ82MXEN73KBI9eM

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Posted in McCulloch Road.