Orlando Commissioners moved forward Monday night with a billion-dollar shoreline remodeling project of Lake Orlando in Rosemont, signing more than 5,600 new apartments and up to 350,000 square feet of retail space and commercial.
A hearing into the controversial plan lasted more than four hours, with dozens of public comments from neighbors in the community, northwest of College Park. Commissioners approved it on a 5-2 vote, with Commissioner Robert Stuart, who represents the neighborhood, in opposition with Tony Ortiz.
Stuart, in prepared comments, said he had tried to meet with both the developer and affected residents to find a compromise, but was unable to create “meaningful progress,” he said. . He was still not convinced that the plan was compatible with the region.
“In the end, there was no real compromise on this project,” Stuart said.
Mayor Buddy Dyer backed the plan, praising that it would create a downtown area five miles from downtown Orlando.
“We are short of 50,000 affordable housing units in our community, so we have to make decisions like this,” he said. “It’s terribly difficult to redevelop golf courses and I think this developer has come up with a thoughtful plan… he’s creating a downtown area that I think Rosemont has needed for a long time.
This is the second time that city council has heard an appeal regarding the RoseArts plan. A pre-hearing in April led developer Westside Capital to withdraw the plan amid criticism from some commissioners, including Stuart.
It was quickly resubmitted with adjustments: One building was phased out with 350 fewer apartments, adding about 2.6 acres of open space and promising to keep 150 feet between existing homes and buildings of at least five. floors, as well as a 200-foot gap between houses and eight-story buildings.
In addition, around 10% of the units were for ‘attainable housing’, meaning that rents would be set at an average price of 60% of the region’s median income, but would scale up to the region’s median income. region, presented by land use. lawyer Rebecca Wilson representing the developer.
Wilson said the developer had agreed to cut units at that rate, down from 80% of the region’s median income, as proposed to the planning board last month. The median income in the area is around $ 76,000 for a family of four.
The play won the support of Commissioner Regina Hill, who said she voted in favor of creating new housing for working families.
“These are people who work, these are not people who live in subsidized housing,” she said of the people who rent these units. “Doing a little too much not to receive a subsidy, but not yet enough to own a property.”
Curtis Hunter Jr., who has lived in the neighborhood for 21 years, criticized plans to go for the most expensive attainable threshold.
“The new proposal did not include any affordable housing,” he said, criticizing the RoseArts plan for “destroying” the neighborhood.
Hunter was among 46 people who appealed the municipal planning council vote last month to approve the massive development. Others complained on Monday that the proposal was too dense for the neighborhood, would strain the area with increased traffic and nearly double its population.
Mary Bailey, a resident of Rosemont for 21 years, warned that the development would set a “dangerous precedent” by allowing the developer to remodel a neighborhood on an abandoned golf course, which is home to rare birds and other wildlife.
“The reality of Rosemont has nothing to do with its reputation. It’s a beautiful natural environment that was never meant to be an urban downtown, ”said Bailey, who walks his 175-pound Great Dane around Lake Orlando on a daily basis.
Miami-based Westside Capital’s plan is to build in three phases over about a decade on 128 acres.
But a few supporters of the plan who spoke on Monday said revitalization is needed and a proliferation upgrade that has passed the abandoned golf course. Others said the thousands of new apartments would be a boost in Orlando and boost property values.
“The Rosemont golf course has long been abandoned and has become an eyesore,” said Sophie Berhie, a resident of Rosemont for three years.
Charlie Guns argued that the mixed-use plan was “the highest and best use of abandoned property” and that the density would encourage residents and people outside of Rosemont to spend money there. .
“A community needs high density to fit into today’s environmentally conscious lifestyle,” Guns said.