Orange County Community Meeting

5/27/2015 – Setting Expectations

In a few short days the 3rd and final Lake Pickett Community meeting will be held. This one is to wrap up the meetings so Orange County staff can prepare to present to the LPA (Local Planning Agency) and following that the BCC (Board of County Commissioners).

The meeting is at Corner Lakes Middle School on June 2nd at 6:30 pm.  

Please attend.

This meeting is important because Orange County staff will again take notes of comments, suggestions and concerns from residents. This information is used when they prepare their presentation to the LPA (Local Planning Agency) and BCC (Board of County Commissioners).  We have been told there will be a discussion on traffic which is the primary concern of most people who live in this area.

I am very concerned about traffic.  Every time I go down McCulloch and think what it will be in 10 years if nothing is done to fix it, I feel saddened and dismayed.  This goes for N. Tanner, Lake Pickett, S. Tanner, 419 and Hwy 50 as well.

Here are some facts for you to consider:

  • FACT: If the Lake Pickett properties are denied, there will be no fixes to any roads except Hwy 50 from Dean to Old Cheney which is underway now.
  • FACT: HWY 50 is a state FDOT (Federal Department of Transportation) project, not county.
  • FACT: The HWY 50 section from Old Cheney to 520 is on the FDOT project chart but is not funded.  It will be many years before it is funded with money from the Federal Highway Trust Fund.
  • FACT: The county has very little money to build roads.
  • FACT: MetroPlan just passed a motion to reallocate up to 30% of money now used for roads into mass transit (buses, Sunrail) starting in 2020.  If money is diverted there is less money for roads.  Money comes from the Federal Highway Trust Fund
  • FACT: 18.4 cents of every dollar at the pump goes into a Federal Highway Trust Fund which filters down to the state and county to pay for roads.
  • FACT: The Federal Highway Trust Fund is in trouble.  Here is the most blunt phrase in this article: “But the fund is nearly broke.”  Read here:
  • FACT: The county relies on Road Agreements with developers to build and improve road.
  • FACT: The county is relying very heavily on the Lake Pickett developers to pay for a very large portion of the roadway improvements.
  • FACT: Many of the county roads are failing or will fail in the near future.  Meaning the roads are over-capacity.
  • FACT: None of the roads in this area are on the county’s project chart so it will be many many years before anything is improved
  • FACT: Regardless of these developments, more traffic will come to our roadways and the problem will get worse.
  • FACT: At some point these properties will be developed.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want the roads fixed?
  • Do you want the area to stay rural and nothing done to the roads?
  • Do you want to see our traffic problem get worse and worse over time?

I can’t answer these questions for you, all I can do is impart knowledge I have that has been gathered over years of research on this subject.  Personally, at this meeting I want to hear what the county and developers have to say.  I want to see what can be done to fix these roads.  I want to see the impact the developments will have on the area and if there is a way to work together to solve the problems.  I think we are moving in the right direction.  There have been many meetings and phone calls to make this work and solve our traffic problem keeping the way of life of the residents in the forefront.

Here are some examples of gains over the last months:

  • The developers reduced the housing densities
  • Lake Pickett road has been buffered to be rural in nature
  • The Seminole County line has a 400 ft buffer and low density housing
  • S. Tanner has buffers with one acre lots and no lots will exit onto S. Tanner.  the lots have the same width as the lots across the street.
  • In LPS (Lake Pickett South) densities are highest along Hwy 50 and in the center of the properties away from the county roads.  There will be no apartments on the property.
  • In LPN (Lake Pickett North) densities are highest at the center.  There will be only residential homes with no commercial or apartments allowed.
  • The rights of citizens living in the area are foremost in the minds of the developers and county
  • The county has revised the amendment several times based on input from residents – still in draft now
  • A bright light is on this area and we are forefront in the minds of the county and other agencies.  We have focus now.

I feel the only way we will fix this problem is to find a way to work together to solve it.  Just saying no does not provide solutions.  We are in a situation that requires compromise and a give and take on all sides if this problem is to be solved.  All I ask is you come to this meeting with an open mind and willingness to listen.  If this meeting is promising, I would like to see the process move forward to the next step where the real work begins.  The BCC vote on July 28th is for “Transmittal” which only means it has promise.  The second BCC (Board of County Commissioners) vote late in the year is for “Adoption” which is the final vote.  But in between there is a myriad of hurdles that have to be crossed and the primary one being the Roadway Agreement.  This could all fall apart if the county and developers cannot come to an agreement.  Believe me when I say this.  If Commissioner Edwards has a hard choice making a motion for “Transmittal”, he will have an even harder choice making a motion for “Adoption”.  I believe he will be working very hard to make sure this will work because our future depends on it.  I think this just might be the hardest decision he will have to make in all the years he has served a a commissioner and I for one will be praying for him to make wise, thoughtful and good decisions.

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Orange County Community Meeting

5/20/2015 – Traffic ideas sent to Orange County

20150602 - Lake Pickett Community Meeting Announcement

20150602 – Lake Pickett Community Meeting Announcement

The Lake Pickett Community Meeting has been scheduled!
June 2nd at 6:30 pm – Corner Lakes Middle School.  

Please attend!

PDF versions of the announcement:

2015-2-A-5-1 LPS Community Meeting Notice 06-02-2015 (updated)
2015-2-A-5-2 LPN Community Meeting Notice 06-02-2015 (updated)

Before we delve into the middle of these ideas, indulge me for a minute. Imagine you have been instantly teleported onto a huge aircraft carrier out in the middle of the ocean.  You don’t know anyone, you have no idea where you are or where you are going.  All you know is what you see around you and the ship is moving but you don’t know where. All you want to do is get home.  If you walk up to someone and tell them to turn the ship around and take you home, they will probably look at you with a strange look or tell you to go talk to someone else, maybe lock you up or most likely just ignore you because your request sounds ludicrous.

We are on that aircraft carrier.  The ship is called USS Orange County and the direction has already been set long before we got on this boat.  To think that we, who might just be getting involved, can turn this mammoth vessel just because we want to would be preposterous.   It takes time, effort and a good deal of work to convince the captain to turn the ship.  We need to keep this in mind when we tell Orange County we want the ship reversed when the course has already been set many years before.  There is already a plan for these roads that we really don’t fully comprehend.  We first need to understand the plan and analyze it and then make suggestions on how it might be improved or what should be prioritized first.  As a very good example, I was unaware of a term called, “partnership roads” until just recently. Do you know what a “partnership road” is?  This is the type of education and awareness that needs to take place before we have the right to demand what we want.  First we must listen to what is being proposed, analyse it and understand the whole plan. We can share our ideas anytime but without a picture of the whole puzzle our ideas might not fit into the puzzle.

Below is an email I sent to Orange County with my traffic ideas. You can also view this 7 minute video that shows it graphically. My video is a bit slow going at times and also somewhat crude but if you stick it out, you will learn a lot. I did receive feedback on these ideas and have some information that is valuable to understand why some of this will or will not be considered.  I will share more of why some of my ideas cannot be considered at this time in my next blog.

PDF of Video presentation in preparation for 20150512 community meeting

From: []
Sent: Wednesday, May 13, 2015 7:52 AM
To: District 5 Commissioner’s Office; Rummel, Lynette; Vargas, Alberto A; Testerman, Chris; Weiss, Jon; Hardy, Blanche V; Nastasi, Renzo; Souvorova, Janna; ‘Dwight Saathoff'; ‘Froelich, Sean'; ‘Lee Kernek'; Subject: RJ’s traffic ideas for the area

I do not have Olan’s email so if a staff member could please forward this to him, I would appreciate it.

As you know there was a traffic plan proposed by the applicants that would add a road that is being called the “Woodbury extension” that links to Lake Pickett.

I would like to throw out a possible alternative solution for your review.  I have pretty thick skin so I would very much appreciate very constructive candid feedback as to why the plan I am proposing would not work.  I understand there are some issues with Research Park roads being private but I need to look at this purely from what I think is best for this area.  Please understand this is from the point of view of a resident who lives in this area and has studied the roads and patterns.  I am not a traffic expert and am far beneath the level of expertise all of you have when it comes to this area.  It is simply an idea to be considered or modified but may give you ideas that perhaps can help.

From a novice perspective, here is my thinking regarding traffic.  The details are listed below but I also put together a video explaining my idea.  You can view it here:  It is crude but it gets the point across.  I also attached a pdf of the slides from the video.  The other attachments are distances using each route that a commuter would take to get to UCF.


First let me review what I think the pros and cons of the road network solution offered from my point of view.  Refer to the map below the bullet points.

  • 4 laning McCulloch does not fix N. Tanner and cements it in stone as one of only two east-west corridors.
  • The Research Park extension would probably never be considered if McCulloch is 4 laned.
  • The Woodbury extension only alleviates traffic on Hwy 50 for a certain period of time and then Hwy 50 fails again as I am told
  • 4 laning Lake Pickett to the east will drive more traffic up S. Tanner to Lake Pickett and drive traffic down Lake Pickett through the Woodbury extension to the 408 to circumvent the 9 lights.
  • 4 laning Lake Pickett will also drive more traffic towards McCulloch
  • Accelerating Hwy 50 to 419 is a good thing
  • 4 laning 419 from Lake Pickett to Hwy 50 is good because it drives traffic to Hwy 50
  • 6 laning Hwy 50 is good because in the short term it will help traffic
  • No one is discussing bicycle and pedestrian traffic
    • The applicants show slides showing this development helping housing for employees and students at UCF and Research Park, Siemens and other companies in the area.
    • The Woodbury extension does not help this as it goes to the south end of Research Park and far from UCF
    • This is outside the distance for a cycling commuter.
      • I commute with a bike and I feel the maximum distance a commuter is willing to ride a bike one way is below 5 miles and that’s a stretch. My commute is 1.5 miles and it could easily be double that without ill effects.
      • From Lake Pickett and S. Tanner to the Student Union on campus going Woodbury extension is almost 5.83 miles.  (see attachments on distances)
      • In my opinion this is outside the range for a cycling commuter.
  • The cost of the Woodbury extension would most likely be 20+ million
    • This is important because with reduced density there is less money for roads
    • This severely impacts the money the applicants can apply to the roads
    • It is possible there will not be enough money for these changes
  • The Woodbury extension will promote cut-through traffic through the entire length of Research Park
    • Challenger Pkwy is already red according to Google traffic maps
Applicant - LPN - idea to help solve the traffic problem in East Orange County

Applicant – LPN – idea to help solve the traffic problem in East Orange County

My solution.  Refer to the map below the bullet points.

  • McCulloch should remain 2 lane
  • Extend Research Parkway over to N. Tanner
    • It effectively 4 lanes McCulloch by adding 2 east-west lanes
    • It will alleviate traffic on McCulloch as well as N. Tanner
    • There are no houses to take down as it is a utility easement
    • This is already slated as a County Partnership Project
    • It provides a south entrance into UCF from the east that is sorely needed
    • It provides an easier route to University Blvd
    • It will alleviate north-south cut-through traffic through Research Park that would be there if the Woodbury extension is put in
    • The cost would probably be somewhere around 10 million
    • This would activate another north-south road for traffic which is Percival
      • Commuter would have a choice of either Percival or N. Tanner to take to the new road
      • This will alleviate the traffic at Lake Pickett and N. Tanner interchange
    • This is just inside the range for a bicycle commuter.
      • From Lake Pickett and S. Tanner to the Student Union on campus going the Research Pkwy extension is about 4.52 miles
      • Going all the way up to McCulloch and then back down to the Union is about 5.09 miles so it cuts .5 miles off a commute
  • 4 lane Lake Pickett from Percival to Hwy 50 to entice commuter to use this road in lieu of Lake Pickett and S. Tanner
  • 6 laning Hwy 50 will help traffic in the short term
  • 6 laning Hwy 50 from Old Cheney to 419 will help traffic in the short term also
  • 4 laning 419 from Lake Pickett to Hwy 50 will also help traffic head towards Hwy 50
  • Hopefully the 408 study will come back positive and a road can be built to fix the long term east-west traffic problems that are sure to come
  • This whole plan is designed to focus commuters into the USA and onto the main arterial roads and away from the RSA country roads
  • Woodbury south of Hwy 50 has to be 4 laned as it is a failing road
RJs traffic ideas for East Orange County

RJs traffic ideas for East Orange County

Distance to UCF Student Union From S. Tanner - 01

Distance to UCF Student Union From S. Tanner – 01

Distance to UCF Student Union From S. Tanner - 03

Distance to UCF Student Union From S. Tanner – 03

Distance to UCF Student Union From S. Tanner - 04

Distance to UCF Student Union From S. Tanner – 04

From: []
Sent: Thursday, May 14, 2015 6:48 PM
To:; District5Commissioner’;;;;;;;;;;;
Subject: RE: RJ’s traffic ideas for the area


All ideas are appreciated  and valued –

I’m not sure if you are proposing the concept you describe as part of the LPS & LPN projects or not.  At any rate, your proposal is fairly consistent with the east-west road concept that the County has identified in our Long Range Plan (although we would want to avoid impacting Research Park and University property).  In addition, it’s important to note that the Long Range Plan is just that, and is not intended to identify a specific alignment but just a conceptual corridor location for further evaluation.

Having said all that, the County’s immediate concern is to address roadways that are currently over capacity as required by our Comprehensive Plan.  In this case, where we already have failing segments of roadways (Lake Picket, SR 50, Culuota and McCulloch).  Although, an east west connection as depicted in your concept or the one in the Long Range Plan would provide for an alternative, it would not negate the need to undertake improvements to the failing network.  In essence, the failing segments of roadways would continue to fail even with the east west road.  Moreover, in order to meet the Comprehensive Plan requirements, our first responsibility, as already intimated, is to address the currently failing segments of roadways and preserve the investment we have already made there.

The traffic distribution issue you describe below will have to be assessed in context to the traffic analysis that these developers will be submitting (we receive LPN but waiting on south).  By the time the next community meeting takes place we hope to have traffic distribution results available.

As to the issue of bike/ped facilities, the County has been very clear about having an interconnected multimodal system – which is required by a series of Comprehensive Plan requirements – and as I understand it, both developers are well aware of these issues and are prepared to meet our requirements/standards.

Please let me know if I did not sufficiently answer your questions or need additional information.


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Traffic in East Orange County

5/13/2015 – Some crystal ball stuff about traffic

At the May 12th meeting I heard a lot of people asking a lot of questions about traffic so I thought I would write a blog of what I know.  Here it is in no priority order and completely random as thoughts come to my mind.  Let me put a disclaimer on all of these comments as they are just my comments and only educated guesses so if it doesn’t turn out like this, it is only my best guess.  It will be interesting to look back in 6 months and see how close I came to the mark.  But if you want to know what I know, read on.

South Lake Pickett Farm SKetch

South Lake Pickett Farm SKetch

Will the developments be built?

There is no crystal ball but I do know this.  I have watched countless hours of video from the BCC (Board of County Commissioner)  meetings and they always make very thoughtful votes and in favor of the majority. I can almost tell you how each board member will vote based on how they have voted in the past.  If there is an overwhelming number of people against this development, I will go out on a limb and say that Commissioner Edwards will not support the developments and most likely the other commissioners and mayor will vote in sync.  I have seen some very gut wrenching and difficult votes that had to be made and saw all kinds of emotion from the commissioners and mayor.  Emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, empathy, regret, and joy too.  My personal feeling is these men and women try to do what is best for us, the residents.

The process goes like this.  When a rezoning is in front of the BCC, the commissioner from that district is responsible for making the motion and is then seconded by another member and then a vote is taken.  In this case, Commissioner Edwards, our commissioner in District 5, will be asked to make the motion as this is in District 5 and he is the commissioner who initiates the vote.  I don’t know what he is thinking right now but if I were in his shoes seeing the tone at the meetings and the situation traffic is in right now, at this moment I could not support the developments and would make a motion against.  Who can tell what the next few weeks will bring.  These developments hinge on traffic and a solution to the problem and enough money from the developments to help fix traffic.  If there is a solution to traffic as residents are most concerned about then it might move forward.  Commissioner Edwards is well aware of this and I am confident will make the right decision when the time comes.

What is the county staff role in the application process?

I have had a lot of interaction with county staff through emails, phone calls and meetings.  I find the staff to be very customer oriented, very professional, courteous and willing to help in any way.  The staff have a very difficult job in my opinion.  Whatever they feel inside, they must remain neutral.  The application process is defined by law and no one in the county has the option to deny an application from going through the defined process.  If the applicant wants to take it all the way to the BCC for a vote they have that option.  The staff can recommend denial but in the end the BCC makes the decision.  If the staff recommends transmittal then it is purely based on consistency with the Comprehensive Plan.  The staff looks at a boat load of criteria that has to be met and if every one is checked off then they find the application consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and will recommend transmittal.  Recommending transmittal means it will go before the BCC for a vote for transmittal.  This means the applications can move to the next step which is Adoption.  If I were to sum up the role of the Orange County staff, it would be this statement that was told to me by one of the county staff.  She said, “we are the guardians of the residents”.  I liked that and I do believe this is their function and their job.  I will say that the signing of the bill by the governor in 2011 made their job much harder and easier for developers to get developments through the system.  But in the end they have to perform their job as defined and required by law.

Will the Woodbury extension be built?

Good question. First, only if the developments are approved.  Without developer money it will never be built because the county doesn’t have the money to build it.  Let’s establish that fact first.  In fact if the developments are not approved you can say goodbye to any road improvements whatsoever as there is no money for road improvements and our roads are not even on the project chart or way down the list.  And with this recent vote at MetroPlan, it will be even harder to get funding.  Watch the video above to get the details.

Woodbury extension

Woodbury extension

The Woodbury extension is a new road that would go from the corner of Lake Pickett and Percival over to Woodbury and Challenger Pkwy.  I think there is a very slim chance this will occur even if the developments are approved.  This is based on a couple of facts.  Eminent Domain would have to be used to buy houses and property to build the road.  This is very expensive and a ball park estimate would be something around 20+ million for this road which includes buying property.  I seriously doubt there is enough money being contributed by the applicants to pay for this road as well as all the other improvements necessary  Let’s add things up.  20 million for Woodbury, 15 million for Lake Pickett, 10 million for 419, 10 million for McCulloch.  We are at 55 million and that doesn’t even touch Hwy 50 which is a state road.  Originally the developers were going to put in about 55 million but that was at higher densities than they have now so let’s say at the density they have now I would estimate 35 million.  There is just not enough money to do all the work that needs to be done.  Seeing Woodbury is so expensive and this idea very much disliked by the residents, I would think it might go by the wayside but the traffic presentation in a couple of weeks should reveal what the most likely course will be.

Will McCulloch be 4 laned?

McCulloch is a hot potato.  It is on then it is off.  About 15-20 years ago the county was going to 4 lane McCulloch from Dean all the way over to N. Tanner but the residents close to McCulloch and Rouse raised such a fuss that it was killed and in fact put on a “do not touch” list forever.  It is still on the list even though it is on another list that says it should be 4 laned.  As of right now it is untouchable.  It will not be improved in any way.  I can say for sure that the bridge across the Econ will not happen any time soon.  That has been verified many times by county staff, our commissioner, the developers and just about anyone else I ask.  That is off the table for now.  But 4 laning McCulloch from Lockwood to N. Tanner is sort of on and off.  Right now it is a no go but may be back on the table with the traffic study that is underway now.  In any case, we will know soon enough what the recommendation will be when Orange County staff completes their study.  My best guess will be it will be 4 laned.

Will Lake Pickett be 4 laned?

Again, it depends on if these developments go in.  If the developments don’t happen, forget it.  There is no money to do it.  If the developments go in then my very clear vision tells me it will be 4 laned as shown on the diagram above.  It has to be to support the traffic from LPN.  There is just no other way to move traffic effectively to the west from LPN.

 Will 419 be 4 laned?

Again, it depends on if these developments go in.  If the developments don’t happen, forget it.  There is no money to do it.  But as Renzo Nastasi said in the May 12th meeting, it will only be 4 laned from Lake Pickett to Hwy 50.  It will not be 4 laned from Lake Pickett to the county line.

Will Hwy 50 be 6 laned?

In time regardless of the developments.  Construction is already underway from Dean to Old Cheney which also includes the bridge across the Econ.  The bridge will be stripped for 4 lanes but will be built to handle 6 lanes so when the time comes it is ready.  From Old Cheney to 520 is on the books to be done but currently unfunded so without these developments it is a long way off but at some point will be done.  LPS has said they will front the money to 6 lane Hwy 50 from Old Cheney to 419 to accommodate their development.  When I say front I mean loan the money to the state which will be paid back at some future date.

Will traffic ever be fixed out here?

My crystal ball tells me no in no uncertain terms if the developments are killed.  If the developments do go in then it is questionable if there will be enough money to really make a difference.  Again, we need to wait for the traffic study in a couple weeks.  The cold hard facts are that Orange County doesn’t have any money to fix the roads and are turning to the only source they can to get money to build roads which is developers.  Here is how it works whether we like it or not and when I say we I mean everyone including Orange County staff, the BCC and even the developers themselves.  In this case the developers are being squeezed for every dollar that can possible come from them because Orange County knows how bad our traffic problem is and wants to fix it.

With the MetroPlan Board vote explained above we are in for a hard road.  The only other option is a tax.  Usually this is a 1 cent tax for a period of time but there are issues that go along with this.  The biggest one being trust.  If the taxes are collected how do we know our roads will be fixed and not spent on another part of the county.  And politicians know they are not very popular and have traditionally shied away from this tax.  It may be our only option out of this but it must be done in such a way that the roads the taxes are used on are clearly defined.

What does Seminole County think of all this?

Seminole County is very concerned with these developments.  They want to remain rural in this area.  There was a request by Seminole County to enter into a joint agreement of some sort with Orange County that did not materialize.  View this video with Brenda Carey who is one of the Commissioners from Seminole County speaking about this at the Expressway Authority meeting.  I think it sums up what Seminole County is thinking.

Orange County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Schedule

Orange County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Schedule

What happens on July 28th?

Maybe nothing if the deadline for the traffic study is not met.  You can see the timeline on the right.  We are in the community meeting part of the process and there is a traffic study from LPS that Orange County (OC) is waiting for.  If the traffic study doesn’t come in time, there is a chance this will have to be pushed off to the next cycle.  I don’t think LPS wants to wait so they will do all they can to get the traffic study to OC.  But then staff has to review both LPN and LPS traffic studies and combine them into their traffic study to see if they can work.  If they don’t feel it can adequately accomodate the traffic problems then they won’t recommend transmittal.  This doesn’t mean the applications won’t go forward.  The applicant themselves can force them forward without the consent of OC staff.  If that happens the applications go to the LPA (Local Planning Agency) for review and approval or denial to go to the BCC.  Even if the LPA denies the applications they can proceed to the BCC for approval or denial.  The BCC can then approve or deny the applications for transmittal and this happens on July 28th.

Application Process

Application Process

What is transmittal?

Transmittal means the applications can enter the Adoption phase where the real work begins.  This is where all of the different agencies get involved to ensure the developments meet their requirements.  This includes agencies such as OCPS, Police, Fire, St. Johns and a myriad of other agencies.  Each agency will look at the developments and make comments in their area of expertise.  These comments go to staff and are compiled for the second go around. More community meetings but with much more detail and another vote by the BCC at a future date.

I hope this gives you some idea of what is going to happen and standing up in a meeting and just saying we don’t want these developments is not quite so simple.  What is being heard is you want things to stay the same and you don’t want traffic fixed.  That is what will happen.  Orange County will hear loud and clear that you don’t want the developments and therefore you don’t want the traffic fixed. I don’t think that is what most people really want but that will be the end result, no fix for traffic.

I am just looking at this in a very pragmatic way.  I am not behind the developer or the county or the residents or a faction such as SOC who strictly wants no change to the area which translates to no change to the roads.  If that is what you want then be content sitting in traffic and be prepared to sit longer and longer as each day passes and the years go by.  If you want traffic fixed then think about what has been written in this post.

My position is this.  If these developers can help solve our traffic problem with the county and perhaps some other innovative ideas then I am all for and even a one cent gas tax if that means fixing our roads.  But if these developments only add more traffic to our already congested roads then it is not a good option.  I will trust the traffic experts at Orange County to come up with the right answers and do what they are supposed to do which is work for us.

I will be posting an email I sent to Orange County with a plan that I think will work.  Keep in mind I am not a traffic expert and am only looking at this from what I know.  I have already received some not so positive feedback on my ideas but that is exactly what we need to hear, the truth.  We need to know what we are up against so we can work to fix it.

If you got down this far in this blog it must mean you are interested enough in these issues. I would encourage everyone to go to this next meeting with an open mind and not look on anyone as “the bad guy”. I think we are all in this together and it is together that we will come to a solution.

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road repairs

5/14/2015 – Two issues that will impact you that you never knew hit you

Sometimes things happen that affect us that we never know happened until it is too late.  Here are two:

sun rail train

sun rail train

1.   30% of our gas tax money from road improvements can be diverted to mass transit

This one is a done deal and already voted on.  I attended a MetroPlan meeting and there was a vote taken to potentially divert 30% of our gas tax money from road improvements into mass transit.  The way I understand this is our gas tax money goes into a pot to fix our roads and build new roads.  Now MetroPlan Orlando which is a board of 19 key members in 3 counties has the opportunity to take 30% of this money and put it into mass transit if they vote on it and approve it starting in 2020.  The reason for 2020 is because MetroPlan does not want to rearrange projects that are already approved on the 5 year plan so this would take effect after the 5 years.

How does this affect us?  Our gas tax money is how our roads are maintained.  Orange County uses the gas tax money it receives to maintain the roads such as fixing potholes.  Starting in 2020 if the MetroPlan votes for a mass transit project over road improvements then expect more potholes and more mass transit such as buses and Sun Rail.

The vote at the MetroPlan meeting was unanimous with Commissioner Edwards fully against it.  If that sounds wierd, it is.  A vote was taken and before Commissioner Edwards could vote no, Chairman Swan moved on to the next subject.  Commissioner Edwards comments immediately after on the vote and was told the vote was done.  Commissioner Edwards left the meeting at that time.  Shortly after Chairman Swan brought the subject back after being advised that the vote should have asked for any opposed.  A new vote was taken and was unanimous because Commissioner Edwards was not present with a note in the minutes stating that Commissioner Edwards was not present.  That was a bit strange watching it unfold.  Here is a memo written by Commissioner Edwards to Chairman Swan expressing concern over the vote.  Memo from Commissioner Edwards RE MetroPlan Board Discussion

installing utility poles

installing utility poles

2.  A bill that was defeated but has momentum and is due to come back that will affect roads

There is a bill that went through legislature that was backed by utility companies to stop utility companies from paying for the relocation of utilities such as poles and make the local government pay for this relocation when roads are changed or built.  This would add a tremendous burden to road repairs and new roads.  It was defeated but has a powerful lobbyist effort behind it driven by utility companies.  It will probably reappear in the next fiscal year which starts in September.  We need to keep an eye on this as it will most certainly affect  road upkeep.

Check out this video and article from Channel 9.

FOX 35 News Orlando

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Orange County Community Meeting

5/13/2015 – Update on the Lake Pickett Community meeting last night

May 19th meeting has been postponed!

LPN cancellation notice

LPS cancellation notice

Last night was a very interesting meeting which was attended by roughly 300+ people.

There was confusion over the agenda for the meeting as many people thought it was about traffic but Orange County had planned to discuss the actual text amendment that the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) will vote on on July 28th.  Some people were very upset traffic was not the topic.

Dwight Saathoff

Dwight Saathoff

Orange County staff began the meeting and then turned it over to Dwight Saathoff from “The Grow”.  Mr. Saathoff went through a presentation on the development and then answered questions.  The tone of the meeting started with the first speaker who was very vocal and upset that the meeting was not to discuss traffic.  As a parade of residents lined up at the microphone most of the questions revolved around traffic and how it would be fixed.  This lasted for quite some time with Mr. Saathoff offering some answers but mostly deferring to Orange County.  Mr. Saathoff did say the density of the development would be around 2,200 units, down from 2,900 units.

After this presentation, Sean Froelich from “Sustany” did a presentation on that property which did not last too long and again, lines of residents fromed at the microphone to ask questions mostly about traffic.

Renzo Nastasi, Manager of Transportation Planning Division

Renzo Nastasi, Manager of Transportation Planning Division

Due to the overwhelming number of questions about traffic, some time at the end was devoted to traffic with Renzo Nastasi from Orange County answering the questions.  Near the end of the meeting he made a comment that most likely the next meeting will center around traffic.  In addition to traffic, the plan for the next meeting is to wrap up the meeetings so Orange County staff can gather their notes and prepare a document for the Local Planning Agency (LPA) and the BCC to review and vote to approve or deny the text amendment.

It is very important to keep the target in the front of our minds.  This vote is not about approving the developments and the concepts you saw at the meeting.  It is about approving a re-zoning change to the Comprehensive Plan that will allow these developments to be built at a higher density than is currently allowed.

My concern from the meeting last night was not about traffic.  We will get into that at the next meeting.  It was more about the consistency between what the developers are telling us their density will be and what the text amendment allows.  If you listened closely to Mr. Saathoff he talked about Transect (T1, T2, T3 and T4)  But he spoke of them as “T2 South” and his T2 was different from the text amendment T2 in that it was less dense.  These need to come together as one.  If the density that Mr. Saathoff is asking for in T2 is 3 units per acre but the text amendment says 5 units per acre, there is a disparity that needs to be fixed.  The text amendment should say T2 is 3 units per acre and the maximum allowable number of units on the property is 2,200.

I will express this concern to Commissioner Edwards and the staff through an email.

I have heard that there will most likely not be a meeting next week and will post as soon as it is official but my educated guess is there will be no meeting.

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Orange County Community Meeting

5/8/2015 – What I know as of this time about the Lake Pickett Text Amendments

I have had several emails and conversations regarding the Lake Pickett Properties so I thought I would bullet point the latest info.

Traffic Questions:

  • Question:  Traffic on McCulloch is the worst it has been and increasing every day. From my point of view I see these developments adding to the problem and creating a gridlock earlier in time. What is the plan to reduce the traffic on McCulloch?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      Traffic on McCulloch cannot be reduced but can be accommodated/managed better.  A potential approach could be to widen McCulloch to a four lane section (where two lanes currently exist).  The widening will have a positive effect in managing traffic on that road – however, the Board will have to amend the Comp Plan to do so.  To be clear, the improvements would entail the widening of the existing two lane section and not extending the road eastward.  Short of widening, a series of intersection/signal improvements may have a positive effect in managing traffic.
  • Question:  Hwy 50 from Avalon Park Blvd to Alafaya is a parking lot during rush hour. From my point of view these developments will only add to this gridlock. What is the plan to handle the 9 light problem on Hwy 50?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      SR 50 extending from east of Dean Road to east of Old Cheney is currently under construction by the FDOT and is scheduled to be complete in September of 2016. The widening to six lanes should alleviate much of the traffic delay currently being experienced on that section. There are no plans to remove any signals since each one was warranted. Signals are being coordinated during the construction phases to the best extent possible – however, coordination should be more effective once construction is complete.
  • Question:  We have heard that the Expressway Authority is in the midst of a traffic study to extend the 408, do you have an update and what affect it will have on these developments?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      The Expressway has initiated a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study to extend SR 408 from its current terminus to SR 520.  An evaluation of the effect of this road will have on the existing and future development/traffic will be addressed within the context of the PD&E and future traffic and revenue studies to be completed be the Expressway Authority. 
  • Question:  At a meeting with staff recently a map was shown with road failures that did not seem accurate and a question was raised regarding the latest traffic study. When was the latest official traffic study done for these roads by Orange County and if not when is one planned?  Shouldn’t we know the impact to the roads before transmittal?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      Orange County undertakes annual traffic counts on the county roadway system as well as selected state roads. The traffic counts are in part used to determine level of service/capacity evaluations based on the characteristics of individual roadways. Traffic counts conducted by the County are taken at various counting stations along individual roads. The Lake Pickett North applicant, as part of their traffic analysis (for Lake Pickett Road and Chuluota Road) has submitted traffic counts taken at additional locations other than those completed by the County. Therefore, according to the applicant, the additional data derived from the supplemental counts indicate that sections of both Lake Pickett Road and Chuluota Road do not currently fail. The County in turn is assessing the submitted data to determine the validity of the information provided to us.

      In short, the issue has to do with additional traffic counts producing differing results than those completed by the County’s annual traffic count program. The intent of the traffic studies for both applicants is to determine the impacts to the roadway network should one or both developments proceed – hence, impacts to the network associated with these developments should be available prior to transmittal.

Econ Questions:

  • Question:  What does St. Johns Water Management say about this development?
    • Answer from Orange County: 
      Should the Commission select to approve Transmittal; the District will receive a copy of the package for review and comment.
  • Question: What is the effect to Seminole County seeing the Econ River flows into Seminole County on its way to the St. Johns
    • Answer from Orange County: 
      Several criteria are in place and will need to be met to assure no adverse effect takes place on the Econ or other regulated water body. The applicant is required to secure the services of a professional engineer to acquire permits addressing stormwater management, alteration of surface water flow and maintenance of surface water quality throughout and after completion of site activity. State regulations are very specific and require both the water budget and water quality be preserved.
      Included in the policies proposed for Pickett is a requirement to include a Stormwater Master Plan within the required Master Infrastructure Plan. Additional information and requirements may be found here:
      The projects’ location within the Econlockhatchee River Basin requires additional precautions and scrutiny by the County and others as demonstrated by the Orange and Seminole County regulations previously forwarded.

      Additionally, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will receive a copy should the Commission choose to approve Transmittal.
  • Question:  What about the four legged inhabitants that are on this land? Where will they go when they are pushed out of their homes?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      Several criteria are in place and will need to be met to assure the habitat and the viability and biodiversity of plants and wildlife is retained.

      The Applicants are required to complete and submit a Conservation Area Determination (CAD) to the OC Environmental Protection Division as part of the application for development process. Lake Pickett North currently has a CAD on file. The CAD identifies areas, such as the extent of wetlands, which need to be preserved to retain ecological viability. The T-1 Transect was recommended and has been included in the proposed policies to map and protect areas to be set aside for conservation.
      Additionally, the proposed Lake Pickett Comp Plan policies require the preservation of wildlife corridors to facilitate migration between on and off-site habitats. Both of the current proposals retain significant acreage for conservation and open space.
  • Question:   Are there any endangered species with their homes on this land?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      As I previously mentioned and as the following sites state, without a site-specific survey any information presented is speculative.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will receive a copy for review and comment should the Commission choose to approve Transmittal.
      The following links contain the species lists and information regarding habitat where listed species have been identified or where conditions favorable for their occupancy have been noted.
      If you have additional questions, please contact Elizabeth Johnson, Environmental Programs Administrator, OC Environmental Protection Division at (407) 836-1511, . 
  • Question:  What about the environmentally sensitive nature of the Econ basin?  How will this be preserved if these developments are built?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      Environmental protection is included in the previously discussed criteria.

School Questions:

  • Question:  I seem to remember that the concept plans for these developments only show 2 elementary schools for the whole development.  That just doesn’t seem like it would accommodate a development of this size.  Has a school study been done to determine how many schools are needed and space set aside inside these developments to account for this increase?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      We looked at the Lake Pickett South and North projects together and determined that one elementary school should be sufficient.  We also need a middle school, although the developments together will not fill an entire middle school.
      Level                     Single Family       Multi Family        Mobile HomesElementary         0.196                        0.137                      0.149

      Middle                  0.100                        0.057                      0.068

      High                       0.134                        0.065                      0.071

      Total                        0.431                       0.259                      0.287

  • Question:  We just went through 3 major re-zoning situations (West Windermere, Wedgefield and Avalon) that were very hard for certain people including the BCC.  The mayor expressed her frustration over poor planning by OCPS when hundreds of blue and orange shirts showed up at the meeting.  What steps are being taken to prevent this if these developments are built?
    • Answer from Orange County:
      OCPS works closely with developers through their approval process to establish a plan for mitigation (a Capacity Enhancement Agreement) and we do a second review (Concurrency) before they plat. 

Concept Plan Presentation at the 4/28/2015 community meeting:

  •  This is a proposed change to the Comprehensive Plan initiated by the owners of the land.
    • Lake Pickett South (LPS) which is now called “The Grow” is proposed south of Lake Pickett and north of Hwy 50 as shown in this photo.

      LPN and LPS Location Map

      LPN and LPS Location Map

    • The 5/12/2015 notice says 2,961 residential dwelling unit and 237,000 sq. ft. of non-residential uses.
    • Dwight Saathoff, the applicant, says the latest is 2,256 residential dwelling unit and 237,000 sq. ft. of non-residential uses.  This should be announced at the next meeting.
    • There are several land owners as shown below:

      Land Owners for Lake Pickett South - The Grow

      Land Owners for Lake Pickett South – The Grow

    • This is the conceptual site plan:
      The Grow conceptual site plan

      The Grow conceptual site plan


    • Lake Pickett North (LPN) which is now called “Sustany” is proposed north of Lake Pickett and south of the Seminole County line shown in the photo above.
    • The 5/12/2015 notice says 1,999 residential dwelling unit and no non-residential uses.
    • The applicant is listed as Sean Froelick on the Community Meeting notice.
    • This is the conceptual site plan:

      Sustany conceptual site plan

      Sustany conceptual site plan

    • This is the applicants road network solution in East Orange County.
      Note:  This is straight from the applicant slides shown at the 4/28/2015 meeting and is NOT proposed or accepted by Orange County.

      Applicant - LPN - idea to help solve the traffic problem in East Orange County

      Applicant – LPN – idea to help solve the traffic problem in East Orange County

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Planning and Zoning

5/5/2015 – How the process works to make a change to the Comprehensive Plan

Application Process

Application Process

Orange County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Schedule

Orange County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Schedule

Are you wondering what’s next with these Lake Pickett applications and where we go from here.  Stop wondering and read on.

We are in the midst of the 2015-2 cycle for large scale changes to the Comprehensive Plan and you may be wondering what the process is.  The picture to the right shows an outline of the steps involved.

  • At the beginning of the year Orange County staff meets with applicants for pre-application meetings.
  • In February applications are filed.
  • After that there are community meetings which we are in the middle of now.
  • Once community meetings are finished the Local Planning Agency (LPA) recommends or denies “transmittal”.  Transmittal means all criteria has been met per the Comprehensive Plan.  This basically means there are no roadblocks to move into the  “adoption” phase.  The LPA can deny transmittal but the applicant still has the right to go before the BCC and ask for approval
  • Next the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) will either approve or deny “transmittal”.
  • If the BCC denies transmittal, the applications dies here otherwise they move into the adoption phase.
  • If the BCC approves transmittal, the applications move into the “adoption” phase.
  • Reviewing agencies comment on the application.  This would include St. John’s River Management, FDOT, MetroPlan Orlando, etc…  This is the time when all these agencies would look closely at their particular area of expertise to see if the application meets their criteria.
  • Once all comments are in the applications go back to the LPA for an “adoption” hearing.
  • Finally the BCC will hold an “adoption” hearing and either approve or deny the applications.
  • If the applications are approved, the effective date will be set and the re-zoning will be placed in the Comprehensive Plan.
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Orange County Community Meeting

5/12/2015 – Community Meeting Announcement – Traffic

This is the community meeting announcement for the 2nd Lake Pickett Development meeting on 5/12/2015.

The meeting will be held at Corner Lakes Middle School at 6:30 pm on May 12th.  At the last meeting there were 418 attendees.

PDF version is here:

  • 2015-2-A-5-1 LPS Community Meeting Notice 5.12.15
  • 2015-2-A-5-2 LPN Community Meeting Notice 05.12.15
20150512 - Lake Pickett Community Meeting

20150512 – Lake Pickett Community Meeting

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Orange County Community Meeting

4/28/2015 – Community meeting synopsis

Here is a brief synopsis of the community meeting held on 4/28/2015 regarding the Lake Pickett Properties.
(Thanks to a resident who took these very copious notes).


“LP” designation will be used for Lake Pickett only.

The Orange County representative reviewed the development process severyone could understand how the process works.

The Transportation representative reported:

  • Lake Pickett Road to 419 and 419 North of Lake Pickett Road will remain 2-lanes.
  • Lake Pickett South and Lake Pickett North must have inter-connecting roads, trails, etc. – none of which are 4-lanes.
  • Developers to discuss helping to pay for improvements on SR 50 from Old Cheney (where current improvement stops) to 419.


  • The community will be an “Agrihood” named “GROW – A Farm and Garden Community.”
  • 1,216 acres; 337 acres of lakes and wetlands; 4,000 frontage feet on SR 50.
  • To consists of 2,256 housing units, no apartments, 237,000 SF of retail space.
  • Typical lot sizes will be 60’, 50’, 32’ and 25’ wide.
  • Currently there are 8,095 people living east of Lake Pickett South in Corner Lake and Cypress Lakes.
  • Currently there are 8,732 people living south of Lake Pickett South.
  • The density in Cypress Lakes is 4/1 acre.

Responses to Questions:

  • If approved, development would begin 9/2016.
  • No low-income housing.
  • Developer will provide 15 acres for an elementary school.
  • Developer will want to put in a K-8 charter school.
  • Gross density is 1.8/acre; net density is 2.5/acre.
  • Presentation is geared to prospective residents – “Why should we like this?”


  • The community will be named “SUSTANY – An Eco-Literate Community.”
  • It will be focused on:
    • 1 – Nature
      • 706 acre eco-park – this property does not belong to the current owner; the prior owner conveyed this property to the St. Johns Water Management District with the stipulation that the next owner will do the improvements to the park.
      • Viewing tower, outpost, education center, etc.
    • 2 – Wellness
      • Equestrian center on Lake Pickett Road near Sandhill Reserve area.
      • Trail head for existing equestrian trails.
      • Hiking trails in community and park.
      • Dedicated biking trails, fishing, walking trails, dog parks, etc.
    • 3 – Education
      • Donation of land for middle school.
      • Will have classes, etc. on the environment and ecology.
  • All single family homes – no apartments or retail/commercial.
  • 400’ wildlife corridor abutting the Seminole County line.
  • 1-acre lots on Lake Pickett Road and next to the Rural Settlement areas.
  • No new crossing of the Econlockhatchee River.
  • Road improvement will be paid with private funding – their own money – no bond issues, special taxing districts, etc.

Responses to Questions:

  • If approved, the development will start 9/2016.
  • No occupancy of any unit prior to road completions.
  • 1,435 acres with less than 2,000 homes.
  • Gross density is 1.3/1 acre; net density is 1.9/1 acre.


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