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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Posted in McCulloch Road.