11/30/2015 – Development has to be done different in East Orange County

East Orange County is changing and from my observation change has been exponential over the past few years.  Because of how fast our environment is changing, my position on some important issues has also changed.  At first I was fully against the Lake Pickett developments because Orange County had no plan for infrastructure.  Since then Orange County has been working hard to find ways to improve the roadway system in East Orange County and the money from the development would help fix the issues so I was neither for or against the developments and my position was that if the developments were approved they could only be approved if there was minimal impact to the residents who lived in the area and the roads were fixed.  But now we have a new challenge that is caused another rethink.  It is the dramatic impact to wildlife.  You hear people stand up and talk about the environment and I see eyes roll back, another “tree hugger!”  I’m not that and not quite a “city-slicker” either but if I, with my limited experience in the outdoors, can see what is coming, that means something is coming and it is not good.  I think we are reaching a critical pivot point and depending on how some decisions are made will decide the fate of the Econ River Basin.

Here are clues from my personal observation living inside the Urban Service area in the sub-division of University Estates:

  • We have never seen bear in University Estates until just recently and we have now seen two different ones
  • We have at least twice as many deer as we have had in the past and they walk freely through our yards
  • The number of dead animals being hit by cars has risen

Then I watched the Seminole County Board of County Commissioner meeting video regarding Legacy Pointe and a resident who lives off Old Lockwood spoke during public comment.  His observations over the years matched mine so there was a tremendous impact on me.  His comment is in the video above for you to watch.

This caused me to really take a hard look at the map of our area from a different point of view.  I looked to see what undeveloped land is left for our four footed friends to live.  And you know what.  There is not much left on this side of the Econ.  In fact I was surprised to see that houses are built almost down to the river with very little buffer.  This was very disturbing.

On Old Lockwood road there are two small developments that are being built but they have displaced more undeveloped land and taken homes from the animals who live there pushing them into smaller and smaller spaces.

So what’s left.  West of the Econ is built out and very little undeveloped land is left.  If you look at the map, there is some undeveloped land at UCF but not much anywhere else.  That leaves land east of the Econ.  We should be thankful that there is the Econlockhatchee Sandhills Conservation Area but it is only 700 acres in comparison to Lake Pickett North and Lake Pickett South which is 2,800 acres of undeveloped land.  Lake Pickett South has been transmitted and is yet to be approved and if approved will take half of the undeveloped land.  If Lake Pickett South is approved the rest will be developed and displace the animals who live in this area.  How will all those animals be able to live in 700 acres?  This looks to me like a collision between man and beast as people in Northwest Orange County are experiencing now with the bears.

Where does that leave LPS and LPN?  Am I now opposed to these development?  No, but I do think the way these developments are built should certainly make the displacement of animals a priority considering these lands are the only ones left for animals to live.

How should Lake Pickett North be built and what does any of this have to do with traffic seeing the focus of this site is traffic?  Here is some food for thought.  We really need to start thinking all together differently about how people live and travel.  Everyone wants a house and usually a big one with a nice lawn in a nice sub-division.  Granted this is changing as houses are being built with smaller lawns but they are stilled sprawled out and big.  And in my situation, I can’t walk anywhere; I am forced to drive.  Even riding a bike is hard as the roads aren’t built for bikes.  And now we are going to do it all over again with these developments.  We are going to build a subdivision that is sprawled out and not only that one that forces the residents to drive for groceries or just about everything they need.  This just feels very wrong.

With so much emphasis on mass transit and walkable communities, maybe we are missing the boat.   Maybe there is an opportunity to do something different and better and at the same time preserve more land for animals.  Shouldn’t new developments be built with mass transit in mind?  Should developments that are dependent on UCF and the companies surrounding it have some sort of dedicated mass transit or car pool sharing built in?  Maybe all communities should have a small town center so people can walk for groceries?  Maybe houses should be closer together leaving more open land to preserve the habitat for animals.  Maybe the time of large houses with big lots in sprawling sub-divisions should be over?

By instituting some of these ideas, we could cut down on the number of cars on the road and not have to always be behind the curve with infrastructure.

I believe we are at a crossroad in East Orange County and these developments are the pivot point.  Will we continue to do what we have always done and after reaching a critical turning point not only displace the animals but much worse?  Will we continue to create a conflict between man and beast or will we find a way to ensure the survival of all species that live in Florida.  The choice is ours.

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Posted in McCulloch Road.