Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
A little less than a week before the Orange County Board of Commissioners takes a vote
on two housing developments east of the Econlockhatchee River, local residents rallied against the proposals in downtown Orlando on Wednesday.
Commissioners will meet next Tuesday, June 14, to make several decisions regarding "The Grow" (Lake Pickett South) and "Sustany" (Lake Pickett North), two properties just off Colonial Road that would add more than 4,000 homes to an almost 2,000-acre area. Some Orange County residents have been fiercely opposed to the developments, mainly because they would like to preserve the rural character of the area and want the commissioners to respect the historic boundary that distinguishes rural and urban Orange County.
Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards, who represents that area, has said it's not "good land-use practice" to stop development east of the Econ River, according to the Orlando Sentinel
. Not every resident agrees on the developments, and a group of them decided to come to an agreement with The Grow developer Dwight Saathoff to reduce the density and keep the rural character of the area. Saathoff has coined his proposal an "agrihood," which will include a farm, community gardens and trails.
"I think the project will create a positive ripple effect in the area," Saathoff said in April, according to the Sentinel
. "There's a lot of cruddy stuff out there and the reason it hasn't gotten better is everything is done piecemeal and there's been no infusion of new ideas."
Standing outside the Orange County administration building, protestors chanted "Hold the line" as cars honked and drove past.
Janet Brewer, of Christmas, says she's not opposed to growth in the area, but she is opposed to the urban sprawl and traffic the developments wold bring. She's also concerned about where the animals that currently live around the Econ River will go after the homes are built.
"We don't want to become a concrete jungle," she says. "Most of us that live in the rural area, we chose to live there because it is rural country and to get away from the city life. What they're doing is not fair or right, and it will destroy our Econ."
Josephine Balzac, an attorney representing the Corner Lake Estates HOA, says her client's main issue with the developers and the county are due-process rights.
"The voices of the people and the community want to keep it rural, and Orange County commissioners promised to keep it rural," she says. "They're upset that they're not holding that promise, and they want to keep their land rural, not urban."