The City Council approved a second reading at Monday’s meeting on an ordinance for the development of the Princeton Oaks project, which residents of the surrounding area say will disrupt their way of life as well as destroy wetlands nearby.
The project, proposed by developer CNL, is a one-million-square-foot warehouse slated to come to a patch of wetlands near Mercy Drive and W.D. Judge Drive.
At Monday’s meeting, the most vocal opponents of the project spoke out. Chuck O’Neal with Speak Up Wekiva (and candidate for the District 11 Senate seat) and Lawanna Gelzer, president of the National Action Network, wanted the council to hold off on pushing Princeton Oaks forward while they appealed for the wetlands to be protected and conserved under the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative Amendment 1.
However, the council instead just gave the OK for the project to move forward as a planned development. O’Neal, Gelzer and other protesters said this proved that the council was acting in favor of special interests rather than that of the citizens.
“Why are you doing this? Simply because you can,” Gelzer said, addressing the council members. “You can do it to this community. It’s OK. You can sleep at night.”
Gelzer went on to decry the racial component in the project’s location near her neighborhood – an area made up of mostly black neighborhoods.
“This is a community of color,” she said. “They’re still individuals. You should be concerned about representing all citizens.”
Commissioner Regina Hill, who represents District 5 where the project is proposed to be located, bristled at the suggestion that she shouldn’t be able to sleep well at night. Her reasoning? The project will bring jobs to the area.
“I appreciate the residents,” she said in response to protesters’ criticism. “I visit those areas and talk to people. They don’t mention the wetlands. They need affordable housing, and they need jobs. That’s what I’m trying to create.”
After the meeting, Gelzer told Orlando Rising she has lived in Orlando for 30 years and has never seen the city’s promises of jobs from similar development projects actually come true.
“Whenever there’s a project with some controversy and impact on a community of color, they talk about how it’s going to bring economic development and jobs,” she said. “It’s false. It’s a false, false lie. It destroys communities. There’s no jobs. It’s marketing. It’s PR. It sounds good.”