Hundreds gathered at the North Lake Community Elementary school Thursday night to listen to a resolution between local leaders and officials from Orlando International Airport on a land deal to expand operations closer to the growing Lake Nona community.
District 1 Commissioner Jim Gray stood before the standing room-only audience and attempted to ease concerns that the development would destroy large amounts of wetlands in the area and derail plans for a 30-acre park as well as encroach on the quiet neighborhood with aircraft noise.
Although Gray admitted the deal was not perfect, he did assure residents the community will get the park, which will serve as a buffer from the expanded airport and some wetlands will remain. Gray added that he believed the deal did justice to both sides.
Response from attendees was mostly positive, with applause when they heard they would still get their park. However, many were upset with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and the City of Orlando, saying they didn’t do enough to tell residents. With city elections less than a month away, residents also cheered when one resident said support in the Mayoral election would hinge on finalizing the agreement.
“Sunshine” Linda Marie Grund, who is running against Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, wasn’t satisfied. Her campaign platform revolves around saving the wetlands.
“You say it’s a gamble,” Grund said, “but it feels like an abusive relationship. Where is Mayor Dyer in all of this? You’re giving us a park that’s a step in the right direction, but what guarantee do we have?”
Gray responded by pointing out a lot of specifics need to be worked out, urging residents to get involved and hold lawmakers accountable. The plan is a tentative agreement, which still needs several stops with both the airport and city government before finalizing the deal.
“Find out what’s going on. Active neighbors are good neighbors” was the takeaway Gray wanted for residents that couldn’t attend.
“You saw it here tonight. They’re engaged. They’re on social media and they hold me accountable. I’m fine with that, I just want to share what I did and I hope they support me.”