The Orange County Board of Commissioners was caught between two options on a new development project that would leave a sizable portion of residents in District 1 unsatisfied either way. The project, called Majorca, will consist of 300 apartments moving into the district, in an area near Sand Lake Road many say already is overcrowded.
A petition from residents in the area garnered about 1,000 signatures to stand against the project coming to the area.
Though the county was sympathetic to the concerns of residents, though, the problem was that the Lake Majorca project had a “back door” —their property was close enough to the City of Orlando’s line that Orlando could annex it into the city, which was already in talks before Tuesday’s meeting.
The results then would be even worse, according to Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, because of the city’s reputation for relentless developing. There’s no telling what the city would do, she said, in spite of the good working relationship both governing bodies have that she also acknowledged.
“If the city annexes this property, it might be even worse,” she said. “You could have five times the amount of density.”
Higher density is among the perks the Majorca project would get by having the city annex them in. The county, by contrast, has lower taxes and less hoops to jump through for planning and zoning, as the property is already located in unincorporated Orange County.
Because the developers want to finish the project fast, the county was their first choice.
But some residents of the area around Sand Lake Road, such as Roy Messenger, said they’d rather risk what the City of Orlando would do than commit to more residential apartments and what they perceived to be more traffic.
“We’d rather have offices,” he said. “They service the community.”
Messenger was one of seven commenters, many of whom said they had heard “unanimous disapproval” of the Majorca project in the petition that had gone around, imploring the county not to pass it.
Project attorney Kurt Ardaman and project developer Jim Hall said the project would do good for the traffic through an additional $700,000 deal passed along with it that would add an extra lane to a nearby road, moving traffic along faster.
Jacobs was confused by the residents’ ardent oppositions, wondering aloud whether the residents who signed the petition in opposition to the Majorca project knew that Majorca already owned the land and could develop it in some way no matter what.
“We can’t tell this developer they can’t develop on their own property,” she said. “Did the people who signed the petition know that the alternative was 40 percent more traffic? If they did, everybody would say ‘please don’t give us more traffic.’”
She also said the project as is would actually improve traffic due to the $700,000 lane-adding deal. Despite understanding the residents’ concern overall, Jacobs said the county’s vote would act as a mediator of potential worse things to come should the City of Orlando acquire the land.
“I know no one wants to hear ‘it’s complicated,'” she said. “I know people just want to say ‘it’s going to ruin the roads’ and leave it at that. But it is complicated. If we don’t approve this, what’s the alternative? The cards look clear to me.”
The only opposition on the board itself came from Scott Boyd, whose district the Majorca project would be coming to. Boyd felt it would be too easy for the City of Orlando to annex the project anyway after the county allowed the project to change its designation. He didn’t want to have anything on his hands or conscience that could possibly disadvantage the residents of his district — especially if he ever wanted to run for office again after his term ends in November, he said.
But those involved with the project verbally committed that they’d withdraw the City of Orlando’s right to annex their property if the county approved the motion.
Every member of the Board of County Commissioners save Boyd voted to approve the motion.