Guest Columnist Todd Weaver
Change is inevitable. The only thing we can control is the rate of change, and the important thing is how we manage that change rate. The Ravaudage development is set to bring major change to Lee Road at 17-92. How well is the City equipped to manage the change and the rate at which that change happens in this sector of Winter Park? Especially relevant: are the roads equipped to handle the increased traffic this development will generate?
Monday, the Winter Park City Commission will address another round of variance requests, building plans and setback deviations submitted by Dan Bellows, the developer of the ever-expanding Ravaudage juggernaut.
The Development Review Committee (DRC), consisting of highly-skilled staffers from City departments involved in the review and approval of site or building development projects, met last week to discuss these requests. With some conditions, all the requests were approved and will go to the Commission on Monday.
Requests for Setbacks, Waivers & Variances Abound
One request is for a zero-foot setback for a 6- to 8-story office building just west of Peacock Ford. This large office building, which will become the view from the single-family lakefront homes across the street in Maitland, is but a single element in a development that will include two major hotels, the rack-‘em-and-stack-‘em apartment buildings currently under construction, a retirement home and a host of other smaller out-buildings that will house restaurants, shops and smaller offices.
What’s the Plan to Handle the Increased Traffic?
Solutions to handle the sharp increase in traffic this out-of-scale development will generate are still on the drawing board. The Planned Development (PD) agreement with Orange County, negotiated prior to this PD’s re-annexation into Winter Park, includes alignment of Bennett Avenue and Executive Drive with an FDOT-approved traffic light on Lee Road.
Send the Traffic Through K-Mart Plaza?
The developer asked the DRC to waive the requirement for the alignment, because it would cause him to lose approximately half an acre at that intersection that he could otherwise develop. Bellows floated the idea of positioning the traffic light to move traffic through the former K-Mart plaza. Due to the complexity of adding a traffic light on a State road, the requirement to align Bennet and Executive was postponed for an additional year for further study. It could be years before traffic at this critical intersection will receive the direction it needs.
17-92 Design Modifications Years Out
A design modification to 17-92 to resolve the bike and pedestrian connectivity in the area is in the works, but that design is at the 60 percent level and rests entirely in FDOT hands. The modifications do not increase the number of motorized vehicle travel lanes. The construction completion date is uncertain, but years off.
No Plans for Lynx Terminal or Firehouse
Other conditions required of the Ravaudage PD were a Lynx terminal and a firehouse. Those two seem easier, but neither appears in the current plans.
Meanwhile, Back at Orange Avenue . . .
At the same time, City officials are pushing for high-intensity redevelopment along Orange Avenue, complete with an additional Sunrail station. A new station is a good idea if funding is available, but shouldn’t we consider a rail station at Ravaudage first?
How Will Traffic Increase Benefit Winter Park?
Just because the traffic statistics floated by City officials show our traffic numbers haven’t increased in 18 years, should we buy into the notion that a significant increase in traffic will be a boon for Winter Park?
Add to the rapid infill of giant apartment complexes in Maitland the proposal for 562 residential units, 320 hotel rooms and 1,254,357 square feet of commercial and office space at Ravaudage. Then ask yourself: how will the imminent explosion of traffic benefit residents or legacy businesses?
A change is in order, but the rate of change is out of control. Mr. Bellows was granted his entitlements from Orange County. Is it Winter Park’s responsibility or in Winter Park’s best interest to dole out more before the traffic infrastructure is in place?
Winter Park needs to put the transportation horse out in front of the Ravaudage cart.
Todd Weaver is a semi-retired aerospace engineer, engineering consultant and company president who has lived in his Winter Park home for 22 years.