I have been asked for my position on growth within our City. I have stated facts on other topics to let you, the voters, draw your own opinions on the topic at hand, but on this topic, I will have to simply give my opinion on this subject. As we all know, Oviedo has experienced an explosion of growth over the last 30 years. I have been here for this growth, and we have had our struggles with that quick expansion. It is my opinion that a lot of our frustrations are in our road systems being inadequate to move the traffic through our City. We continue to add development, with the Council’s response being “Once SR 419/426 and SR 434 are complete we should have our traffic problems under control”. The current policy of putting 10 pounds of sugar in a 5-pound bag is not working.
In fall 2018, I attended a seminar about the widening project for 434 through our City. Council is counting on this expansion to help alleviate traffic. My take away from this seminar was that the widening project might not start for another 8 years, as this is the time it is estimated to take to complete traffic studies for the land acquisition. I spoke with a representative from the DOT this January who stated the 419/426-widening project had $14 million allocated and could start the bid process in July 2020, providing the monies were still available. The representative stated this was for the part of 419 from downtown Oviedo to Lockwood. As such, it appears that we are years out until our roads will be fully expanded. We must be vigilant and evaluate every development project as to how it will impact our road system, now. I am not in favor of high-density projects such as apartment complexes near our City Center. There are designated parcels near the Oviedo Mall that could accommodate this type of project and would not have a large negative impact on the Mitchell Hammock roadway.
I personally would not be opposed to a hotel within our City. I support a hotel in that it would be a benefit to the entire City. There are parcels designated for this type of development near the Oviedo Mall that would, in my opinion, not have any major impact to our City traffic, but will provide a benefit. Right now, the closest hotels that can handle large functions and guest requirements are on University Drive by UCF some 8 miles away.
We must also protect the history and charm of the older sections of our City when allowing projects to be built. What is happening on Division Street, 3 lots North of Magnolia, is not acceptable to me. Our Mayor stated in his State of the City speech the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds would be used to revitalize the old downtown from Magnolia Street to Smith Street. This lot, approximately 2 acres, is part of an area, which is known for its large single-family lots and tree lined streets. What has been allowed to happen is to take this lot and carve it into 5 lots. This development is not in line with the subdivision aesthetics and density and will, in my opinion, negatively impact the face of this street and neighborhood and not add to the property values of the homes around this project. While this lot split may be legal per city zoning it is not right for the subdivision and the residents who purchased on Division Street because of the established aesthetics. Is this “revitalizing” Old Oviedo? How would this policy affect the aesthetics of the area on South Lake Jessup, specifically the homes on Hillcrest, High Street and Forrest Trail? Would these streets and the neighborhood aesthetics be the same with multiple homes on each lot? Would this high-density construction of homes add to property values? If this would be allowed to happen would this be responsible growth? Once again what may be legal may not be right.
Another example, in my opinion, of mismanaged growth is what happened with Evans Square off Clark Street/South Lake Jessup and Hillcrest. Hillcrest and South Lake Jessup have very large Heritage Oak Trees fronting this development. A Heritage Oak is a tree designated at being over 100 years old. When this development came before City Council, the Residents along these streets and neighborhood stated their concerns to Council that these beautiful trees would be damaged by development. These Residents invested their personal finances into homes in this area so they could enjoy the tree lined streets and the character of the area. Council sided with the developer in going through with the development. The developer made promises to protect the trees: tree wells were to be built around these trees to protect the tree bases. The project is now completed. The trees the Residents had concerns with are now gone. The trees were not protected and were covered up with several feet of fill dirt. The years of Heritage Oak tree lined streets are only a memory. It will take several generations for the new trees to become Heritage Oaks and restore the tree lined beauty the residents once had. To remedy this loss to the Residents affected by this situation, the Council proposed that the builder (1) provide 36 approved shade trees to replace these Heritage Oaks. (2) supply 6 20’ oak trees and (3) contribute $50,000 to the Friends of Oviedo Charity, later reduced to $20,000, and $9,000 to the Tree Bank. But, in the end, the Heritage Oaks are gone because Council did not protect them from development. If you were keeping score on this, the score board will read Developer: Profited/ Builder: Profited/ City of Oviedo: Profited. Residents who live in the neighborhood and other Citizens of Oviedo: Lost.
Growth and development must occur, or a city will not flourish. That is why the decisions made on what development is permitted must include how it will impact the Residents in its vicinity and steps made to protect the current neighborhood aesthetics. We must also protect the Black Hammock area as well as protecting the Little Econ area from development. Both areas are important to what makes up our City identity. All development must be respectful of our City’s past as well as how new development will impact our City’s future.
Respectful of Oviedo’s past…Focused on Oviedo’s Future