A proposed $1 billion housing development two miles east of UCF could affect faculty and students and bring more traffic to the area.
Two adjacent developments, Lake Pickett North and Lake Pickett South, are planning to hold 4,661 homes to be built on 2,673 acres of land. The land is divided by Lake Pickett Road and bordered by Tanner Road, East Colonial Drive, Chuluota Road and the southern Seminole County line.
Chairman of Save East Orange, LLC Steve Micciche, who is also chief negotiator for the UCF police union, said the project will bring unwanted change and traffic to the rural area east of the Econlockhatchee River.
"This development certainly would affect UCF," Micciche said. "The spiral of traffic would impact anybody traversing the secondary and main artery roads, at least from east of the Econ River."
The land is currently zoned for one home per 10 acres.
However, an application was submitted to Orange County in August to re-zone the land, which would allow for a much higher density of homes and traffic than area residents want, Micciche said.
"There's already so much traffic and construction around East Colonial that I couldn't imagine more," said Emily Gonzalez-Holland, a senior psychology major. "UCF is a huge commuter campus. I'm glad I won't be here if that starts."
Thirty-one percent of UCF freshmen, and 82 percent of UCF's entire undergraduate population, commute to campus.
Christian Sanchez, a senior finance major, lives approximately one mile from the development's proposed site, and said students in the area should plan to pay more in gas and spend more time driving to campus if the development is approved.
"The people that would move into the development would be moving into the problem," Sanchez said. "I think [traffic] would become more of a nuisance for the residents around there."
Orange County's Transportation Planning Manager Renzo Nastasi said a preliminary analysis showed the development would most impact its surrounding roads, and could also cause more congestion on Alafaya Trail, Woodbury Road and Avalon Park Boulevard.
"Many of these roads are currently over capacity during the peak hours of the day," Nastasi said. "The challenge will be how to address the process and implementation of mitigation strategies associated with these developments."
Areas east of the Econ River already need approximately $113.6 million in repairs and infrastructure improvements, which the county is working to fund. If the developments are approved, the county, in partnership with the developers, would form a comprehensive plan for funding and making road improvements.
Dwight Saathoff, developer of Lake Pickett South, said his development is one of many that Orange County needs to sustain its growth.
In 2010, Orange County was home to more than 1.14 million residents, with an average of 2.64 per household. It is projected to grow as much as 32 percent by 2020 — up to 366,720 more people.
"It's a matter of where these families will live once they've moved here," Saathoff said. "Another positive thing about the development is that it generates economic activity in the area and creates more money to be spent on infrastructure, like roads."
Saathoff said his development would be the first of its kind in Florida.
Along with $30 million in projected road repairs to East Colonial Drive and Lake Pickett Road, Saathoff plans to develop Lake Pickett South into an "agrihood," a self-sustaining community that includes agriculturalists, farmers, lakes, an equestrian center, schools and several miles of biking lanes and walkways.
Saathoff thinks the project would attract more faculty to UCF.
"There's no other new housing available within this proximity to UCF," Saathoff said. "I think they're going to find this community incredibly progressive, iconic and unique, which will attract them to Orlando and UCF."
Greg Fencik, adjunct professor of real estate and finance at UCF's College of Business, also said the agrihood could bring more professors to UCF.
"An agrihood in close proximity to UCF could be just the thing to entice a professor to teach at UCF as opposed to, say, a university of comparable, or perhaps even greater stature, that does not have an agrihood in which he or she could live," Fencik said.
Developers submitted applications for re-zoning of the Lake Pickett properties to Orange County in August 2014, which were found sufficient in March.
The development's applications are slated for a local planning agency hearing June 18, and a Board of County Commissioners transmittal public hearing July 7.
Fencik, who is also a real estate attorney, said re-zoning is a multi-step process. Orange County zoning division staff will recommend approval or denial to the Board of County Commissioners, who would then approve or deny the application.
Through a series of community meetings and county hearings, Saathoff's development could be approved as soon as November.
If approved, construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.
Although there is no set date, public community meetings are scheduled for a week until May 19 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Corner Lakes Middle School.
Leona Mynes is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.