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Oviedo mayor asks to weigh in on Dorworth plans

Developer Chris Dorworth wants to remove the 67-acre Pappy’s Patch from the rural boundary area. Oviedo Mayor Megan Sladek asked Council on Monday if she could voice the city’s opposition to the plan to the Seminole County Commission.

“I was wondering if there might be consensus … for me to say something to the effect of ‘we are not interested in expanding our infrastructure to accommodate whatever single-family sprawl may be planned for this area,’” Sladek said. “I think that would be a helpful thing for us to volunteer before anyone makes any inquiries of our city.”

Deputy Mayor Bob Pollack said he’d be uncomfortable with that plan.

“I don’t want to get into a situation where they think that we’ve already made a determination, prematurely, before it actually comes to the city,” he said.

The City of Oviedo’s attorney, David Hall, agreed, saying “All government is supposed to approach things with an open mind and projects are supposed to be decided on their merit and their conformity with the current code. So, it’s probably not a good idea to pre-announce that we’re against it.”

The subject became less pressing on Tuesday when Dorworth’s attorney withdrew the request to the county with a request to reschedule for the Feb. 22 County Commission meeting. This coincides with an expected court date concerning a lawsuit Dorworth filed within the state circuit court against the county that says the 2004 voter-approved county charter amendment establishing the rural boundary is too vague.

The rural boundary separates land that’s east of the Econlockhatchee River that’s zoned rural from more dense neighborhoods and commercial developments west of the river. The rural area may only have developments of one home per three acres or one per five, depending on the proximity to the river and higher-density developments.

Dorworth’s request did not include a proposed future land use designation for the property but according to an August Orlando Sentinel report, Dorworth said he planned to build two residential communities there.

“This request that’s being made is suspect at best,” Seminole County Commissioner Jay Zembower said. “There’s no application being made, there’s no request to build one house or 500 homes or a shopping center or a ballfield. There’s no request other than, I’d like to remove this from the rural boundary.” He added that it’s atypical for an applicant to make a request without a plan.

There has been no application to the City of Oviedo to annex the Pappy’s Patch property into the city, but Sladek said the closest infrastructure connection to that land belongs to the City of Oviedo, which could make annexation more desirable for the developer.

Zembower said Sladek speaking on behalf of the Council could cause “some real problems for the City of Oviedo at a later date” because she’d have to recuse herself from a potential vote if the issue ever did come to the city. But as a citizen, he said, she is free to speak her mind.

During Monday’s meeting, Sladek asked Hall if the city adopting a policy to not add any more infrastructure to the city would help in this matter, referring to a recent economic report the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board heard concerning infrastructure maintenance costs. It was decided that possibility would be discussed at a later date.

Dave Bear, an attorney and president of Save Rural Seminole, a community group formed to defend the rural boundary, said he believes Sladek can speak at the county meeting on behalf of the City Council if her points are limited to how developing beyond the rural boundary would affect the city’s planning activities.

“That is not prejudging a proposal before it comes to the City Council, it is simply making a statement of fact about the city’s land zoning and planning as it exists today and that the city is relying upon the existence of what is there today and wants to have that certainly and doesn’t want the unknown,” he said.

Even if Dorworth tried to annex the property into the City of Oviedo in order to move forward with a development project, Zembower said Seminole County’s rural boundary rule says that the county has the final say on zoning changes for any property that has ever been part of the rural boundary.

Dorworth’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

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