The Oviedo Local Planning Agency Board asked city staff to further whittle down the density proposed for Oviedo’s downtown core during its March 7 work session meeting on the Comprehensive Plan update.
Board member David Pollack lives in the area north of Oviedo’s historic downtown, along Central Avenue, and said he knew his neighbors would be unhappy with the current map, which would change the land use designation in that area from office to downtown transition, which allows a maximum of 40 housing units per acre and 1 floor-to-area ratio (FAR) for office and commercial (which means that the plan takes up the entire buildable lot), fanning out from Central Avenue, north of Broadway Street.
The LPA agreed to ask city staff to come back with a map that reflects low-density residential in the area north of the Oviedo library.
“I think all of those residents would be excited about all of the new amenities,” Pollack said, referring to LPA’s direction to keep the downtown transition designation closer to Central Avenue where many businesses are currently operating. “They just don’t want one next door.”
The state of Florida mandates that local municipalities use 25-year population projections to update their plan for where growth should occur, called its Comprehensive Plan. The University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research estimates that anywhere from 48,000 to 60,000 people will live in Oviedo by 2045. About 40,000 live there now.
The city is currently updating their plan to show where those people should live and how they’ll get services such as education, water and sewer, and police and fire protection. It must also account for environmental protections and financial sustainability. That plan must be approved by the state.
Residents can weigh in on the update by contacting LPA or Oviedo City Council members, or attending one of the upcoming meetings.
The proposed update uses the higher population estimate of 58,000 and focuses that growth into five areas in the city: the historic downtown, the new downtown, the Oviedo Mall area and the Mitchell Hammock corridor.
Pollack asked why the city was using the higher population projection in the plans when Oviedo City Manager Bryan Cobb reported that the city’s growth has slowed to 1- 2% each year over the past several years. Between 2000 and 2020, there was a 34% population increase, from 26,000 to 40,000.
Curtis Ostrodka, director of planning for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, the consultants the city hired to create the Comprehensive Plan update, said they plan with the higher population projection because if the maximum growth is realized, they’re able to control where that growth occurs.
Board member Emma Reichert asked why the historic downtown and new downtown (Oviedo on the Park) couldn’t be better connected. Ostrodka said it’s because the area between, which has a planned future land use of downtown transition, is too wet.
“Then why is anything able to be there?” she asked. Ostrodka said he’d get back to her.
Asking for a different view of Oviedo roads
The LPA agreed to have staff explore why Seminole County grades its roads’ capacity on a daily basis, meaning that it looks at total daily traffic numbers on the roads, not the number at peak traffic times, to determine if they’re at capacity. This is why most roads still show they have capacity for growth even though motorists experience congestion during their morning and afternoon commutes.
The city uses the county’s road grades because otherwise it would have to pay to collect the traffic information itself, which would be a considerable expense, VHB Senior Traffic Engineer Kok Wan Ma said.
“We’re shooting ourselves in the head by increasing all this density when we already have a traffic problem and we’re underestimating the traffic for the future,” LPA board member Steven Rich said.
As the city works through this Comprehensive Plan update, it’s also updating its 10-year Mobility Plan, which prioritizes projects and programs based on data, analysis and public input gathered during the Comprehensive Plan update process.
Here are VHB’s maps for existing roadway conditions, projections for 2045 and projects that are being recommended.
Traffic alternatives explored
Ma said widening a road only induces more traffic on that road, causing a cycle of widening and congestion. The Mobility Plan seeks alternatives to widening, including creating a traffic grid pattern to provide more roadway options, and exploring transit options such as an autonomous vehicle circulator from City Hall to Oviedo on the Park, going through the historic downtown using Oviedo Boulevard, and additional Lynx bus service to the city.
Lynx, the only mass transit available in Oviedo, removed routes from the area in recent years and only has one stop within the city, at the Oviedo Mall. Cobb said Lynx’s door-to-door flex service is available in certain areas of the city and is heavily used by Seminole State students.
“I would love to see us expand that service to get it citywide,” Cobb said.
LPA Chairman Darrell Lopez said he thought the city’s current plan focuses too heavily on providing public transit within the downtown core and should include service to the neighborhoods. He shared an anecdote about limited parking at the city’s recent Bark and Brew event in Oviedo on the Park.
“They concentrated on the new core but they’ve forgotten the rest of the city and that’s where the disconnect is,” Lopez said. “You need to think bigger. You need to think wider, not just microscopic, which is what you’re doing.”
LPA board member Matias Maggio said he expected to see more connections formed within the communities, breaking down barriers between developments.
Pollack argued that cutting up existing developments could end up taking too much away from existing residents. He also said they run into issues with neighboring municipalities when it comes to needed roadway projects.
“Oviedo is stuck in the middle of a lot of bad planning,” he said.
The consultants said that there were many other projects on the list but it got narrowed down through workshops and stakeholder meetings. Ostrodka said there was a meeting about opening the gate between the Live Oak Reserve and Riverside at Twin Rivers communities and there were “100 people there ready to carry me out of town”.
Ostrodka added that they included what could be funded in a 10-year window and that more projects can be added in the future.
Watch the March 8 LPA meeting
Editor’s note: The Mobility Plan work session that was planned for March 30 has been rescheduled. This article will be updated when there’s confirmation of the new date for the work session.