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Possible apartment project stirs connectivity discussion

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A zoning and land-use change that could clear the way for 196 apartments and 14,500 square feet of commercial space on 8 acres of wooded land along Alafaya Trail was approved by the Oviedo City Council on Monday night.

The property, wedged between the Public Storage facility and Bonfires Bar and Grill, is currently zoned commercial. The Council approved a new zoning of mixed-use, meaning that a developer can build residential and commercial structures on the same property.

The actual project is expected to come before the Council for consideration at a later date.

Intersection access challenge

Some on the Council and the Oviedo Local Planning Agency Board have expressed concern about traffic safety because motorists wanting to head north on Alafaya Trail from the property would have to quickly cross four lanes of traffic to make a U-turn at Alafaya Woods Boulevard.

Attorney Jonathan Huels, who represents developer David Egozi, said they have been trying to work with the surrounding property owners to gain direct access to the Alexandria Boulevard intersection.

He said Aldi grocery store denied vehicular access to their property but the developer is still trying to work on gaining both vehicular and pedestrian access to promote connectivity and walkability.

“It makes a lot of sense for cross access for Aldi as well,” Huels said, adding that allowing a connection to Egozi’s property would create more foot traffic for the retailer without using their parking lot. “It’s a win-win for them.”

Deputy Mayor Bob Pollack asked if the city can build a requirement into future development agreements to provide cross access to surrounding properties to promote connectivity and walkability. City Manager Bryan Cobb said city staff can look into that.

“We’ve got a lot of areas in the city that have sectioned themselves off and blocked themselves off,” Pollack said.

Cobb said the liability that comes with increased property traffic is what drives owners to block off their properties.

Traffic impact

Mayor Megan Sladek said she was motivated to approve the zoning change because “generally speaking, mixed- use developments create less traffic”.

Developing the land for exclusively commercial use would generate 13,500 daily trips, whereas building it as a mixed-use project with housing would generate 3,100 daily trips, according to city documents.

Councilwoman Natalie Teuchert said she felt better about the safety of the project knowing that it has vehicular access to the Bonfires property, which would give motorists more time to cross those four lanes of traffic to make the U-turn at Alafaya Woods Boulevard.

Teuchert, who lives in the Alafaya Woods neighborhood, said the community needs more housing not only for people who want to move to Oviedo but for current residents who want to downsize or upgrade their housing without leaving the city.

“Right now they can’t do that and live here,” she said.

Safety measures such as a “right turn yield to U-turn” traffic sign at the Alafaya Trail and Alafaya Woods Boulevard intersection were discussed at an April 7 Council meeting.

The developer’s traffic consultant, Scott Israelson, told the Council that, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, there have been 24 crashes at the intersection in five years, which is less than expected at a “high-volume, high-speed intersection”.

It is unknown when the developer will come back to the city with specific project plans seeking approval.

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