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Townhome development gets green light

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A townhome project got the green light to move into one of the final undeveloped parcels of land in the Winter Springs Town Center on Monday night.

The Winter Springs City Commission voted to allow some final exceptions for the 132-unit Hickory Grove townhomes neighborhood. The Commission also launched a new quest for the city to find a way to solve a traffic problem that may have begun more than a decade ago.

Townhome rendering courtesy of the City of Winter Springs.

Talking about potential traffic impacts from the townhome development, developer Dwight Saathoff said that wait times just south of the development at Tuskawilla Road and State Road 434 were already past what they should be.

“Anything above 80 seconds [of wait time] is considered a failure,” Saathoff said. “We’re at about 90 seconds.”

“There’s nothing about our project that changes the performance of the intersection,” Saathoff added, saying that his development, with 132 townhome units, was only expected to add 1-2 seconds of wait time during peak hours at the closest red light intersection.

He reminded the Commission that stopping the development for adding additional traffic to nearby roads would be illegal according to the city’s own laws, which Deputy Mayor Kevin Cannon openly lamented while explaining the issue.

“The reality is that in 2000 when the Town Center code was adopted by our Commission, the concept was a high density area,” Cannon said. “Then 10 years later, in 2010, they jettisoned the approach of actually keeping track of the traffic counts and how much can an intersection handle.”

Traffic, Cannon said, was the top complaint residents talked to him about.

“I don’t like having my hands tied so that we can’t take into consideration the number of vehicles coming out of a project or increase in traffic that comes from a project,” he said. And after the project passed, with two changes to the project passing by a narrow 3-2 vote, Cannon vowed to try to change the city’s transportation concurrency exemptions so that the city could better control additional traffic.

Traffic was just one of a handful of issues that had slowed the approval of the development. Another was the proposed bulldozing of more than 1,000 trees just north of Blumberg Park in the Winter Springs Town Center. One of the four exceptions the developers were hoping to have granted Monday night was to cut down 11 of the 14 large specimen oak trees on the property. It was the only exception to pass unanimously by the Commission.

“This is one that no one in our city likes to do but it goes with the territory,” Mayor Kevin McCann said.

The development will pay a fee for cutting down the trees and will replace some of them, Saathoff said.

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