Much debate surrounded the proposed development on the 6-acre chunk of property that’s sandwiched between the Kyoto Sushi & Grill and KFC on West Mitchell Hammock Road just west of State Road 434 at a Sept. 6 Local Planning Agency meeting.
The project has been in the planning stages for two years and the architectural design for two of the three buildings planned for the lot – an Aspen Dental and a TD Bank – were approved by the Oviedo City Council on Sept. 9. The third building is planned to be a restaurant.
“I’m hoping there’s a bagel shop but that’s just me,” said LPA Vice Chairman David Pollack. “With that being said, I think this is going to be good for the community. I think it’s going to actually ease some traffic on Mitchell Hammock Road and I’m excited about it.”
Pollack was referring to the connection from Lake Jessup Avenue to the Sprouts Farmers Market plaza’s parking lot that the project would create.
“We’ve seen a ton of projects and this is one I’ve been hoping for for so long. This is the one project we’re approving that actually gives us another route to connect two places,” he said.
The developer, Brightwork Acquisition, LLC, plans to create a cut-through between the property and the Sprouts parking lot in the first phase of the project. A more official access between the two properties is contingent upon the St. Johns River Management District releasing about 2,000 square feet of conservation easement on the property. This will make it safer for drivers and pedestrians, Oviedo Development Services Director Teresa Correa said.
Urban rules debated
The LPA approved the site development order with members Bruce Kavenagh and Steven Rich dissenting.
The plans incorporated new urban-esque development rules to correlate with the recently approved 25-year plan. For instance, the project will be built 9 feet closer to Mitchell Hammock Road than past projects, which the city said will make it more accessible to pedestrians. Parking spaces will also be 1 foot narrower.
Kavenagh argued that having the buildings so close to the road will hinder the possible need to widen the road in the future and said people prefer wider parking spaces.
“People live out here because they don’t necessarily want to be more urban,” Kavenagh said. “Pushing urban in the downtown and the mall is fine but this stretch here is more suburban. Oviedo is still a suburban area whether you like it or not. We need to plan for the future because that road is not going to stay like it is today.”
Correa said the new rules will help the city become more sustainable. She said the idea is to create more roadway connections to disperse traffic so that widening is not the only option.
“We do not want to have a sea of parking spaces, of concrete. We are not trying to change the suburban pattern in the residential areas but the new development should bring a different pattern of development, which is more urban. This is the vision that was put forth by the comprehensive plan.”
Impact on Mitchell Hammock
Because of the wetlands on the site, the applicant said that nearly 70% of the property will remain open space.
“As you can see, when we’ve laid out this site we wanted to make sure that the encroachment to those existing wetlands is as minimal as possible so all of our proposed improvements are located far north,” said Nim Robinson, who works with the developer’s engineering consulting firm, Bowman Consulting Group.
A few LPA members said they thought the plan crammed too much into the space and suggested that the buildings be consolidated.
“Why are we having three separate buildings and why are we having a bank? Did you know there’s two banks that went out of business here in Oviedo?” LPA Chairman Darrell Lopez said.
“I’m just putting this out there because it is creating, as we’ve all said in the past, a large amount of traffic on Mitchell Hammock. Staff knows how this board feels about traffic on Mitchell Hammock and yet, I’m sorry, it’s never addressed.”
A recently approved development across the street from the project contains an Advanced Dental Care.
Robinson said the project will not add to the road’s traffic.
“This is the only remaining property, from what I view coming into the city, as being undeveloped so the existing conditions with traffic, it’s already failing. This is not going to be something that’s going to add to it because we did proper due diligence to ensure that our use fits within the current existing condition,” she said.
Robinson said the project has been challenging to design because of the existing wetlands and the high water table (the water table being the layer of the ground that is saturated with water).
“It’s been years since somebody has come along and said we’re willing to invest into making this happen for you. I know it’s not perfect but this is the best shot,” Pollack said.
This project is expected to go to the City Council for approval on Oct. 3.
Watch the 9-6-22 LPA meeting: