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300-home Yarborough project meeting approaching

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Light pollution, increased traffic and impacts on wildlife are chief among Tori Myers’ concerns about the 300 homes Pulte Homes Co is requesting to build on 1,300 acres of former Yarborough Ranch property, which sits along Snow Hill Road in Geneva.

Myers, whose 10-acre property is adjacent to the Yarborough land, said these things will “not only be catastrophic to the land, but also Geneva as a whole.”

Next week, home builder Pulte Homes Co is scheduled to ask Seminole County’s Planning and Zoning Commission to consider the project – a gated community with 300 one-acre lots – with an additional request to amend the county’s comprehensive plan to allow a centralized water system within the development.

A previous application from the developer for half-acre lots was withdrawn.

The county’s zoning plan allows one home per acre in that area of the rural boundary but each property would have to have individual wells for potable water and would need to rely on septic tanks. Seminole County Planning Manager Mary Moskowitz said this rule was put in place to discourage large-scale development.

Max Perlman, vice president of land acquisition for Pulte Group’s Orlando division, told the Orlando Sentinel that the project has been designed to preserve the area’s natural resources. According to the Sentinel’s report, Perlman said in an email that “This project will satisfy a pent up market demand for residences in Seminole that afford a rural lifestyle surrounded by natural amenities.”

Pulte Homes Co is requesting to build 300 homes on 1,300 acres of former Yarborough Ranch property in Geneva. Image courtesy of Seminole County.

The project sits adjacent to the Little Big Econ State Forest with a northwest corner of the property directly abutting forest land.

Perlman told the Sentinel that having a centralized water system will more efficiently preserve groundwater, specifically the Geneva Freshwater Lens, a pocket of the Florida aquifer that local individual wells tap into.

The Sentinel quoted Perlman saying that a central water system would “be subject to state regulations applicable to public water systems that require water conservation and meeting safe drinking water standards. … Our goal is to provide an environmentally superior option to provide water to the future residents.”

Kim Joyce Brown, who for 33 years has called her 3.5 acres near the proposed project home, said that while she’s against the development she’d rather the water system come with the project because she thinks it will protect the groundwater. But she is still concerned about 300 individual septic tanks.

“We have really good water on the Geneva bubble (Freshwater Lens) so I’m hoping it’s not going to contaminate the water here,” she said.

She said her husband is a home builder and said that 300 homes won’t impact the area much but to her, “300 seems like a million out here.”

Regardless of whether the centralized water request is approved, Perlman told the Sentinel that Pulte plans to move forward with the project. Plans to clear the land are set for 2023 and construction would follow a year later, according to the report.

“They fight things all of the time in Geneva and a lot of times it works,” Brown said. “But this has been locked down for so many years, there’s nothing anyone can do.”

Myers said she worries that approving this project will open the area up to more future development.

“While the agricultural atmosphere of Geneva is currently protected by zoning regulations and the rural boundary, the approval and completion of this residential project will provide a gateway for further high-density development in the community.”

The 6,000-acre ranch was broken up in the early 2000s when the Yarborough family sold 5,000 acres to the St. Johns River Management District for conservation purposes, Moskowitz said.

The Planning and Zoning meeting is scheduled for Oct. 5 and the item is expected to reach the Seminole County Commission on Oct. 25.

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