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Editor’s note: The image that originally accompanied this article was a rendering that was provided by the City of Winter Springs but was not created by the property’s developer, which is why OCN removed it.
A potential three-story storage facility that’s “bigger than a Walmart” has the Winter Springs City Commission mobilizing to try to stop it. The president of the real estate firm selling the property says that the city’s approach is a problem. But the biggest problem, according to city officials, is that the property in the middle of Winter Springs isn’t in the city at all.
“People in our community are going to be confused because for all intents and purposes this property is in the city,” Winter Springs City Attorney Anthony Garganese said during Monday night’s City Commission meeting.
The property in question lies on the east side of Tuskawilla Road as it approaches its intersection with State Road 434, bordered by neighborhoods on two sides, in the shadow of a defunct cattle ranch and industrial zone, all of them in Winter Springs. But the 4.81-acre property where the development is proposed is an enclave of Seminole County, a pocket of land completely surrounded by neighborhoods in Winter Springs but not legally part of the city.
“You do not have a vote on whether or not this use is allowed on the property because it’s still in the county’s jurisdiction, unless there was another alternative development proposed,” Garganese said.
“The County Commission actually has to affirmatively vote to approve this specific use,” Garganese said, clarifying that the county would have to vote to allow a storage facility specifically. “As you know, this specific use is not permitted in the Town Center, and it’s not permitted on most of this property, which has a split zoning of A1 and industrial frontage.”
That disconnect led the Commission on Monday night to consider mobilizing the community to voice their concerns to the Seminole County Commission in an effort to stop the development, something the Commission also discussed doing last spring.
“It’s an abomination,” Commissioner Rob Elliott said. “It’s in no way compatible. My vision would be to sell it to the city and we’ll put a library there.”
Tuesday afternoon’s County Commission meeting represented the first official plea from the city to prevent the development from happening, though the proposed project, which will require several steps before reaching the Commission, was not up for discussion.
Standing in front of the Seminole County Commission during a public comment segment of the county’s regular meeting, Winter Springs Mayor Kevin McCann did not mince words about the potential project: “It would be astronomically damaging to our community,” he said. “This building is bigger than a Walmart. The only building that would be bigger than this is Winter Springs High School in the city.”
Former Commissioner Kevin Cannon told the Seminole County Commission he’s receiving phone calls from concerned residents across the city.
“The prospect of a 116,000-square-foot storage unit in that location is causing people to lose their minds,” he said.
Real estate agent Dave Axel, involved in the sale of the property, said that “the city has not officially reached out to the property owner, the attorney or me to do anything.”
But Winter Springs Commissioner Cade Resnick Monday said that he had reached out to the developer to change the project.
“I have had a conversation with the developer and said ‘Can we negotiate something else?’ and he was pretty hard on saying no. He had some other choice words but he said no,” Resnick said.
McCann said that the city had spoken with a developer about a smaller storage facility on the property four years ago.
“Four years later it’s a different developer attempting to do a storage development in the heart of the city,” McCann said.
Axel said that considering how the Commission has acted toward the development, he doesn’t think the developer will be able to come to a deal with the city.
“It’s a little late in the game and it’s hard to negotiate with somebody after you’ve taken the position that you’re going to fight them,” Axel said.
As it stands, according to Garganese, the developer would first have to hold an informational session for the public. That has yet to be scheduled. At that point, the project would be able to move toward being voted on by the Seminole County Planning and Zoning Board. Only at that point could the development potentially be considered by the County Commission.
Axel said Tuesday that he’s “confident it’s going to proceed and get approved.”
To listen to the full meeting, click here.