Residents of Seneca Bend, a 21-home community off of Winter Springs Boulevard, have voiced concern about a proposed childcare facility within their neighborhood that would replace 0.83 acres of marshy wetlands.
“What, are we losing our minds?” resident Nyvia Torres said. “The more we talk about it to make it something, a commercial area, the more bizarre it gets with the impact that it has.”
Torres has lived in her Seneca Bend home for 25 years, always appreciating the “green sponge” of the nearby wetlands, which she said serves as a noise buffer for residents from the nearby State Road 417 and lends a natural feel to the neighborhood.
Ordinance No. 1732, if approved by the Oviedo City Council at the development’s second public hearing on June 19, would allow for the rezoning of the wetland parcel, which was part of the commercial track of the Seneca Bend Planned Unit Development approved in 1995. This was before the land development agreement expired in 2005.
Though the actual application for development is not yet approved, plans for the facility could potentially allow for a maximum capacity of 100 students, a 5,439-square-foot building and a maximum building height of 45 feet, excluding roof-top equipment.
During the development’s first public hearing before the Council on June 5, several Seneca Bend residents spoke.
“Common sense will tell you that if you have an eight-foot deep hole that is dirt bottom, and it’s .83 acres wide, it’s probably going to mitigate excess water much better than that hole filled with pavement,” said Lee Massie, a Seneca Bend resident since 1999. “The question was asked of me of how we fared during [Hurricane] Ian. We actually fared very well … I believe the reason we fared well was because we have a .83 acre hole along with the one across the street that was able to mitigate a lot of that water.”
Ramadan Seyam, president of Zoser Design Build Group Inc. which is the development’s applicant, said at the June 5 meeting that he would work to address some of the challenges brought up at a previous Local Planning Agency meeting.
“I just want to convey the commitment of the developer, that we will work with the community and the residents to accomplish whatever is needed for the safety and the welfare of the residents and the community and especially the children around this area,” Seyam said.
Oviedo Development Services Director Teresa Correa said they hear the concerns of the residents and that the development is “not their initiative”.
“Our role is to explain the process, why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Correa said. “In our public hearing (on June 19), we are going to have our transportation consultant, we are going to have our environmental consultant as well, to be able to address any issues or questions that may come up.”
Water and wildlife
Though the plot of land in question is small, the residents say it’s home to an abundance of wildlife, such as cardinals, turtles and rabbits, that they worry will be threatened by the new development.
“We’re taking our wetlands away,” Torres said. “We’re taking our wildlife away. We’re making them homeless, whoever’s in there.”
Another concern is the flooding of the neighborhood’s water retention pond, which Seneca Bend resident of six years Elizabeth Gase lives next to.
“I’m also very concerned about what the impact is going to be on my house,” Gase said. “The water is no longer going to be held on that property. It will go potentially into our retention pond. I don’t know what the impact of that is going to be.”
Gase said her neighbor, who is also next to the retention pond, has already built a retaining wall on his property.
Residents are also concerned about the safety impacts the increased traffic from this proposed development would have. Gase said she worries about her young children waiting at the bus stop.
“I have an upcoming fourth grader, an upcoming second grader and an upcoming VPK student,” Gase said. “So this is something that’s going to impact our family for years to come.”
Resident Bill Carlucci has lived in Seneca Bend for nearly six years and said he’s concerned about the traffic and safety impacts considering the current entrance to their neighborhood already “sneaks up on you quickly”.
“So if they put the entrance to the daycare in front of that, there’s gonna be lots of people blowing past,” Carlucci said.
Carlucci also questioned how the allotted parking spaces for the facility will impact residents as parents travel to drop off and pick up their children.
“There’s only going to be 24 spots,” Carlucci said. “So if it’s licensed for 100 [students], at peak times, are people going to be waiting in line or are they going to be pulling in front of our homes?”
Torres agreed, saying: “The safety, it’s such a small area one way and one way out. And if we ever had an emergency and we had cars parked in the street, or there was an emergency back here, and we had something happening in the middle of peak time – they’re not going to get through the way they need to get through.”
Correa said as of now, the ordinance would not require a traffic study as it is only seeking approval for the rezoning of the land. A study would be required to approve a site plan for the development.
Correa said even if the rezoning ordinance moves forward with no issues next week, there’s no estimate as to how long it could be until residents begin to see development.
“We don’t even know because the site had some challenges so they would have to address all the issues,” Correa said. “… It will be a while until they see development.”
One challenge is mitigating the drainage of the wetland site.
Torres said the neighborhood’s opposition is not just to the construction of a childcare facility, but the development of the land itself.
“It would be regardless of any business, even if you had a pharmacy in there,” Torres said. “I mean, we still are removing a valuable piece of land that you will never get back.”
We are interested about hearing news in our community! Let us know what's happening!
Share a story!