3: Relationships Count

Consider that the city doesn’t own the land that fans out around the intersection of Round Lake Road and SR-46; it’s in unincorporated Lake County.

What the city and the county worked out was a joint planning agreement (or JPA) that outlines how they expect the area to grow. Basically, it creates this opportunity for non-residential, job-creating uses. The county also established a land use category that matches, word for word, the city’s plan for the area, with explicit commercial zoning provisions.

That’s for who buys the land, but what about the sellers? There are many. According to Robert Chandler, Lake County director of economic growth, there are three sections of property that comprise the Innovation District. Those sections are composed of multiple owners — an upper third which is mostly a one-owner parcel; a middle section includes many small homeowners, and a third, lower parcel is owned by a single entity.

It won’t be until the Parkway is completed and the utility infrastructure has been provided (Mount Dora will supply the water and sewer, while electricity will come from Seminole County) that commercial interests will start lining up to buy.

Until then, what’s to keep sellers from going for the easy, quick buck of single-family home development? Those developers are bucking to get anywhere close to the extension; drive down the 429 into Orlando these days, and you see housing going up in a hurry on both sides. The land use category established by the county will help prevent that, but also, the land will be much more valuable if sold for commercial use. “Some of those landowners have been out there for generations,” says Deputy City Manager and Planning Director Mark Reggentin. “They understand if they will be patient, they will make much more money on the deal.”

In the middle parcel of land for the Innovation District there are many smaller landowners to negotiate with.

How it will go with the individual small homeowners in the area is another question. Chandler says he has hoped that all of those parcels might be bought by a single entity the county could deal with for the commercial sales. But, it may be just as likely that the selling process will be a laborious, one-by-one process. “However,” he says, “once this thing is built and the roads are in, I have a hard time believing that rural homeowners will want to stay. They’ve known this was coming for a long time now.”

“This isn’t the change that is going to take Sorrento and Mount Dora to urban — that was already done when Parkway was authorized back in 2004.”

Eventually will come the job of selling commercial parcels for a mix which has been envisioned but far from finalized.

“We’re hoping for a mix of office and light industry,” says Mayor Cathy Hoechst. “It might include healthcare, pharmaceuticals, medical supply, high tech and software development.

“But we are listening to all offers … we don’t want to turn down anything just because we didn’t envision that initially. You listen to what’s there and evolve the concept.

“Conditions are changing elsewhere that might affect our district. Some companies may be watching the build-out of the Lake Nona medical complex; if it’s complete, they may be looking elsewhere to expand.”

— David Cohea (djcohea@gmail.com)

Originally published at www.mountdoracitizen.com on October 5, 2015.