Planned Idlewild development faces challenges from town, residents
WINTER PARK — Several points of contention were raised Tuesday between the town of Winter Park and residents over the planned Idlewild Development, namely regarding its number of hotel units and condominiums, the proposed height of various buildings on the property and the potential impacts it would have on traffic and affordable housing.
The property for the Idlewild development, which is located on Ski Idlewild Road east of the Rendezvous development and north of Hideaway Park, is currently zoned to have up to 319 residential units, including condos and single-family townhomes, with a maximum height of 35 feet. It would also include 70 hotel units with a maximum height of 50 feet, as well as an undetermined amount of commercial space.
Idlewild LLC, the developer for the property, had suggested an increase in the number of hotel units to 150, which they felt was necessary in order to act as a full service hotel.
“That’s to be able to accommodate and attract a hotel that would be more of a full-service type, that would include food, beverage and a conference facility,” said Dave Williams, a principal for DTJ designs, which is working with Idlewild on the proposal, during Winter Park’s regular meeting on Tuesday.
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The majority of public comment during the meeting supported the proposed hotel, and several residents felt that the development would be a boon to the economy by providing a needed service and encouraging local business.
“Nobody is thriving in this town,” claimed Mark Johnson, a resident and business owner in Winter Park. “I’m very much for this project and the people it will draw in will be a new market.”
There was overall a strong show of support for the proposed hotel, even among those with concerns, with the majority of the public comment that challenged Idlewild’s proposal focusing on changes to building heights.
The developers of the property wanted to raise the height of the townhomes from the zoned 35 feet to 43 feet, raise condos to include 55 and 65 foot buildings and raise the hotel height from 50 feet to 75 feet. Several homeowners, especially those in Rendezvous, were concerned the changes to the height would ruin the views and the small town character.
“Changing the height for this project will not only impact existing developments but all future development applications, resulting in a city atmosphere,” said Paula Stuart, a Fraser resident.
According to developers, the changes are needed in order to fit the number of units they are hoping to build on the lot, as well as to fit parking, which they hope to place below the planned structures.
The town council felt that they were willing to make the height allowances as long as there was the guarantee of the hotel.
However, the community felt that, in order to give height allowances, the town should be sure a hotel would be developed on the property and height allowances would only be made for the proposed buildings and their uses.
“I’m willing to give in to that 65-foot height, as long as I don’t get pushback on the majority of these other things (requests),” Lahrman said.
Both the town and the community also raised questions about the impact of the increase in density on the lot would have on traffic on Ski Idlewild Road.
Williams, along with Gale Schrag, manager for Idlewild, referenced a traffic study they had done in 2007 that determined there was sufficient capacity on Ski Idlewild Road without needing changes to the roads. Williams added that the 80 additional hotel units would have little impact on the traffic.
Lahrman and other town council members said they felt it was important to have a newer traffic study conducted, but that it did not necessarily need to be the sole burden of Idlewild and would consider paying for part.
“We do need to have some kind of a study and we need to have at least some type of a game plan that addresses everything going on the east side of Highway 40, particularly that entrance because it’s the entrance to Rendezvous Winter Park, it’s primary access to Idlewild and it’s secondary access to Roam,” Lahrman said.
Regarding the year-round trail on the Idlewild property, the town council wants to require the developers to cover the cost of relocation if they decide to change the layout. Idlewild LLC previously had argued the town should cover relocation fees.
The town also denied Idlewild’s request to pay a .25 percent real estate transfer assessment whenever residential property is sold and will ask for .5 percent, which will be used for affordable housing. This is the same agreement the town has with the recent Roam and Arrow developments in lieu of the developments providing affordable units.
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