Richland Communities wants to build over 3,500 homes in Wolf Branch Innovation District – GrowthSpotter
The Orlando-based developer who bought a huge swath of Lake County’s Wolf Branch Innovation District has proposed drastic changes to the master plan that convert most of the proposed employment center into a mixed-use community with thousands of new homes.
Richland Communities paid $24.8 million in 2022 for 550 acres along the Wekiva Parkway spur (S.R. 453) and north of State Road 46. Late last year the developer, which specializes in master planned communities and industrial parks, filed two Comprehensive Plan Amendments to change the future land use of the parcels and also sought to rezone the sites into Planned Unit Developments. The applications have already gone through an initial review by Lake County, and the developer recently resubmitted the applications, along with updated conceptual plans from land planning consultant RVi. Both declined to speak with GrowthSpotter.
The Richland proposals divide the developments into distinct and very different communities with most of the employment uses concentrated on the 206 acres just north of the Orange County line and west of S.R. 453, where the current zoning entitles the property for over 35 million square feet of general office space. The WBID Master Plan envisioned a mix of industrial, warehousing, medical offices, a potential college campus and at least three multifamily site on that property.
Richland is seeking entitlements to build up to 10.4 million square feet of employment uses (3.34 million square feet each of light industrial, general office and retail) with an enhanced 90-foot buffer separating the non-residential uses from the adjacent neighborhoods. The Mount Dora South PUD also seeks an increase in residential units from 334 to 504 for the two parcels east of S.R. 453. The larger 78.6-acre parcel would have Low Density Residential (LDR) land use, while the smaller 10.6 acre parcel would have Medium Density Residential (MDR) land use. The developer would create 5 acres of park and recreation space for residents, according to the submittal.
In the project justification, RVi writes that Richland’s development of Mount Dora South would generate $39 million in total impact fees paid to the county and an estimated $10 million per year in tax revenue. The document states that the intent of the plan is to locate the more intensive light-industrial center areas setback from SR 46 but allow for adequate access to the major roadways serving the site and provide complementary housing for WCID workers.
The developer shifted most of the multifamily housing to the proposed Mount Dora North PUD, which comprises the 246.8-acre Sorrento property north of S.R. 46 within the Gateway Employment Center of the WBID Master Plan. The current zoning on Mount Dora North called for 29.3 million square feet of offices and just 17 dwellings, but Richland wants to create a mixed-use district with “employment-generating commercial, office and light industrial “flex” space, along with well-integrated and compact housing to provide proximate housing for employees.”
The developer is requesting a maximum density is 2,998 dwelling units, for a gross density of 12.1 du/acre, and 2.2 million square feet of non-residential uses in the form of mixed use/employment center development.
A small portion of the property currently has Rural Transition land use, and Richland is proposing LDR on that 22-acre section that extends north to Wolf Branch Road. The rest of the property would be designated for MDR (128 acres) and Mixed-Use/Employment (50.5 acres), with remaining 46.4 acres for conservation. Richland says it would provide a minimum of 30.7 acres of park and recreational space in the PUD.
In the justification statement, RVi said the rezoning is necessary for the property to be developed according to current market needs. The proposed rezoning of Mount Dora North would result in an influx of $32.3 million in impact fees and an annual tax revenue of $7.5 million, according to their estimates.
“The Regional Office and Rural Transition future land use categories has been in place for decades and has remained vacant,” it says. “The rezoning will allow a mix of land uses similar to and compatible with the surrounding infrastructure and existing uses. The proposed rezoning also facilitates a springboard for development that aligns with the vision of the WBID as most of the land is within the district.”
This is the second major development proposal this year for the WBID. ACMO Development had proposed a 33-acre mixed-use project on S.R. 46 with nearly 1,800 residential units and 950,000 square feet of commercial space, but the Mount Dora City Council rejected the PUD application over concerns that it violated the WBID Master Plan restrictions on building height. AMCO has appealed the denial to the Fifth Circuit and request a special magistrate to hear the case.
The $980 million AMCO plan called for a 100,000-square-foot convention center, 325 hotel rooms, a 60,000-square-foot medical office, a 125,000-square-foot self-storage facility, a preschool, an underground parking garage, and a 5.2-acre man-made lake with walking trails and outdoor fitness equipment accessible to the public and residents.
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