Pulte Homes Co., one of the nation’s largest residential construction companies, has withdrawn its controversial request to add a water treatment plant to the rural limits of Seminole as part of its development plans for a gated community of 300 homes on hundreds of acres of pristine pasture. .
Representatives for Pulte did not give county officials a reason to withdraw the request. And a company representative told the Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday that “Pulte has no comment at this time.”
It is unclear whether Pulte will continue with efforts to build the 300-home development on 1-acre lots clustered on a 1,360-acre stretch just east of Snow Hill Road and south of Old Mims Road near the Ecolockhatchee River.
The land – mostly an open grazing area with ponds, wetlands and woodland – has long been owned by the Yarboroughs, a family of cattle herders dating back over a century.
Pulte’s removal pleased David Bear, a Winter Springs attorney and president of the nonprofit conservation group Save Rural Seminole, who was among dozens of East Seminole residents opposing the request.
A new water treatment plant in the community, he said, would have led other developers to make similar demands in the rural limits of Seminole.
Seminole land use regulations generally prohibit water treatment plants within development-restricted rural boundaries. And Pulte was asking for an exception to this rule. Without the facility, new homes, if built, would need individual private wells.
“The very reason the code exists in rural boundaries is to make it less likely that a developer would build a sprawling development,” Bear said. “It would have set a precedent for the next developer to come in and say, ‘Hey, you gave them an exclusion. [from the code]. So why don’t you do the same for me? »
County commissioners were scheduled to vote on Pulte’s candidacy at Tuesday’s meeting. However, Acting County Executive Bryant Applegate announced that Pulte has decided not to move forward. The commissioners made no comment.
In a staff report to commissioners last month, county planners opposed Pulte’s request.
“In the opinion of the professional staff of the planning staff, the plaintiff has not demonstrated a significant benefit to justify the change in policy,” the county report states.
At the Seminole Planning and Zoning Board meeting Oct. 5, Pulte attorney Rebecca Wilson said drinking water from a central treatment facility is safe because it must meet federal standards and state water standards, and individual wells are not required to meet these standards.
She added that a water treatment plant would allow fire hydrants in the neighborhood, which is not feasible with private wells.
More than two dozen people spoke out against Pulte’s application at that meeting of the planning and zoning board. All say such a facility would ruin the rural characteristics of the area and open the door to higher density developments.
Christopher Stevens of Chuluota said the proposed development was billed as a rural community. But rural communities have private wells, he said.
“I understand from what I’ve read about this new development that they want to build it to kind of offer what would be the appeal of living in a rural lifestyle,” he said. he declares. “But I think living a rural lifestyle involves having a well on your property. …and having a water treatment facility invites more development and sets a precedent.
The board members, by a vote of 4 to 3, agreed to recommend that the Seminole commission reject Pulte’s application.
In September, Pulte representatives told the Sentinel that they plan to move forward with the development whether or not they receive approval for the water treatment plant.
In the mid-2000s, the Yarboroughs – who once owned up to 7,000 acres of rural land in eastern Seminole – reached an agreement with the State of Florida and Seminole to sell 5,187 acres to the management district of water from the St. Johns River for $30 million. , as well as two miles of frontage property along the St. Johns River and five miles along the Econlockhatchee River.
Conservationists and environmentalists applauded the sale at the time as it preserved the ecologically sensitive land – a mix of hardwood forests, cypress swamps, marshes and pastures teeming with wildlife – from rooftops and sidewalks.
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Additionally, the Yarboroughs were able to retain development rights to their remaining acreage, which they have since continued to use to operate a cattle ranch. Family members have said they want to limit any development to just 300 homes.
In September 2008, Seminole Commissioners approved preliminary development plans to license up to 300 homes on 1-acre lots on the 1,400 acres.
Dennis Langlois, who lives in rural Black Hammock in Seminole, said if the Yarboroughs wanted a developer to build a central water treatment plant for those 300 homes, they would have said so in their agreement with the count.
The Seminole rural boundary, established in the county charter by voters in a countywide referendum in 2004, covers nearly one-third of Seminole. Development densities are limited between one house per 3 acres and one house per 10 acres. Changing this zoning requires a majority vote of the five-member county commission.
Eddie Lee Banks Jr. of Geneva said he was raised in rural Seminole and opposed development.
“I grew up there,” he says. “I’ve been out in all these woods. … But now we are going to be affected by all these houses.