Wednesday, October 26, 2011

George Mindling Column 12-2-2005 - A Balanced Community

A Balanced Community Takes Planning

After visiting the master planned community Baldwin Park in Orlando, I couldn’t help but think of the old Alan Sherman line, “A camel is a horse designed by committee.” After looking at the cramped housing that looks better suited for Massachusetts, I began to wonder if I was in Florida at all.

I still remember the beautiful old moss covered oaks that dominated the landscape while I was stationed at the old Orlando Air Force Base back in the early sixties. The Baldwin community is built on the old Air Force Base turned Orlando Naval Training Center. The Navy turned the property over to the City of Orlando in 2000, after several years of planning and negotiation.

The other planned community in the Orlando spotlight is the Disney planned community of Celebration, now ten years old. Celebration came to life from woodlands not far from the Disney World complex. With a ten-year track record, planners and developers can see where the shortcomings and pitfalls have occurred. They can also see where the planning was exactly right.

Sales have boomed. Florida Trend Magazine recently reported the cheapest property in Celebration was a one-bedroom townhouse that sold for $199,000. The magazine also reports estate homes were going for $3 million. The median income of the 10,000 Celebration residents is twice that of the average citizen of Osceola County, where Celebration is located. One expert quoted in the magazine stated by not setting aside affordable housing and not building enough townhouses, the planners failed to create an economically diverse community. No developer wants to be discouraged from building an upscale community that is a commercial success, even though Disney tried to control property speculation by stipulating that sales by owners of less than one year for prices above the Consumer Price Index would be turned over to the Celebration Foundation.

Charlotte County envisions a more diverse community with its upcoming Murdock Village. Property values in Charlotte County skyrocketed after the start of land acquisition by the County, and may adjust again as the project begins to actually unfold into the local community. Provisions for affordable housing must be included in the design process.

County Commissioner Matt DeBoer wants to insure affordable/workforce housing is included in the master plan for Murdock village by purchasing through the land trust with ownership remaining in the trust. A limited amount of equity should be allowed the renters/owners to promote upgrades to higher value units and eventual ownership in other areas of the Village. Loraine Helber, Charlotte County housing coordinator, would like to see the yet-to-be selected developer include specific plans for affordable housing in the bid process. With the care and concern of involved officials, Charlotte County will hopefully be successful in avoiding the economic lockout of the people needed to teach and care for our community.

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