What will this area look like in 20 years? Seminole plans for future growth around Sanford airport

Seminole leaders are beginning to lay the groundwork for how one of the county’s last swaths of land available for development will look for decades to come.

The area near Orlando Sanford International Airport and the county’s Boombah Sports Complex – today mostly old citrus groves, pastureland and homes on large lots among several lakes – is targeted as Seminole’s next zone for big growth.

“This area of our county is our eastern entrance,” Commissioner Jay Zembower said at a recent county meeting. “And it’s the area of our county that is likely to develop in the next decade or two. So, we probably ought to be doing this the right way rather than going back and fixing our flaws later.”

Seminole hired Renaissance Planning of Orlando to sketch out a plan for transforming land south and east of the airport, and along a five-mile section of East Lake Mary Boulevard between Mellonville Avenue and just north of State Road 46, into a bustling community of homes, apartments, offices, industrial complexes, parks and recreational trails.

 

Because the area is tucked between Lake Monroe, Lake Jesup and the St. Johns River, the study also will consider how the county should guide development along those environmentally sensitive water bodies.

“At a first glance, if somebody went through here, they would see a lot of undeveloped land,” said David Nelson, a senior planner and landscape architect with Renaissance. “But in reality, there are a number of distinct characteristics in the study area that we’re dealing with…. It has large [home] lots. It has pristine lakes. It has beautiful mature hardwoods. So, you’ve got this really unique area. And we’ll take great care to figure out how they will all fit together.”

Nelson added that in the coming years more people will want to move into this area “because it’s close to downtown Sanford. And it’s easily accessible to the Central Florida roadway network,” including State Road 417 and Interstate 4.

Also, the fast-growing Sanford airport “is an economic driver” for the county that will eventually lead to more homes for its employees popping up around the airfield, Nelson said.

Until this year’s global pandemic, the Sanford airport has seen increasing numbers of travelers. In 2019, it posted a record 3.3 million passengers walk through its gates, a 6.3% jump from 2018 and a 93% increase from 2009, when the airport handled 1.7 million passengers.

But this year, total passengers through October has dropped by about 53%.

The airport also is nearing completion of a $62-million expansion and renovation project that will add gates, baggage carousels, ticket counters, eateries, and nearly 50,000-square-feet of space. There are also about 670 acres of nearby land, that airport officials have eyed for future expansion of commercial and industrial complexes.

In recent years, hundreds of acres of old Florida farmland around the Midway community and just north of the airport has been cleared to make way for more than 1,000 new homes and townhouses. That growth will eventually make its way to undeveloped land south of S.R. 46 and east of the airport, county officials said.

Since the county opened its new $27-million Boombah Sports Complex in May 2016 off East Lake Mary Boulevard, it has hosted dozens of tournaments that drew thousands of visitors to Seminole annually.

County officials expect the number of events to grow in the coming years as the economy begins to rebound from the pandemic and lure new hotels, restaurants, and shops.

Commissioner Bob Dallari said the framework for growth should include parks and trails that can connect to the 26-mile Lake Monroe loop expected to be complete next year. The loop will link to the 250-mile Coast-to-Coast trail that will stretch from the Gulf of Mexico in St. Petersburg to the Atlantic Ocean in Brevard County.

“Because once you get connected to that loop, you go anywhere in the state of Florida,” Dallari said. You can go all the way to the Atlantic or all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Renaissance will continue holding community meetings with residents to gather their comments in the coming weeks.

The study – at a cost of about $250,000 to the county — should be completed by March 2021 and turned over to Seminole staff. Commissioners will then begin discussing how to enact development regulations for that area.

“People love this area,” Nelson said. “And we want to plan for growth. But there’s a balancing act. There’s a side of the environment and protecting it. And there’s a side of growth. And we want to do what’s best for both.”

Author:

Orlando Sentinel

mcomas@orlandosentinel.com

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