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Winter Garden makes resident community meetings a requirement for construction projects approval

Instant Photo Poster
Norine Dworkin

Founding Editor

Sunday, December 12, 2021


Norine Dworkin/VoxPopuli

Winter Garden City Manager Jon Williams addressing residents from Brandy Creek, Oaks at Brandy Lake and Hyde Park, gathered at city hall on Nov. 30 for a hastily arranged community meeting about Riegl USA's proposed helipad project. City planners had forgotten to inform the residents about the project before it landed on the city commission agenda for a vote in October and early November.

Winter Garden is revising its construction approval procedures to require community meetings before the city’s Development Review Committee (DRC) can advance any project, City Manager Jon Williams announced at the city commission meeting Thursday evening.

The requirement is intended to avoid the kind of snafu the city recently went through with Riegl USA’s proposal to construct a helipad at its new headquarters on West Colonial Drive. That proposal had been placed on the city commission agenda with a staff recommendation that the commission vote to approve the helipad site plan three times — Oct. 14, Oct. 28, Nov. 11. However, no one in city planning scheduled a community meeting to solicit feedback from the residents of Brandy Creek, Oaks at Brandy Lake and Hyde Park — the three communities that would be most impacted by the addition of a helipad.

Williams described the omission as an “oversight” and said the city was not attempting to slip the helipad under the radar for a commission vote.

The proposal was pulled from the Nov. 11 city commission agenda and a community meeting hastily scheduled for Nov. 30. By then, community residents were livid about what they saw as Riegl’s secrecy and disregard for the impact of helicopter traffic on their neighborhoods and city planners’ lack of transparency around the project.

For now the helipad is on hold. And city officials are trying to avoid this situation with future projects.

“By requiring community meetings as a condition of approval from DRC, it will ensure that an oversight (as in the case of Riegl) in scheduling does not occur again,” said Williams.

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