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Update: County will send a mailer to property owners in proposed Rural Area

This map provided by the Orange County Charter Review Commission shows parts of the county that would be included in (and excluded from) the county's proposed Rural Area under the CRC's plan for the Rural Area Charter Amendment.
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This map provided by the Orange County Charter Review Commission shows parts of the county that would be included in (and excluded from) the county's proposed Rural Area under the CRC's plan for the Rural Area Charter Amendment.

The Orange County Commission has agreed on the language of a proposed charter amendment Tuesday that, if approved by voters in November, would designate large parts of the county as a rural area.

Commissioners also agreed during a meeting Tuesday to send out a mailer to property owners in the proposed Rural Area before an initial public hearing on July 30.

The Rural Area (or Rural Boundary) Charter Amendment aims to preserve farmland and environmentally sensitive land by making it harder to increase the level of development in certain areas where growth is not already planned.

Under the amendment, those changes to the comprehensive plan would need the majority plus one of the full County Commission.

Commissioner Emily Bonilla said it's about "controlled growth."

"You know, if we don't do that," she said in a telephone interview Monday, "then all of these developers are going to look for the cheapest land which is usually the land that is used by agriculture or is environmentally sensitive."

Bonilla is leading the effort to get it on the November ballot since the state Legislature canceled the local Charter Review Commission's authority to do it.

County staff are working with language developed by the CRC over several months and during numerous meetings.

Under the CRC proposal, the Rural Area is in unincorporated Orange County only. It is defined by excluding certain areas: the county's "Urban Service Area, municipal joint planning areas, Growth Centers, Innovation Way Overlay, and Horizon West Villages."

At Tuesday's meeting, the County Commission agreed to also exclude the planned Boggy Creek Urban Service Area expansion.

For legal reasons, the county is separating out a section of the CRC proposal that would supersede what a city would be allowed to approve for rural-designated land that it annexes.

Bonilla wants to see that as an issue included in a charter amendment on annexation.

She thinks the County Commission will move the rural area amendment forward.

"I feel that the Board of County Commissioners have seen, you know, the will of the people," she said, and what the people have been asking for and that they're going to honor that."

On Tuesday, Commissioner Christine Moore said the changes would affect property values.

"On the west side they have not been involved like the folks on the east side," she said. "I'm perfectly fine with the east side. I'm just worried that my folks don't know about this."

At her request, commissioners agreed to send a mailer to property owners in the Rural Area with information on the proposed amendment.

The county plans to hold a public hearing July 30. Last week, the Supervisor of Elections Office indicated it will need the language by Aug. 27 for it to appear on the ballot.

Updated: June 18, 2024 at 7:41 PM EDT
This article was updated to reflect the results of a County Commission meeting on Tuesday.
Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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