School system accused of stifling growth in west Orange County

Updated:

Loading

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A group representing home builders is accusing the Orange County School Board of stifling growth on the west side of the county.

The school board tabled plans for a small home development on Roper Road in Winter Garden, but Channel 9's Jeff Deal has learned a homebuilders' group believes the district did it because of an ongoing fight with the county over a proposed school site on State Road 535 near Windermere.

The school district has owned the land for years and officials said they want to build a school on the site. But the land isn't zoned for a school and some neighbors don't want it..

Now some feel that battle is hurting them.

Nearby West Orange High School is facing an overcrowding problem.

"All these kids coming in, they're going to be in portables by the time they move no matter what," said Orange County School Board member Pam Gould.

The site where the district wants to build a new relief high school is zoned rural settlement and county commissions have denied requests to change it.

The district signed a construction management contract with a developer back in 2007 to build on the site.

The school district is suing the county, hoping to get the zoning changed.

Nathan Cross, president of the Greater Orlando Builder's Association said that battle is hurting his organization.

"In our minds they kind of waged war on development by making that political statement," said Cross.

Cross said the school district, which has to approve all growth, tabled approval on a 59-home development in Winter Garden, citing the unresolved school fight as the reason.

The builders' association fears if the school board can wield its power and stop development on the small parcel of land in Winter Garden it could do the same thing and stifle growth all across Orange County.

West side school board member Pam Gould said the move wasn't politically motivated and believes the growth issue on the west side is a concern.

"The reality is we have to come to terms on this site be it the (State Road) 535 site or the alternative site," Gould said.

County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he believes district should have dealt with the zoning issue years ago and says it is unfortunate a developer got caught in the middle of the issue now.

"I think the impact of this developer's project would have been very minimal," said Boyd.

Channel 9 was told the development would have added around 12 high school students to the district.