LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Leaders of the rural Lake County city of Mascotte are expected to approve a massive development project that would double the size of the town’s population later this month, if the developer makes a few adjustments to their proposal.
The Langley Estates development would bring 2,500 homes and townhomes to the city of 6,600 people. The additional homes are a concession, as the developer originally wanted 2,800 units. Community members have been campaigning for months to cancel the project or cut the number of homes that would be built, to little avail. An agreement made more than a decade ago between the landowner and the city effectively guaranteed the project would pass.
“Everybody in this area is from somewhere else if you trace it back far enough,” property owner Mike Langley said during a recent meeting.
Longtime residents of the area, some from families that stretch back generations, are reckoning with the fact that their simple, rural way of life is vanishing before their eyes. Subdivisions have popped up along every main road, especially on the town’s north end. Construction equipment has been moved onto other parcels waiting to break ground, bringing more higher-density homes where cow pastures once stood.
“We would just appreciate them to blend in with us, blend with our community [and] with the agricultural way of life,” Jason Brown said, adding that he’d prefer each home to sit on three to five acres instead of a tenth.
In many ways, though, it’s too late to stop the development of the community altogether. The outer edge of the Orlando metro area – centered around downtown more than 30 miles from Mascotte – has swallowed the town. Although city planning advocates have encouraged building walkable neighborhoods closer to Orange Avenue, similar sprawl battles are playing out from Oviedo to St. Cloud.
Studies of urban sprawl rank Orlando and many southern cities below average for density compared to their northern counterparts, thanks largely to their development during the automotive age. One researcher found outward growth of the metro area peaked in the 1970s and 1980s and slowed through the early 2000s, but no recent studies have been completed to see how the state’s immigration boom has affected outlying communities.
By 2030, studies project the metro area of Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties will have a combined 5.2 million people, roughly double the area’s 2021 population. That represents an addition of 1,500 people per week.
Some of those families will wind up in Mascotte, which will have to adapt to its newfound role within the wider community. Currently, no true downtown exists for people to gather and connect in. Some residents have already begun talking about creating one – a shift from assuming everyone knows everyone. City leaders have also spoken about adopting new rules meant to slow down the rate of development, to give them more time to ensure their community can handle the influx.
Langley’s main holdup at this point centers around the developer’s desire to place two-car garages on the front side of homes with 40-foot lots, which goes against Mascotte’s zoning regulations. Should they rework their plans, they’ve been given the guarantee of a green light from city council members.
It will be another crack in the atmosphere that Brown wishes to be a part of, making him think about his future in a way generations of ancestors did not.
“Is this a community that I want to continue to live in?” he asked. “Honestly, I’m not sure.”
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