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County officials planning for growth into 2080

Posted on Friday, September 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm

CountyBy Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
Osceola County growth management planners are laying out the groundwork for expected growth in the county for the next 65 years or so; the next generation of planners should be grateful.
Over the next decades the North Ranch sector of Osceola County, the northeast portion dominated by the Deseret Ranch, is projected to go from open lands to a residential area that could be home to 493,000 people and 83 million square feet of retail, office, industrial and institutional space by the year 2080.
The North Ranch encompasses the area north of U.S. Highway 192 to the Orange County boundary, and from U.S. Highway 441 east to the Brevard County line. The 133,000 acres currently used for cattle ranching, hunting, citrus production and wildlife conservation is equivalent to two cities the size of Orlando. Nova Road and Deer Park Road run through the area and roll through miles and miles of mostly, well, miles and miles.
That is the area that current planners are prepping for growth expected to come into the county from 2040-80. The North Ranch area is currently outside of the Urban Growth Boundary, over 100,000 acres of land across the county that planners want to prepare for growth.
The area is east of the Northeast District, a 20,000-acre tract between Harmony and the Orange County line that already has been planned for development through 2040. That area could see 30,000 residents and would be built out first, said Jeff Jones, Osceola County’s Director of Strategic Initiatives
“Very little would happen on the North Ranch until after 2040,” he said. “The Northeast District would accommodate growth expected after that. If the growth is coming, it’s got to go somewhere, so our purpose is to draft a sector plan well in advance of development and have it all drawn out.”
The county already has strategically mapped out economic opportunities and job centers, transportation corridors and agricultural lands for that sector, while that preserves environmental systems and natural resources and minimizing public infrastructure investment.
The public has been and will be a vital part of the planning. The county held forums to showcase their master plans back in January, and again on Sept. 10 at Osceola Heritage Park’s Extension Services building.
The county has showed off its plans, which come complete with outlines for residential, commercial and environmentally sensitive areas as well as transportation plans that include new roads and rail lines, at scoping meetings like the one on Sept. 10.
Residents were able to note observations and concerns at that meeting, and some of the North Ranch concerns listed included where the expected jobs would come from, whether all of the roads planned will be built before the residents and jobs come, whether there is enough water to handle the growth and if the planned rail system will be high-speed
or elevated.
According to the county’s documents on North Ranch, a primary urban employment center would be centered around a station where two proposed rail lines would meet and form a de facto downtown.
Among the targeted industry clusters listed include life sciences, information technology, tourism and recreation, entertainment, chemical and plastics manufacturing, defense and security and higher education.
A Planning Commission hearing is scheduled for Thursday. A public hearing is scheduled for the Oct. 20 County Commissioners meeting to finalize the forms documenting the plans that will be sent to the state government.
It was Gov. Rick Scott that asked local and county governments to scout out new east-west thoroughfares from the East Coast inland, and the Brevard-Osceola-Orange County corridor was one highlighted by state leaders, Jones said.
The Deseret Ranch covers more than 300,000 acres in Orange, Osceola and Brevard counties and is owned by The Church of Latter-day Saints.
It is one of the largest ranching operations in
the country.