The final phase of a massive master-planned development east of Kissimmee was green-lighted Monday by Osceola County Commissioners – but concerns about traffic in the area still loom.
Kindred will be nearly the size of a small town when its complete, with more than 10,000 estimated residents and just under 3,000 single-family homes.
The community, which is considered a Development of Regional Impact (DRI), hit the drawing board over a decade ago, though the economic turndown of 2008 stalled progress for years.
It’s finally getting off the ground along with a similarly-sized development called Tohoqua, about four miles east toward St. Cloud.
Homes from phase 1 of Kindred are hitting the market now, with construction set to begin on phase 2 this month.
Local officials, residents worry about traffic
But with homes, come cars – thousands of cars.
Residents like Karina Veaudry are worried about future traffic issues along Neptune Road - currently the only access point for Kindred and a thoroughfare already chocked with congestion and gridlock, she said.
“Neptune has become an unimaginable nightmare for drivers,” she said at Monday’s county meeting. “If you have to drive it each day, you know what I’m talking about.”
Veaudry urged commissioners to revisit opening nearby King’s Highway to public access from Neptune Road. The roadway is currently restricted to emergency management vehicles only, due to an agreement made over a decade ago between King’s Highway residents and county commissioners, none of whom are still in office.
Neptune Road is four lanes when it intersects with King’s Highway, but narrows to just two lanes soon after Partin Settlement Road.
Plans to widen it are underway, but no funding is available to start construction.
With thousands of new residents filling Kindred and Tohoqua homes by 2021, Veaudry said it makes sense to add additional access points now.
“Without the King’s Highway connection, people traveling north to Kissimmee have to mingle with people trying to get to the turnpike,” she said. “If the connection to King’s Highway was made…then they would have two methods to get out of their development instead of everyone going to Neptune Road.”
Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. also expressed concern, and moved to discuss the preliminary subdivision plan in greater detail instead of granting it approval alongside 30 other unrelated consent agenda items.
“I pulled the item because of my concerns over traffic and the impact it would have,” Hawkins said after the meeting. “Neptune Road is so important to everyone in this county.”
Why is Cross Prairie Parkway taking so long?
Kindred representatives along with Commission Chair Cheryl Grieb – whose district 4 includes Kindred and County Manager Don Fisher discussed roadwork projects meant to alleviate Neptune Road traffic.
Portions of a new road called Cross Prairie Parkway are now complete, and work on the next critical section is set to begin in February.
Once the thoroughfare is finished, it will cross Neptune Road and extend to Shady Lane and Partin Settlement Road, allowing Kindred residents direct access to the Florida’s Turnpike.
But it’s unclear how long that will take.
Kindred developer D.R. Horton is footing the bill for Cross Prairie Parkway. Normally, developers must pay mobility fees – which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – to help the county cover costs associated with roadway improvements caused by developments.
Instead, Osceola County and D.R. Horton came to an agreement to trade mobility fees for road construction costs.
Construction on the next road segment is set to start next month, but Commissioner Viviana Janer said she wants more accountability and a clear timeline from the company because more homes – and cars – are coming soon.
“I am concerned about the amount of time it’s taken to get Cross Prairie Parkway open,” Janer said. “The traffic has backed up considerably in that area.”
Jo Thacker, an attorney with Broad and Cassel and who serves as counsel on the multi-faceted project, claimed D.R. Horton shouldn’t get all the blame for Cross Prairie Parkway’s delay.
“There were a lot of parties involved, not just the developer,” she said, citing imminent domain issues with owners along the Shady Lane extension.
Thacker added that developers are not opposed to opening public access to King’s Highway, but that language within the site’s original Plan Development (PD) restricted them from doing so.
“We are happy to include that in our PD amendment that we’re getting ready to file,” the attorney said.
What comes next?
Ultimately, the commission approved the preliminary site development plan for Kindred phase 3 – and removed language that would have barred D.R. Horton from constructing a public access point to King’s Highway in the future.
Now, a public hearing must be held on the issue. Residents of King’s Highway will have a chance to speak, along with county planners and representatives from D.R. Horton.
Fisher noted there’s also a right-of-way issue with an adjacent property owner that needs to be resolved first.
No date has been set for a public hearing.