By Michael Salerno
For Hometown News
PORT ORANGE -- A multi-family apartment complex across from the Pavilion at Port Orange is moving closer to a reality.
Next week the City Council is expected to give final approval to the 300-unit development, known as Liv Apartments at Port Orange, on 27 acres on the west side of Williamson Boulevard.
Chattanooga, Tenn.-based developer CBL & Associates, the company behind the Pavilion at Port Orange and owner of Volusia Mall, will develop the apartments. According to city documents, CBL saw a need for multifamily developments west of Interstate 95 due to its proximity to retail centers, places of employment and schools.
The ordinance would amend the city's land development code to allow multifamily dwellings at a maximum of 16 units per acre in the Planned Community-Agriculture Workplace District zone where the project area is located, allowing it to move forward.
City leaders recently tweaked the code amendment as a result of meetings with residents of the Villages of Royal Palm, which is adjacent to the area where the Liv Apartments are to be built. Royal Palm residents were concerned about the type of buffer that would separate the apartments from the subdivision's single-family homes.
City Planner Penelope Cruz said the tweaks would require the Liv Apartments to have a 20-foot landscape buffer separating them from Royal Palm, as well as a three-foot-high landscape berm topped with a six-foot-tall vinyl shadow box fence.
CBL's attorney Rob Merrell said the policies being considered came about through discussions with Royal Palm residents who were involved in the process.
"We really sort of put the ball in their court and asked them, 'What do you guys think would be best?'" Mr. Merrell said. "I think it's a good result."
But some residents still had concerns. At a recent city meeting where the project was discussed, residents expressed concerns over increased traffic and neighborhood safety.
Addressing traffic issues for residents of the area, City Manager Ken Parker said a traffic signal is currently under design for the intersection of Williamson and Town West boulevards, which will initially be emergency-activated, but at some point will become a fully functioning signal. Volusia County leaders would decide when the signal goes live, Mr. Parker said.
Some residents near the proposed apartments, such as Maria Valente, expressed concerns over the multifamily apartment project out of fears it would invite unsavory elements into the neighborhood. She mentioned several residences adjacent to the Westport Square Shopping Center, including her own, were recently broken into and robbed on a weekend afternoon.
"Not knowing what kind of apartment complex (will be built) is fearful to us, because what if it's a complex that's inviting a (low) quality of people in our neighborhood," Ms. Valente said.
Mr. Merrell said the apartment complex would not be "Section 8" housing, citing CBL's reputation for "quality" developments.
"You're talking (about) a company that does quality work," Mr. Merrell said.
Council members expressed enthusiasm for the project, believing it could benefit the local economy through more people spending their money at the nearby Pavilion at Port Orange and possible future development of additional shopping centers and places of employment within walking and biking distance of the apartments.
"These are high-end apartments," Councilman Don Burnette said. "We're hopefully targeting people who have money and don't mind spending it here. And I think in the process we can create more jobs. Nothing about this project is perfect to me, but as long as this is being developed I want to see the positives come out of it."
With the goal of a pedestrian and bike friendly community in mind, Vice-Mayor Bob Pohlmann suggested CBL add bike racks at the Pavilion at Port Orange to accommodate people commuting by bicycle.
After the code amendment is approved, the next step for CBL is to submit a site plan for development of the apartment building, which must be approved by the City Council.