Hickory Grove is moving forward; February 16, 2023
Hickory Grove would add nearly 1,200 more homes and jobs to Wellness Way area
Landowner Hickory Groves, LLC, based in New York City, is seeking to change the future land use from Agricultural to Multi-Use District and Neighborhood District and rezone to Planned Unit Development. The updated Hickory Grove PUD is in Lake County staff hands and could be set for hearings as soon as March.
The owners engaged Jim Hall with HDSi Planning & Design Studio to lead the project through the zoning and entitlements. Hall told GrowthSpotter there is no developer attached to the project, but once the owners get all of the approvals, the project will be marketed for sale.
Hickory Grove is north of Schofield Road and just west of the Orange County line and the future Valencia College Horizon West campus. It’s just south of the Chicone PUD, where Pulte Homes will build close to 1,000 homes and 75,000 square feet of commercial.
“Because it is in Wellness Way, that area has its own set of rules, different from the rest of the county,” Hall said. “You have to submit three zoning submittals and we have now done that. This is called the final PUD and we are expecting county staff comments Feb. 23.”
Once Hickory Groves receives those comments and addresses any questions, county hearings will be set, he said.
Road work and utility work are key in this region that was formerly rolling hills covered in orange groves that have died or are dying, said veteran real estate developer Jim Karr, who was instrumental in designing the Wellness Way Area Plan. Karr is a major landowner throughout Central Florida.
Karr, with Land Plus, sold over 1,500 acres in Wellness Way to Lennar and GT Homes and continues to be involved in negotiating utilities for the area, as well keeping a close eye on road work in the region. HDSi did the planning and design for Karr’s community as well.
“Generally speaking, everything is going fine in Wellness Way,” he said. “Unfortunately, when you do a planning initiative like this, not everything happens all at once and people are impatient because they don’t see all the parts coming forward.” But those parts are coming, he said.
Hall said he is currently in negotiations with Sunshine Water for construction of a water and sewer plant to serve Hickory Grove. He said Sunshine would eventually own the plant.
“We also have dedicated land for CR 455. The (Central Florida) Expressway Authority is building S.R. 516 (Lake/Orange Expressway) that goes from S.R. 429 to U.S. 27, and there is one interchange between them to the south of Hickory Grove. County Road 455 will be the road that gets you to the interchange. We are providing that connection.”
He said C.R. 455 will be built in stages, eventually connecting S.R. 50 to the S.R. 516 interchange.
The Wellness Way Area Plan covers about 16,000 acres between U.S. 27 and State Road 429, west of the Lake County/Orange County boundary line with McKinney Road running east/west through the middle of the property.
About half of it will be connected to the City of Clermont utilities and annexed into Clermont, Hall said. Half will remain in unincorporated Lake County and will be served by Sunshine Water.
Hickory Grove spans 398 net developable acres, which will be accessed via Schofield Road. The PUD calls for 190.2 acres in the Multi-Use District and 207.9 acres in the Neighborhood District, with up to 1,176 residential units, including single-family homes, townhomes and apartments.
Single family homes would have a minimum of 1,500 square feet of living area and rear-loaded townhomes would have a minimum of 1,000 square feet of living space. Multifamily units would have a minimum living area of 600 square feet, as would build-to-rent units.
The PUD also designates 48.4 acres for non-residential use on Schofield at the Five Mile Road and C.R. 455 intersections. These commercial centers will include a “full mixture of uses — office and employment with some commercial,” Hall said.
The town center would allow all C-3 permitted and accessory uses, industrial uses, professional office uses and apartments and townhomes, according to the site plan. It’s projected to create 1,054 new jobs.
There are no phases proposed for Hickory Grove and how it proceeds will be up to the future owner or developer, Hall said.
He said getting to this phase of submitting the final PUD has been a long process, but it has gone well.
“I wrote the first rendition of Wellness Way and Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, it is his district, and he has been very involved in it,” Hall said.
When Horizon West first took off, he said, Lake County “had no plans to do anything” in that area. Parks helped turn that around, he said.