Zoning board approves new Orange County high school
Two sides battle over 66 acres in Windermere
A controversial new high school in Orange County moved one step closer to reality Friday night.
After a seven-hour hearing, the Orange County Board of Zoning Adjustment voted 4-2 in favor of a new campus in Windermere on the corner of Winter-Garden Vineland Road and Ficquette Road.
[PHOTOS: Proposed high school in Orange County]
The school is part of a district plan to ease overcrowding at West Orange High School, but several nearby residents are opposed to the proposal.
"We throw out the comprehensive plan, we throw out the land development code and we say sure, 'Build a massive high school bigger than a Walmart, bigger than a Best Buy and just plop it right here in the rural settlement,'" said Karen Consalo, an attorney representing residents who are opposed to the new school.
The two sides are battling over 66 acres in Windermere.
The zoning board was asked to sign off on approving a special exemption for the school to be built in that area, since the land is currently zoned as a residential rural settlement.
On one side of the debate are parents and students, who say a new school will ease crowding at West Orange High School. On the other side of the debate are residents who live nearby.
"We have a deal with Orange County that basically states if you live in this area, and there are 22 rural settlements, if you live in these areas there will be certain sizes of buildings, certain types of buildings that can be built there. Unfortunately, they did not follow through today on that," said Ricardo Cumberbatch, a resident who is opposed to the new school.
"I have four young ones, one who is going to be in high school in two years and the rest shortly there afterwards so we definitely need the high school sooner than later, it's important," said school supporter Judy Paulsen. "The children are our future."
The Orange County School District said they made modifications to their plans that will make the school conform to the "rural settlement" distinction, including limited lighting on the campus at night.
This issue will now go before the Orange County Commission for a final vote. That meeting has not yet been set, but will likely be in early November. However, both sides told Local 6 the issue could eventually wind up in court.