Judge rules in favor of affordable housing project at Apopka City Center

Mayor Bryan Nelson said the city council will consider next steps

APOPKA, Fla. – A judge said the City of Apopka violated Florida law, and he ruled in favor of a developer who wants to build affordable housing units at the new City Center.

Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson said the development agreement for the City Center called for luxury apartments to be built on 12 acres at the corner of East 6th Street and South Alabama Avenue.

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“We want a luxury builder in there, building something that’s first class. Those people will spend money at the town center and boost that whole area,” Nelson said.

However, the developer, Wendover Housing Partners, received federal, state and county dollars to build Southwick Commons, an affordable housing complex. The developer went to the city council twice over the summer and asked officials to change the development agreement to allow affordable housing.

Both times, city council members voted 3-2 against changing the development agreement.

“None of us on city council are against affordable housing. It’s just that we wanted that town center to be our signature place to come, visit, spend your money, and affordable housing just didn’t fit what we were trying to accomplish there,” Nelson said.

This prompted the developer to file a lawsuit. This week, a judge ruled the city violated Florida law, writing in his ruling that Apopka can’t put restrictions on the development because its funding is from affordable housing sources.

Ryan Von Weller with Wendover Housing Partners said in a statement to News 6, “We are pleased by the court’s ruling and look forward to breaking ground on Southwick Commons, a community that will help Central Florida’s growing need for affordable housing.”

News 6 asked Nelson whether the city will appeal the court’s decision.

“That would be for the council to decide,” Nelson said.

While the judge ruled in favor of the affordable housing developer, Nelson said the builders still have to follow the development agreement that calls for luxury amenities, like balconies, washers and dryers in all of the units.

Nelson added that city officials will likely discuss their next steps during a city council meeting next month.

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