Mount Dora leaders reject development of new district

Wolf Branch Innovation District would feature 250-foot office building, apartments, commercial space and more

MOUNT DORA, Fla. – Mount Dora leaders held a final vote Tuesday against the development of a new district off State Road 46, which has received pushback from residents.

The council voted against moving forward with the development plan but left the door open for the developer to revise their plan and resubmit for future consideration.

The Wolf Branch Innovation District would include hundreds of additional apartments and condos, commercial space and a 250-foot office building, which was initially designed to be 310 feet.

“I just think it might have been something not appropriate for this village. I think development is going to come, they built that highway, it’s going to come I think we have to be careful about what comes,” Daniel Stetson said.

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Stetson is a new resident in Mount Dora and said he’s been following along with the plans for the new development. Tuesday night’s debate went on until almost midnight as the developer told leaders he was willing to make adjustments including reducing the height of the building.

“We do respect and understand the concern, however we are well over 3 miles away from the downtown Historic District and we believe we’re within a unique and separate area that’s not intended to detract from Mount Dora,” Aaron Hakim said on Tuesday.

The reduction of the proposed office building’s size comes after residents argued these developments would damage the city’s historic charm.

A recent land sale is showing signs of movement for a long-awaited development in Mount Dora and Lake County.

“To have such an eyesore in our backyard is not something that we would want,” resident Ephriam McCormick said in a previous interview with News 6. “It’s also something that has, you know, if it goes through, I’ll be honest, it is going to make me reevaluate whether or not we want to live in this area.”

Mount Dora officials previously discussed balancing growth with the preservation of the city’s history as new residents continue to move into the Central Florida area.

“We’re going to grow. People don’t want to hear it but we are going to grow,” said Jeanette Bokland of Spouses with Houses, a real estate company nestled in downtown Mount Dora. “We have parking needs here, we have improvements that have to be made, we have to expand, we want to keep Mount Dora charming, but there has to be a balancing there to do that.”

Mount Dora Mayor Crissy Stile said the city is focusing on filling up the parts of the area where there is space to develop before expanding further.

Resident Vincent Calvo has been living in Mount Dora for almost 40 years and owns a commercial building on Donnelly Street.

“We are not that kind of community. They are building things here now which are fine because everyone needs that type of housing but how much of that housing do you need to fill the area? It should be more rural,” Calvo said.

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About the Authors:

Ezzy Castro is a multimedia journalist on News 6's morning team who has a passion for telling the stories of the people in the Central Florida community. Ezzy worked at WFOR CBS4 in South Florida and KBMT in Beaumont, Texas, where she covered Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Being from Miami, Ezzy loves Cuban coffee and croquetas!