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Orange County approves policies for denser development east of the Econ River

Tuesday was supposed to be decision day for Stephen Micciche and others opposed to big growth in east Orange County.

That's when Orange County commissioners were expected to choose whether to submit new land-use policies to state authorities that could suburbanize portions of the rural area east of the Econlockhatchee River, which has served for decades as an imaginery barrier to growth.

When commissioners finally voted, it was 2 in the morning Wednesday and the verdict was not what Micciche's community had wanted.

One of the two projects, known as Lake Pickett North — 2,000 homes on 1,436 acres — was withdrawn before a vote was taken when the developer sensed he didn't have the commission's support.

But the other project, Lake Pickett south, won a 5-2 vote of approval from commissioners.

Developer Dwight Saathoff, whose Lake Pickett south project is dubbed "The Grow" — 2,250 residential units on 1,237 acres — was surprised and pleased by the vote.

"I think this is an indication they have a lot of confidence in the project," Saathoff said of the board.

Opponents left the county building tired and disheartened in their red T-shirts that read "Stop Urban Sprawl."

"The bottom line is the horses are out of the barn. It's going to be hard to rope 'em in," Micciche said of the policy amendment that will likely lead to much higher density in the county's most spread out community. He was among more than 100 people who signed up to plead their case to the commission.

Commissioners heard more than 10 hours of testimony — most of it opposed to the development proposals for the Lake Pickett area, located east of the University of Central Florida and north of State Road 50. Opponents had asked the board to reject the requests which could open development in the area.