Local Developer Backs Down after Dr. Phillips Community Rejects Project
More than 160 Dr. Phillip’s residents crowded into the Dr. Phillips High School Cafeteria last night to oppose developer Chuck Whittall’s request to build over 300 apartment homes behind his Dellagio development on Sand Lake Road and Della Drive.
Whittal is President of Unicorp National Developments, Inc. a company headquartered in the Dr. Phillips area. Unicorp developed Dellagio, a restaurant/office complex and the Fountains on Sand Lake Road that contains many of the stores now referred to as “Restaurant Row.” In 1972 Orange County zoned the parcel of land north of Dellagio for 118 townhomes. Although Whittal had not filed a formal application for a zoning variance, he had asked the planning commission if it would be possible to build over 300 apartment homes on the land instead.
Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd arranged a meeting so he and Whittall could hear from the community prior to a formal request for a zoning variance. After Boyd opening the meeting, Whittall outlined his plan to build a gated, high-end rental property with a clubhouse and resort pool. He said, “It’s important to deliver a project the community will support.”
None of the community members who spoke supported the project. Several people stated that the traffic on Sand Lake Road is already so heavy in the evening that it can take 20-30 minutes to drive a few blocks. Three hundred apartments, and potentially 600 cars, would make it much worse. Paul McGarrigal, a realtor and President of the Clubhouse Estates Homeowners Association, said, “I can assure you if this (the development plans) gets past this meeting there will be this many people or more at the next meeting. We don’t want apartments in the Dr. Phillips area.”
After answering several comments and questions, Whittall stepped forward and said, “Let me ask this. How many people are for the project?” Not a single hand was raised.
Whittall said, “I don’t want to go forward without the support of the community. I will withdraw my application.” The room burst into applause.
Technically, Unicorp doesn’t need to withdraw their application, since one was never officially filed. Whittall said he will move forward with plans to build the townhomes that are currently zoned for the property. He did not present a detailed plan for the townhomes, but did say “As the owner of a large investment in front of it, whatever we do architecturally will be pleasing to the eye.”
Sandpointe resident Dave Fletcher made the last public comment. Fletcher spent his working life as a realtor and a marketing consultant. He said, “I never saw this happen. An out of town developer would have pushed ahead. He (Whittall) is a neighbor.”