It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the Clermont City Council’s vote last week to temporarily put the brakes on multifamily construction isn’t going over well with apartment developers and their advocates.
“We have significant concerns with it,” said Chip Tatum, chief executive of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando. “We tried to engage with the city. We understand where their concerns are, from one perspective … They’ve already got quite a few controls in place already.”
Raleigh “Lee” Steinhauer, government and legal affairs director for the Greater Orlando Builders Association, directed comments at city officials. “Your goal in terms of revising your land development code is fine, I don’t think anyone takes issue with that,” said Steinhauer. “What we take issue with is, why do we need a moratorium to accomplish that goal? There’s some disconnect there as to why a moratorium is necessary to revise the land development code.”
Citing complaints of heavy traffic, road deterioration and other problems that spring from a 35 percent population growth over the past eight years, Clermont decided on Sept. 10 to impose a six-month moratorium on multif
amily construction. The vote was 4-1, with Keith Mullins casting the only dissenting vote.
City staff was charged with engaging the council, industry representatives and the community at large for suggestions to update the city’s multifamily program guidelines and develop a strategy on affordable housing.
“We are looking to get out in front of an increasing wave in demand for apartments that we’re seeing across Central Florida – and specifically in Clermont,” City Manager Darren Gray said in a message on the council’s action. “Our city is becoming an even more desirable place to live, and the pace of demand for apartments is rapidly increasing. This will give us an opportunity to ensure that the city’s rules and regulations for apartments are achieving our growth management objectives of a high-quality, sustainable place to reside.”
One builder, whose project has already been approved and won’t be affected by the moratorium, said it is “misguided” to blame residential development for many of the growth-related issues Clermont is facing.
“We hear this same argument often that ‘apartments bring traffic.’ In reality, it is people that bring the cars and employers bring the people,” said developer Steven Ogier in a statement on the Clermont vote that he provided to GrowthSpotter. “We provide housing to those people that freely choose to live where we build … Our industry is only meeting the market demand just like any business does or would; the restaurants, shops, banks, car dealers and so on. If there was no demand we would not build. As much as the government wants to control the growth, restricting supply is not the way to do it.”
Ogier’s company, ContraVest, is building a 230-unit apartment complex called Addison at Clermont near the intersection of U.S. Highway 27 and State Road 50. He said while he questions the logic of a moratorium, Clermont’s action actually serves to benefit his project.
“It’s going to be great for me. We own a piece of dirt, and we’re building, and then they’re going to shut the door behind us,” Ogier said.
Basic economics suggests that if demand is high and supply isn’t keeping up, rents are going to rise, he said.
Inland Atlantic Development Corp., meanwhile, recently built The Lofts at South Lake multifamily development, and the Olympus Sports & Entertainment Group is moving ahead with its sports and wellness-themed community along Schofield and Bradshaw roads, including multifamily and townhome units. Neither will be affected by the moratorium.
Nor will Cagan Crossings, which is getting a fifth apartment complex near Clermont in an unincorporated area of Lake County on Highway 27.
“I don’t know what they’re doing,” Cagan Management president Jeffrey Cagan said of the Clermont moratorium. “I don’t understand what their thought process is. I was stunned when they did that. It doesn’t make sense.”
While rare, building moratoriums are not unheard of, especially in sprawling central Florida. Winter Springs attempted to enact a two-month moratorium on new apartment complexes this spring, but the effort was vetoed.
The City of Minneola last year imposed a five-year moratorium on all new residential construction, including single-family and multifamily developments. That policy won’t effect projects, like Hills of Minneola, which are already approved for thousands of new homes.
In a statement on the moratorium shared with GrowthSpotter, mayor Pat Kelley said it is “in the best interests of the City and its residents to slow the pace of growth … Pausing on any new residential annexations or rezonings would allow our staff to concentrate on existing projects as well as promote non-residential growth and allow infrastructure such as schools, roads and utilities to develop concurrently with any development.”