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Orange County buys more than 20 acres of green space in Horizon West

todayAugust 3, 2023

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Late last month, Orange County Commissioners approved the purchase of more than 20 acres of green space in Horizon West as part of the county’s Green PLACE program.

What You Need To Know

  • During a July 25 meeting, Orange County commissioners approved the purchase of more than 20 acres of land in Horizon West

  • County officials say the goal of the acquisition is to enhance flooding mitigation and keep a natural space

  • Locals say they hope that the purchase will help stop flooding in the area

The parcel sits on Reams Road and commissioners approved a purchase cost of $2.7 million, which will come out of $100 million the county put into the program several years ago.

Officials say the land will now sit untouched to not only preserve the environment, but to help with flood mitigation in that area by protecting the wetlands.

“We are removing straws — trees are straws, they are erosion protectors and we are removing them and then wondering why we have all that run off,” said Orange County Commissioner Nicole Wilson. 

Some area business owners say they are happy to see the purchase come to fruition. Right down the road, Stephen Facella, who owns Playa Pizza, says making a great pie is how he likes to unwind.

“Pizza is therapeutic for me,” he said. “The dough, forming it, creating, feeling it, watching it come to creation and then watching people enjoy it. It brings me joy, so it is part of my relaxation.”

But he says he wasn’t feeling so relaxed after flooding from Hurricane Ian shut down Reams Road for 16 days.

Spectrum News 13 caught up with him back in October while the road was down, and at the time he said he was frustrated that the closure was hurting his business less than 60 days after opening.

“Our business has seen a drop of between 30% and 60% depending on the day of the week,” Facella said at the time. 

He says it took months for business to bounce back after the road reopened, something he hopes to never experience again.

“Reams Road is the lifeblood of our business,” said Facella. 

He took his concerns to county leaders and says he is now confident things are moving in a good direction.

“We met with Commissioner Nicole Wilson a lot after that storm to find solutions that are not only beneficial for small businesses, but for residents and the environments,and I think we got a really good win with that,” said Facella. 

He said he is happy that the land bought by the county will now sit untouched to preserve the environment and help with flood mitigation in that area by protecting the wetlands.

“You don’t have to be an engineer to know that when you pave things, that water doesn’t absorb into the ground where you are paving, so the more pavement we add to out county, to our state, the more runoff we have,” Wilson said. “And the more stormwater issues that we have … our wetlands are a known tried-and-true stormwater retention.”

With this land being just a few minutes away from Facella’s restaurant, he said he is hopeful the county’s purchase can help stop flooding on Reams Road in the future.

“I think it is awesome, because this is nice to see and being in such a popular area and having so many people moving here, it is nice to see some native Florida left,” said Facella

Wilson explained the county is also working to accelerate the project set to redesign Reams Road and help with flooding. Right now, they are in the process of trying to acquire the right of way and the project is set to be completed sometime between 2027 and 2029. 

According to Wilson, Orange County has acquired 23,000 acres of land through the Green PLACE program — 40 acres of which were purchased in the last eight months.

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todayAugust 3, 2023

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