This year, the council is starting a new focus, on an issue that usually more closely associated with municipal government: zoning and land use regulations.
“One of the things we’re looking to do is coordinate zoning,” said Hector Lizasuain, chairman of the council. “We want to coordinate with the four zoning departnments in the four counties to try to come up with a uniform sign and code ordinance.”
Four Corners is where the counties of Lake, Orange, Osceola and Polk counties meet, particularly along U.S. 27 and U.S. 192. It’s an area that’s experienced a solid amount of residential and commercial growth in the past decade, and being close to the theme parks, continues to draw in tourists, snowbirds, time share owners and newcomers alike.
For the business community, it can be a good location to start a company, Lizasuain noted, because of the solid traffic along those two busy highways and the steady influx of visitors. But it can also be a challenge, Lizasuain said, because each county has its own separate zoning rules that govern everything from signage to lighting to other business regulations. Lizasuain said the council — which is made up of business owners in Four Corners, and which meets once a month — wants to reach out to the four municipal governments to see if they’re open to the idea of creating some uniform zoning regulations in this area.
“You can be in Orange County and have Osceola County across the street,” Lizasuain said. But those two businesses can operate by entirely different zoning rules, he added.
On the plus side, Lizasuain said, the county governments appear willing to cooperate with one another and maintain an open dialogue.
“I know for a fact that our zoning team is in constant communications with Orange County,” said Lizasuain, who also works as Osceola County’s West 192 coordinator. “That’s the only way we’re going to accomplish these things, through dialogue and coperation and coordination on our part as a group.”
But it may take more, he added, since the businesses in Four Corners are so closely bundled together in an area that cuts across four county lines.
“You can have one side of the street that’s Osceola, and one is Orange, and have totally different zoning rules,” he said.
Lizasuain said he’s now reaching out to four zoning departments that are not particularly close to Four Corners, in Orlando, Kissimmee, Tavares and Bartow, where the county municipal governments have their offices.
The Four Corners Area Council has done this before, holding a municipal summit in 2009 to bring together the governments from all four counties to talk about ways to work together and deliver more services, more efficiently, in the Four Corners area.
But not all communities that cut across two counties see zoning as a challenge for the local business community.
Jeanette Coughenour, manager of the Association of Poinciana Villages, noted that Poinciana is divided between two counties, Polk and Osceola. But she added that the vast majority of the community’s businesses are on the Osceola County side, while the Polk side is mostly residential.
“There hasn’t been a lot of movement, unfortunately, in our business market lately,” she said. “And there isn’t a lot, if any, of commercial property on the Polk County side of the Poinciana community, so if anything comes in, it’s on the Osceola side.”
That means all the commercial zoning laws are uniform under Osceola’s codes, she added.
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