Disputed agrihood project now just 1 step away from seeking permits

A controversial project in east Orlando called The Grow is closer to prepping for construction.

The Grow’s text and map amendments were approved in a 4-3 vote on July 12 by Orange County’s board of commissioners. The board will review the rezoning and regulatory plan in a final hearing scheduled for Sept. 20, and, if approved, The Grow developer Dwight Saathoff, president of Project Finance & Development LLC, can begin to seek building permits.

Plans for The Grow include 2,900 homes, a revenue-generating farm, community gardens, restaurants with ingredients from the gardens and a neighborhood gathering area in and around a barn on 1,237 acres behind the University of Central Florida on Lake Pickett Road. Since proposed, The Grow has been met with some opposition, including an online petition that launched last summer against the $1 billion development.

However, supporters of the project have said The Grow is the right move for the area, in light of growth at UCF and Research Park, which hosts thousands of jobs. It’s estimated there are more than 30,000 jobs in east Orlando.

“This is a unique opportunity for our company to introduce Orlando to a new residential concept where the emphasis is on sustainable living by integrating farming into neighborhoods,” Saathoff previously said in a prepared statement. “It will be a landmark community in Central Florida influenced by past generations when people lived off the land growing their own foods and sharing with neighbors. There will be a nostalgic atmosphere throughout the community from the overall aesthetics of the development to the social aspects and outdoor activities.”

Meanwhile, Orange County on July 12 also pushed forward plans for a new 1,999-home neighborhood in east Orlando. Sustany, a neighborhood planned by Fort Myers-based Lake Pickett North LLC, is slated for 1,435 acres behind UCF near the Econlockhatchee River. Plans are heading to the state for review, and the county is expected to use the state’s feedback to help make a final decision on the project later this year.