By Anna Vishkaee Eskamani
Growing up in East Orlando means that we’ve seen a great deal of change throughout our community. Kmart is now a Burlington Coat Factory, Publix has a new location on Woodbury, and old apartments have been demolished while new students housing for UCF has been built. The one constant throughout all of this? The traffic.
I’ve lived in East Orlando my whole life, and through traffic was never good when I was a child, it’s only gotten worse as an adult. Spending just one morning trying to exit Avalon Park from one of our three exits is enough evidence to tell us that we have a serious traffic problem.
One of the best solutions to this is to expand Colonial Drive, also known as State Road 50. Fortunately, construction plans are already underway and over the next two years the planned roadwork will expand our east-west highway from four lanes, to six. Granted construction will only bring more traffic in the short term, but in the long term having an expanded road with sidewalks, bike lanes, bus stops, and better lighting will make each one of us happier, and safer. (Cite: cflroads.com)
With these plans for infrastructure improvement in motion, I was incredibly disappointed to hear about the major development plans trying to get pushed through our County Commissioners via a text amendment by some major developers. This development would take place adjacent the communities of Grande Preserve at Cypress Lakes and Corner Lakes Estates, and could include more than 5,000 residential housing units in addition to supplemental commercial real estate all along the west side of Lake Pickett.
This development proposal is massive. Not only do we need to consider the current and severe transportation problems and how 5000 homes would impact that, but there are so many other elements that those who support the text amendment are overlooking. That includes the needs to address law enforcement and emergency services and their ability to service these areas. There’s also the issue of our schools—I attended Corner Lake Middle School back in the early 2000s. It was a sad day when the new school had to install portables, and though it was crowded than it’s over capacity today. And finally, there’s the environmental impact. How would 5000 new homes impact the Econ River, surrounding bodies of waters, and those species (some already endangered) that rely on these areas for their survival?
It seems like I’m not the only Central Floridian expressing these concerns. SaveEastOrlando.com—the website and those behind it, are advocating for an end to these development plans. You might have seen their signs across East Orlando. If you support them and their efforts you can sign their petition here—it already has more then 3000 signatures.
Personally, I’m not against development. After all, I live in Avalon Park and understand the motivation behind wanting to call a large subdivision home. But let’s solve the problems we have first before we start talking about new developments. Expand State Road 50 first, do more environmental impact studies, and then– we’ll talk houses.
An Iranian-American and Florida native, Anna graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the spring of 2012 with dual degrees in Political Science and Women’s Studies and a Certificate in Service Learning. While an undergrad, Anna spent the majority of her time, writing, advocating, and organizing for social justice. She served in leadership positions of many on and off campus groups, ranging from honor societies, to cultural groups, to political organizations. Upon graduation Anna was awarded the Order of Pegasus, the highest honor that a UCF senior can receive.
Now a graduate student at UCF pursuing master’s degrees in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management, Anna works full-time at Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando as their External Affairs Manager. She continues to be involved with many advocacy groups, including United Global Outreach through her work in the community of Bithlo. She is also a board member of several organizations, including the Orange County League of Women Voters, Orange County Democratic Executive Committee, and the UCF Women’s Studies Advisory Council. A lifelong feminist, Anna is excited to find even more ways to empower others and give back to her community.