Seminole County Should Cash In On UCF, Remove Rural Boundary

It is time for Seminole County to either update or remove its Charter Rural Boundary and become part of UCF’s future.

By Jacob Engels

Voters passed a rural boundary in November 2004, and the line has remained virtually unchanged since then. The line shuts down all development in eastern Seminole County at the Econlockhatchee River, which is less than two miles away from UCF’s campus.  Regardless of whether you support the rural lands out there or not, give some thought to what the hyper-growth of the university means for the county.

When the voters passed the amendment during the Fall 2004 semester, there were 42,837 students at the University of Central Florida. For fall 2017, the number grew to 66,180 students. That’s an increase of 55%. In that time, there have been exactly zero movements to the rural boundary in the area that would be able to serve UCF.

That’s over 23,000 additional students needing a place to live. That’s additional faculty and support staff that needs a place to live. Whether Seminole County likes it or not, those students are on their roads, looking for places to live.

Without locations nearby, they trek to where affordable housing is, because the limited supply spikes the cost of housing nearby. They will rack up more student loan debt because lower inventory drives up the cost.

That’s billions of dollars of private research and private industry looking for a home that gets a simple “CLOSED FOR BUSINESS” sign from Seminole County that instead drives down the road to Lake Nona or sticks in the Orange County research parks.   Seminole County gets none of it.

Refusing to participate in this sweepstakes is like having a winning Powerball ticket and refusing to cash it in.

UCF has become the second biggest college campus in the United States and will, in all likelihood, become the largest.  Read this and see the steady growth that is coming to UCF.

For all this fantastic growth and expansion, and make no mistake that YOUR 2017 National Champion UCF football team finding such magnificent success is not going to curtail the desire students have to come to there. Yet there is no component of the growth plan in Seminole County to ever be part of the UCF experience.  None.

Ask yourself this question – For all the benefit you hear about UCF, often described as the second biggest economic development driver in all Central Florida (after Disney) for its impact, what has Seminole County or its cities benefitted from this massive growth?

University Research Park?  Orange County. 

Office and auxiliary support land?  Orange County.

UCF Medical School?  Orange County.

Traffic and need for more housing?  Seminole County.

Seminole County is out of the UCF game only because it is out of land, and it is only out of land because a rural boundary that was passed 14 years ago stifles growth and economic development.

The land off of Old Lockwood that is close to the campus is all planned for Low Density Residential, meaning the county’s comprehensive plan thinks that should be more single-family residential land, not mixed use or multi-family or commercial.

The rural boundary tells cities they don’t get the final say on land in their boundaries until they move the line. Before anything can happen, the county must approve land use changes. It is time for city and county leaders to come together for a discussion about how a county famous for great schools and responsible development can get in to the UCF experience.

Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere and the city commission, along with an incredibly experienced and talented staff, has grown Oviedo into a city that most people believe is one of the best in the United States of America.

The most recent census says there are 19,519 cities in the USA.

Oviedo is regularly noted to be one of the best 10 to 100 of those 19,519 cities in America to live and raise a family. According to their Wikipedia page, the following publications have said as much:

  • Oviedo was listed as one of the Top 10 Towns for Families in Family Circle’s August 2011 issue.[7]
  • Oviedo was voted Best Places to Raise Kids in Florida in Businessweek for 2013.[13]
  • Oviedo was ranked #100 on CNN Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live 2009 [14]

Seems to me that the same people who knew how to manage a city to success can be trusted to manage the growth of Seminole County’s most explosive economic development corridor.

The county should either lead on the subject of growth around UCF, or should allow the cities to have home rule and get Seminole County in the conversation about how to promote economic development in its boundaries from our region’s Powerball ticket, before it is too late.