By Jack Witthaus Staff Writer, Orlando Business Journal
Central Florida’s Osceola County — one of the fastest-growing counties in the Sunshine State — will not schedule public meetings to approve construction projects due to the spread of coronavirus, a move that may negatively impact the area’s business community.
The county has canceled its planning commission and board of county commissioner meetings needed to secure approvals for both residential and commercial projects. And the county is “not committing” to timelines for future meetings, Osceola County spokeswoman Krystal Diaz said.
These meetings are an essential step for developers who need approvals to begin building projects. New construction is an important driver of the local economy, generating temporary contractor and vendor opportunities, as well as permanent jobs. It also serves existing residents and businesses with new space for shops, offices, restaurants, warehouses and entertainment venues.
Experts warned that not scheduling these meetings may curtail growth in Osceola County. “That’s pretty dire for business,” said Orlando development consultant Gregg Logan, managing director of Bethesda, Maryland-based RCLCO. “If you stop the ability to grow, it will have consequences.”
Meanwhile, representatives with Orange and Seminole counties said that while there may be delays in approvals, those counties are not halting their approval meetings completely.
For example, Orange County has canceled its board advisory approval meetings through April 15 and then will reassess when the next meetings will occur, Orange County spokeswoman Despina McLaughlin said.
In addition, representatives with both Orange and Seminole counties said they aim to use technology to conduct their approval meetings. Seminole County spokeswoman Ashley Moore said the county’s digital tools will allow continuous operations for project approvals.
It’s important for local governments to use technology to continue economic activity despite the spread of coronavirus, said Angel de la Portilla, president of Orlando-based government consulting firm Central Florida Strategies. Failure to do so “is only going to aggravate the crisis.”
A representative with Lake County wasn’t available for comment.
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