By Dan Harkins
ORANGE CITY - The old Welcome to Orange City sign on U.S. 17/92, just south of New York Avenue, does its job a half-mile too late.
Parcel by parcel, the city has been filling in its crannies and fattening its borders by annexing county land on a fairly regular basis.
At its most recent meeting, the Orange City Council not only kept up that tradition by annexing new properties into the fold - two parcels totaling just over an acre near East Elm Drive - but also updated the zoning on 169 properties that added 145 acres to the city map between 2004 and 2009. All actions were unanimous.
The new zoning classifications were chosen for best aligning with the current uses for the properties.
"You do have some increase in dwelling units," for some types of planned unit development classifications, said Development Services Director Alison Stettner, "but it's not enough to have any adverse impacts" to the city's infrastructure.
Not all citizens were fully comfortable.
Dale Atchley called the "MX2" mixed-use zoning eight properties were assigned after being zoned rural residential for generations, a "one-size-fits-all type of zoning" that could allow anything from package stores to motels.
"To me," he said, "it's a very scary zoning. It really depends on who is driving the bus, so to speak, to allow these uses to happen. Who gets run over along the way?"
Stettner explained any new developments, particularly those for MX2, which is considered a planned unit development, would require review and ratification by the city's planning and zoning board and city council. All current uses for the properties have been grandfathered in; however, if the nonconforming use is postponed for just a year while a property is between owners or operators, the city has the leeway to step in and determine which future uses would be acceptable.