The Future is for Sale


The Orlando Sentinel ran a real tear-jerker today about a pretty stretch of land near Old Town in Kissimmee, Fla., that's been up for sale for 25 years:

Vedaland, which means land of knowledge, was announced with much fanfare in 1989 by magician Doug Henning and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru to The Beatles who introduced the West to Transcendental Meditation. Henning died of cancer in 2000, and the Maharishi died at his home in the Dutch town of Vlodrop this year….

The park plan originally included a building seemingly suspended above water without supports, a "magic flying chariot" that took riders inside the molecular structure of a rose, and robots that would fly through the air, performing magic tricks.

For all its faults (re: voter fraud, snow birds, Charlie Crist's tan, YouTube rednecks, Clear Water), Florida also plays sanctuary for some cool shit (Fantasy of Flight) and plenty of weird attractions (Dinosaur World). The state's love affair with the open blacktop coupled with its lack of high culture (I'm convinced a causal relationship exists between the two), means that no one thinks twice about driving two hours to visit the Jesus theme park.   

One of the obstacles for any sort of nifty development, however, is the ridiculous zoning obstacles in many of the state's counties. As a former urban planning intern for the City of Orlando—the hot, dirty seat of Orange County—I can attest that there's nothing more daunting to an entrepreneur or a developer than having to sort through the setbacks, the height requirements, the permitted colors palate, the ugliness limits, and so on, that have to be met before one can even think about breaking ground. Orange County is not unique in this respect, and for all its efforts has proved to be especially inept at stymying or even directing growth.

Alas, Vedaland, due to Orange County's various obstacles, may never see enlightened—or other— days:

While the property is listed on tax rolls as agricultural land because of a tree-farming operation, an Internet sales listing cites a study that "suggests potential development scenarios up to 800,000 square feet of commercial space and as many as 4,300 multifamily residential units."

[T]he tract is zoned for a planned development, [but] the original approvals expired in 2005. A new owner would have to start the process from the beginning, county officials said.

reason interview with Jane Jacobs, in which the wonderful woman says every city "should be like itself," here