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

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  1. Florida is also sanctuary for cool shit (Fantasy of Flight) and weird attractions (Dinosaur World).

    And ed. Please don’t forget ed. We’re Not Subsidized!?. Free parking!

  2. As a former urban planning intern for the City of Orlando…

    Mike, have you met H&R commenter joe?

  3. Florida has mad crazy strict zoning. And then they pile up homeowners association regs on top of that. Crazy.

    Florida real estate is a snake pit of corruption anyway. You probably couldn’t find a better example of the regulatory state existing for the purpose of protecting the well-connected and rich at the expense of small business. Everything’s set up to only allow gigantic development companies to build gigantic developments – just the opposite of Jane Jacobs talks about. No diversity of style, age, or cost at all.

  4. Oh crap, I blew the link. Preview, you idiot! Preview.

    If at first you don’t succeed,
    try, try again.

  5. Hi joe. 🙂

  6. If they bought land near Kissimmee, they should have gone a mile south or so and bought in Osceola or Polk counties. Either of those would have far less strict zoning, I’m certain.

    Also, to joe’s point, this is Reedy Creek, a governmental administrative district controlled by the Disney corporation.

  7. Florida real estate is a snake pit of corruption

    Not to mention the green iguanas. Have you seen the green iguanas? Picture a lizard the size of your two-year-old black labrador. Only it’s green, and its tail is three-feet-long. And it doesn’t fear you. And it loves to eat all your expensive landscaping and shit human-sized turds on your pool deck. Yes, this is Florida real estate, lizard-style. Be afraid.

  8. …the ugliness limits…

    Are those maximum or minimum ugliness limits?

  9. BakedPenguin: The planners in Osceola County are worse, and they’re under the thumb of the tax-happy Osceola County Commissioners.

  10. ChrisH: Think of it as an ugliness parabola. (I haven’t taken a math class since 2003, so I don’t stand by that metaphor, but I think it’s right.)

    In other words, it’s up for the planners to decide whether the limits are minimums or maximums.

  11. Mike – I’m surprised – I thought their desire to increase their tax base would make them amenable to looser rules. Then again, they do have a lot of hotels near Kissimmee / St. Cloud.

    But speaking of creepy, over regulated locales, there’s also Disney’s answer to Stepford – right near Old Town, as a matter of fact.

  12. Are you really complaining that if somebody bought a big chunk of undeveloped property without any valid development and wanted to develop it in a totally different way, that they have to go through the permitting process again?

    I don’t get it, unless you’re implying that South Florida should be even more of a free-fire zone for developers than it already is.

  13. DannyK: Orange County and Osceola County are in Central Florida. And there’s nothing objective or effective about the permitting process. Commissioners strike the proposals they hate and approve the ones they like, regardless of the local ramifications. Forgive me for not endorsing rent-seeking cronyism and authoritative social engineering.

  14. Libertarians all to often reserve their bile for the Federal government, ignoring just how often it is that intrusive, overweening government begins in City Hall. Oddly enough, it is often judges “legislating from the bench” who protect us from such antics by over-ruling local measures as unconstitutional. It’s an eternal tragedy that the Founders didn’t see fit to protect property as they did happiness, and to separate business and state asthey did church and state.

  15. Agreed, Seth. But the iguanas! The Founders never foresaw the iguanas!

  16. Jesus God, ed. I’ll keep shoveling the driveway, thanks. Oh, and flying cockroaches. Pass.

    I once drove by a development in Florida that was surrounded by a brick wall. On the wall, in big gold letters, next to the gate, were the words “Sandywoods: A Deed-Restricted Community” Oh boy!

    DannyK: Florida isn’t a “free-fire zone.” You have to jump through a lot of hoops to build that crap.

  17. “Sandywoods” reminds me of two of the more annoying aspects of the planned neighborhoods in FL. First, the names are always a stupid, yuppie-ish, contrived two word combo usually involving naturey words and pointless capital letters like “StoneyBrook” or “MeadowRidge”. I would feel like a douchebag just saying “I live in PebbleGlen”*.

    Secondly, in part to make it easier for cops to get suspects, and probably to save money on signs and gates, and maybe to keep out the riffraff, they purposely make the entire development have ONE exit to a main road. WTF!!!

    *full disclosure, I live on a road called “Sandy Rock”.

  18. I’ve found that developers like to name their projects after whatever they wiped out to build the development. So, if it’s “forest glen,” there used to be some really nice woodlands. If it’s “Rocky Hills,” several acres were leveled. “Hawk Ridge” – not only did they take down a hill, but they found clutch of raptor chicks in the treads of the front end loader. Etc.

  19. ooh, Atanarjuat hit on one of my pet peeves too:

    PineCrest Reserve
    The Hollows at the Meadows

    When I was working at a civil engineering firm, I swore that if saw one more “Estates at [insert creek name here]” I’d have an aneurysm.

    Relevant link: The Subdivision/Housing Development/Rest Home Random Name Generator!

  20. I rather like Florida.

  21. I like it when they use “Landing” in the name of a property that isn’t within 20 miles of any body of water larger than a seasonal stream.

  22. Downtown Venice is nice. It’s like a real town.

  23. Gainesville, too.

  24. You can keep your “high culture”. Any culture that can’t survive without constant government subsidy deserves to be relegated to the museums.

  25. Florida is over-zoned partly because mandatory state-wide smart growth rules require it.

  26. the names are always a stupid, yuppie-ish, contrived two word combo usually involving naturey words

    It’s exactly the same in upstate New York*, and I suspect, nationwide.

    *except there are more animals, especially “Deer” and “Fox”

  27. Florida is a great state if you’re too weird to live anywhere else. It’s not that it’s permissive, it’s just that it’s too busy punishing the most deviant deviants to get around to the weirdos.

    Unfortunately the Northern (or, as I like to call it, the Yankee) part of the state (where I live now) is basically part of the American South, and you’d better keep your head down up here. You fuck a goat _once_…

  28. And by the way, you have to be on crack to think that downtown Gainesville is nice. The fear is palpable- walk a few yards toward the Uni and everyone is on crack and a stolen bicycle. Most University towns are together enough that they don’t put the insane crack addict angry black ghetto directly between the coffee shops and the campus.

    Gainesville is a shitty imitation of a shitty imitation (think Northampton) of a shitty but pleasant town (say Burlington VT.)

  29. Truth in advertising if it applied to developements

    ToxicLandfill Acres.
    ClearCut Woods.
    LevelledHills Estates.

  30. Yes it is indeed and sadly, we will be ruined if McBush wins in November.


  31. How can you have a problem with Clear Water? Everyone likes to drink Clear Water. Or did you mean Clearwater? Not much of a fan of Clearwater myself.

  32. Iguanas are delicious grilled. They taste like chicken. Any that don’t fear humans are escaped pets. Mmmmm….Delicious pets…

  33. Iguana steaks have an appeal that I can’t explain. Something about avenging early mammals eaten by iguana’s ancestors.

  34. Thanks for the link to the Holy Land Experience, Mike. I would encourage anyone who hasn’t already to click over there and check out the promotional video. You can watch them crucify Jesus every day! (Not quite with Mel Gibson style realism, but it is family oriented, after all….)

  35. ed,

    And ed. Please don’t forget ed. We’re Not Subsidized!?. Free parking!

    It was not free in downtown Orlando today, nor was it free yesterday for lunch.

    Perhaps you are thinking at a hotel by the airport?

    Major complaint: Not enough Ladies’ Interpretive Dance Theaters within walking distance of my hotel. Only a Hooters! Sorry, nice but no cigar, as Pres. Clinton might say.

  36. Minor nit: This property would appear to be in Osceola County. The only bit of US 192 that’s in Orange County in the north side west of the Tragic Kingdom just before it connects to US 27.

    they purposely make the entire development have ONE exit to a main road. WTF!!!

    Oh, that’s called “traffic calming”, don’t you know? Keeps “outsiders” from “cutting through” and speeding and running over “YOUR CHILDREN”.

    My firm once did a traffic calming study for a subdivision in Orlando. It was populated mostly by West Indian immigrants. At one of the public meetings a bunch of them complained about the “outsiders cutting through” and speeding and how “someone had to do something”. Our lead engineer who was a Jamaican went full islander on them and pretty much said they were full of it since we had reviewed the violation history and found that something like 95% of the speeding tickets had been issued to residents of the neighborhood.

  37. having to sort through the ugliness limits

    There are no ugliness limits in Orlando.

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