In addition to speeding up the approval process, the new rule is intended to give developers more flexibility with density and make them eligible for tax incentives.

Orange County officials say the law doesn’t give clear direction to local government jurisdictions about how it should be implemented, leaving it open to interpretation.

“Like everyone else, Orange County has had a very short timeframe to modify its processes and standards to comply with the new mandates,” Alan Marshall, an assistant director of the county’s planning, environmental, and development services department told the commission at the Aug. 8 meeting. “Aspects of the Live Local Act are unclear and in need of a board decision. …A resolution is needed to ensure clear direction to our staff and to the development community by adopting a process and identifying standards.”

According to the county’s policy, Live Local projects would be prohibited on land with a planned development designation. Planned developments make up the majority of the land across unincorporated Orange County, covering approximately 92,308 acres, according to county data. These are where most multifamily projects are built.

For the Live Local Act, “the legislature did not describe PDs. They did not say that PDs were an eligible zoning district,” Marshall said. “Secondly, PDs are generally negotiated districts with very specific conditions and agreements, kind of like a contract.”

He noted that substantial changes to PDs, including the addition of multifamily, require a public hearing under the county’s code.

“The mechanics of putting multifamily in PDs requires public hearings, and Live Local does not allow for public hearings,” Marshall said. “The mechanics just don’t work.”

The county commission adopted a policy saying that Live Local projects can only go on land zoned for commercial, industrial, and mixed-use. That accounts for 17,688 acres.

But it was another rule that generated the most discussion during a county meeting Wednesday when two developers sought input on two different projects.

The policy says that Live Local projects planned for property within 100 feet of a single-family home would be required to follow R-2 zoning standards, meaning only smaller-density products with up to four units per building could be built.

Haslam told county staff that a “very large percentage” of C-1 properties where affordable housing could go under the Live Local Act are near single-family homes.

“It essentially throws almost every project that qualifies for Live Local into the townhome standards,” she said. “For a parcel like this, you can’t even qualify for the tax exemptions if you do a townhome project. So it essentially makes the Live Local Act unworkable for the vast majority of those commercial sites.”

Deputy County Manager Weiss told GrowthSpotter that there are plenty of vacant commercial and industrial sites that would be eligible for higher-density projects under the Live Local Act.

Meanwhile, county commissioners say that state legislators need to tweak the Live Local Act.

I believe the Live Local Act has promise,” said County Mayor Jerry Demings, “but the legislature does need to clarify the ambiguity in the law.”

For now, Orange County attorneys say they are taking a safe approach with their interpretation of the law.

“There are obviously some points of this law that are unclear,” Assistant County Attorney Whitney Evers told commissioners. “ So what you’re seeing…staff is erring on the side of caution. Because we aren’t sure where this is going to go.”

With the new policy in place, Lee Steinhauer, the general counsel of the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando, said he’d like to see the county give some leeway to developers attempting to build good Live Local projects.

“The question everyone is going to have is: How strictly is this (policy) going to be interpreted?” he said. “Is it going to go to the letter of the policy or is there going to be some level of flexibility in terms of allowing good projects that provide some of the affordable housing that we need?”

Osceola County received its first Live Local Act application this week when Texas-based SHIR Capital submitted preliminary plans to convert all 444 hotel rooms at Holiday Inn at Celebration into studio apartments. The Live Local Act hasn’t been tested yet on a hotel conversion.

To read more about early-stage development in Central Florida, go to and subscribe.