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Orange County Amends Code to Abate School Capacity For Certain Projects

September 02, 2020

By: Rebecca Wilson, Jonathan Huels and McGregor Love

On September 1, 2020, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) voted unanimously to approve an amendment to County Code to implement an abatement of school capacity enhancement review for pending residential projects. The amendment is part of the County’s larger effort to reconcile the County’s code, charter and Comprehensive Plan with HB 7103, a state law passed in 2019 that requires a credit against school impact fees on a dollar-for-dollar basis for any such contribution.

As a result of this statute, any capacity added under a Capacity Enhancement Agreement – under which developers pay the additional amount of needed capacity not covered by impact fees -- would be entirely offset by impact fee credits to the developer. The conflict between HB 7103 and the County’s school capacity review process has stalled development applications for at least 17 projects.  

According to staff, the purpose of the abatement is to allow staff to pursue changes to the existing lnterlocal Agreements in order to better define the multi-jurisdictional approval process currently contemplated in County Code. The multi-jurisdictional approval process requires developers to receive the approval of all “significantly affected local governments,” which is defined in the County’s charter as any local government with more than 10% of the student population of an impacted school. The joint approval process has been available since 2004, but has never been utilized.

Under the amendment, any project “for which a legally sufficient application for a Capacity Enhancement Agreement was submitted” after July 1, 2019 does not need to adhere to the multi-jurisdictional approval process.

On September 22, 2020, the BCC will hold a public hearing to consider adoption of Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) to implement an abatement of school capacity enhancement review for pending residential projects --Amendment 2020-2-C-PSFE-1. In order for the CPA to become effective, the Comp Plan amendment must be transmitted to the Department of Economic Opportunity and then come back for adoption by the BCC. If adopted by the BCC, a 31-day period following adoption must run without an appeal being filed. 

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Becky  Wilson is chair of the firm's Land Use, Zoning and Environmental Group. She represents property owners, developers, lenders and other development participants with issues related to zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, administrative law, Developments of Regional Impact (DRI’s), procurement issues, due diligence and property rights.

As early as sixth grade, Becky advocated for the causes she believed in. Her concern about nuclear waste and water contamination in her hometown of Dothan, Alabama – and her thorough research – promoted her to press a state legislator with questions in the school auditorium. Having grown up in the South, Becky got in trouble for questioning authority – yet that life experience served her well.

After clerking for a federal judge in Washington, D.C., Becky landed in Orlando, quickly building a reputation at Lowndes for being thorough, outspoken, and a tireless advocate for clients. She ultimately found her niche in land use, collaborating with architects, transportation engineers and local governments to move her clients’ projects – and Central Florida – forward. Becky became one of the youngest female shareholders at the firm. Today, she is Chair of the Land Use, Zoning and Environmental Group.

Her clients include property owners, developers, lenders and other participants in the development of high-rise, hotels, planned communities, large “power-centers,” mixed-use projects, office buildings and big box commercial projects, projects within historic districts, multi-family developments, senior living, and affordable housing. Becky works closely with the local government entities to address the needs of her clients related to zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, administrative lawDevelopments of Regional Impact (DRI’s), procurement issues, due diligence, and property rights.

Undoubtedly, Becky’s diligence, activism and Southern charm were responsible in part for her appointment as chair of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) of Central Florida District Council, a global multidisciplinary real estate organization with more than 40,000 members dedicated to the responsible use of land, and creating and sustaining thriving communities.


Jonathan Huels has a broad background in environmental law, land use and zoning. He works with local governments and other federal and state regulatory authorities to address the needs of his clients related to environmental permitting and compliance, brownfields, petroleum and hazardous waste assessment and remediation, zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, Developments of Regional Impact (DRI's), golf course and other types of property redevelopment, due diligence, and property rights. 

A member and past chairman of the City of Orlando's Municipal Planning Board, Jonathan is also a past member and chairman of the Orange County Environmental Protection Commission. In addition, Jonathan previously served on the Executive Council of the Environmental and Land Use Section of The Florida Bar from 2014-2020. He is an active member of the Coastal Conservation Association.

Huels holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in environmental science from the University of Florida and the University of Idaho. He received his law degree from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.

Prior to attending law school, Jonathan worked as a research scientist with the South Florida Water Management District.


McGregor Love assists clients with entitling projects for commercial, residential, industrial, office, and mixed use.

McGregor works with local governments and other regulatory authorities to address the needs of clients related to environmental permitting and compliance, zoning, comprehensive plans, concurrency, site plan approval, variance and waiver requests, due diligence, and property rights. As a member of the firm’s Renewable Energy Group, McGregor assists clients with permitting and development in the growing renewable energy industry. 

With a background in land use and business litigation, McGregor previously worked for other law firms where he focused on the representation of Florida businesses and business investors.

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