Editor's Note: Christine Moore, the Orange County Commissioner representing District 2, which includes South Apopka, has been a fervent believer that Orange County can service South Apopka better than the City of Apopka. In her op/ed for The Apopka Voice, she details her reasons for why South Apopka can still be a part of the Apopka community, yet remain in unincorporated Orange County.
I completely understand the emotional side of wanting all of Apopka to be under one name and umbrella. The tragedy of segregation, Jim Crow, low-paying jobs, and lack of opportunity demands the best answer possible for South Apopka. Residents deserve equitable government services and equal opportunities.
The topography, access to transit and recreational trails, and soon, more educational opportunities, make South Apopka a prime place for reinvestment. I will say while the county has demolished blighted homes for decades, the private investment and market-rate home market has struggled. I appreciate all the work done for residents in tandem with Habitat for Humanity. However, I hoped the designation of a federal Opportunity Zone would have brought more investment. It hasn’t. We need to do more in this regard.
The County is in the middle of the Vision 2050 or comprehensive plan review. I am adamant that some upzoning around 10th and Central would spur more office, medical, and foodservice opportunities. While this is a complicated subject, the Orange County Planning Department will host a town hall sometime this summer to get resident input on where and where not to zone more commercial uses. With land uses upgraded a local entrepreneur could avoid having to spend two years and thousands of dollars changing the land use before even starting to build a facility. I’m also mindful of protecting certain areas for strictly residential uses. But, with the “missing middle” of townhomes, duplexes, etc. we need to allow these housing types in appropriate locations. No one should have their area chopped up for too many warehouses and low-end commercial enterprises. I’m completely against gentrification.
Orange County Government and Orange County Public Schools have been committed for decades to providing top-notch services and opportunities. I, as the school board member, was part of accelerating the rebuilding of Phillis Wheatley Elementary School. The beautiful, museum-quality display to Phillis is a constant source of pride. Soon, an adult-training center will be under construction across from the school. This project, while suffering numerous setbacks, was started by me back in 2014. I’m grateful to current school board member, Melissa Byrd, for moving the project along.
The well-maintained Wheatley Park, while still needing a few upgrades, is a great asset and location for events and activities. Parking is a concern, but if the community collaborates with the school, parking can be made available. Mayor Linda Chapin was the hero in the 1990s for building the John Bridges Center on 13th Street. The Bridges Center offered Head Start, a computer lab, access to the county’s safety net services, and meeting room rentals for the community. It is one of the nicest community centers in the entire county.
As for infrastructure, every street in unincorporated South Apopka was paved in 2019. Afterward, a small area study was conducted by Orange County Public Works engineer, Lauren Torres. The remediation of sidewalks has occurred and more is on the way. I have used my influence with Duke Energy to upgrade street lighting on the following streets: Clarcona, 13th, Old Apopka, and East 18th streets. More is needed, but I must be equitable and additionally work on lighting upgrades throughout District 2. This has been challenging due to constraints with public works and Duke Energy. I have also been working with MetroPLAN Orlando on a study for improving pedestrian safety along Michael Gladden Boulevard. This is needed badly.
Additionally, I have a robust citizen volunteer service group called Neighborhood Leaders. I have over 150 folks in the Wekiwa Springs, North Pine Hills, Lockhart, and Southern Apopka areas working together to improve their respective communities. We have completed strategic planning, written improvement plans, conducted beautification projects, and competed in a Corridor of the Year program. I would love more participants from South Apopka.
Special thanks to the South Apopka Safe group leaders, South Apopka Ministerial Alliance, historian Francina Boykin, and many others for their lifetime contributions as well. They say it takes a village, but I would like to add it takes the whole village.
So, I understand and agree Apopka should be one community. Living in the city or unincorporated area, however, does not stop anyone from joining civic groups, faith-based organizations, or governmental committees. I believe with a strong partnership between the county and city, all residents can and will be better served. After all, the county provides and budgets for many services the City of Apopka does not fund, such as animal and mosquito control, purchasing environmental lands, affordable housing initiatives, etc. The county budget is much more robust for infrastructure maintenance.
So, as your current county commissioner, I hope and pray residents will want to stay in the Orange County Government service area. It has been my privilege to serve you for the past three years.
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