Save The Dr. Phillips Forest!


UPDATE May 13 2008: After removing some duplicate signatures, the petition stands at 682 signatures!!!  We certainly hope the Foundation will take the time to read all of the comments, which we have not edited or touched in any way, prior to making its final decision regarding the land.  Had it not been for the petition we truly could not have known the extent to which the forest is valued by you, the residents of Dr. Phillips.  This is not just a patch of green that looks nice from the road … this is a place where an incredible range of animals live, where treasured memories have been made and where our friends and neighbors want to spend many more happy hours.  The petition will be forwarded to the County Commissioners, the Planning Department, the Foundation and other parties in light of this week’s meeting (Thursday May 15 at 10am, 201 South Rosalind, Orange County Administration Building).

The first meeting was held on May 8, with Jim Hinson, chairperson of the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation, and Commissioner Teresa Jacobs present.  Dozens of local residents attended to voice their concern and opposition for the proposed change in the Orange County Land Use Plan from Medium Density Residential to Office.  Mr. Hinson described the good works that the Foundation had performed for the Dr. Phillips community, most at little or no cost to the County or community.  It is the Foundation’s intention to build their headquarters on this parcel of land. The residents spoke about their increasing frustration with development, the resulting loss of green space and increasing impact of traffic, the blight of vacant buildings, and the fears for the future of this once tranquil community. Commissioner Jacobs implored the group to look at the situation from the perspective of both the County and the notion of property rights — can the County government legally tell a property owner what to do with their properly-zoned property?  Attempting to prevent, through governmental or legal means, the Foundation from utilizing this property as office space is not the aim of appealing to the Foundation and the County Government.  The goal is to see the Foundation choose to preserve the forest, as it is completely within their power to do so.  To not tear down the forest, to not build on this land, to utilize previously constructed and now vacant office space, to repair and upgrade the park, to lease the land to the County for recreation – all of these options are within the Foundation’s power to exercise.  Mr. Hinson stated that the Foundation leases the land for the Little League field and the YMCA for $1 each per year, how the tennis courts and Spring Lake park are free to the community and how the Dr. Phillips Elementary and Fire Stations were built by the Foundation and given away to the County – all to the betterment and enrichment of the community.  Surely the Dr. Phillips Forest is just as worthy of the Foundation’s generosity, given the community’s obvious attachment to the green space. A compromise regarding this land was proposed by the Planning personnel facilitating the meeting: take one acre of land for planned office space (the Foundation estimates it needs 10,000 square feet for its 22 employees) and leave the rest as forested land.  The Foundation did not commit to this solution, however, which leaves open the matter of just how much of the land would be cleared for office space in the years to follow.     

4.5 acres of once-protected forestland in the heart of Dr. Phillips, Florida, is now in danger of being developed.  This heavily-wooded patch of land and the  adjacent park is known to local residents as the “Dr. Phillips Forest.”  It is owned by the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation.  The Foundation has kept the land (home to owls, turtles, raccoons, foxes, bullfrogs, rabbits, heron, squirrels and hawks with a river basin that feeds Spring Lake) safe from development since the 1970s.  Now the Foundation is asking Orange County to rezone the property for office buildings.   

If you live in Southwest Orange County and value the increasingly rare pockets of trees and wildlife around you, this is an opportunity to make your thoughts known.



READ THE NOTICE (click here)

2. WRITE ORANGE COUNTY COMMISSIONER TERESA JACOBS (click here to visit Commissioner Jacobs’ website); make sure to copy all other County Commissioners so they are equally informed when meeting to discuss the project in June.




Imagine taking just a few steps away from the traffic on Dr. Phillips Boulevard and losing yourself in a sanctuary of “real Florida.”  That’s exactly what happens when you walk into the Dr. Phillips Forest.  The sound of the cars fades away and is replaced by the chirping of birds and, more strikingly, just plain quiet.  40 years ago the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation understood the importance of this property and set it aside as a park while the rest of the neighborhood grew up around it.  Now the park, including the bridges across the scenic central waterway, is in disrepair and the Foundation wants to rezone the land for its main offices.  Fortunately it’s not too late to appeal to the Foundation and Orange County’s Planning Division.  Please join us in our efforts to save this beautiful stretch of natural habitat. What we’re seeking is a permanent protection of this land by the Dr. P. Philips Foundation.  If the Foundation decisively recognizes the value of keeping this land in its natural state and will restore the park facilities it put in place a generation ago, it accomplishes something of lasting value for current residents, future residents and most importantly the animals and trees that call this property home.

The Dr. P. Phillips Foundation has a rich legacy of charitable work and sound growth management, as do its officers.  This new rezoning matter, however, seems at odds with their history and the best interests of the neighborhood.  Now is the time to solicit the Foundation’s reconsideration, because once this natural resource is gone, it’s gone forever.



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