The Neighborhood Blog

The Neighborhood Blog features a variety of community, attraction and development update information for communities throughout Central Florida.

Jan. 17, 2024

What's an HOA?

Unpacking Homeowners Associations (HOAs): A Simple Guide

If you've ever lived in a neighborhood with well-kept lawns, tidy streets, and common amenities like parks or community pools, there's a good chance a Homeowners Association (HOA) was behind the scenes, working to maintain that attractive environment. But what exactly is an HOA, and how does it impact your life as a homeowner?

What is a Homeowners Association (HOA)?

In the simplest terms, an HOA is like a neighborhood manager – a group of residents who come together to ensure that the community stays in good shape and maintains a certain standard of living. When you buy a home in a neighborhood with an HOA, you automatically become a member.

What Does an HOA Do?

Maintaining Common Areas:

One of the primary responsibilities of an HOA is to take care of shared spaces like parks, sidewalks, and community centers. They ensure these areas are well-maintained, clean, and safe for everyone to enjoy.

Enforcing Rules and Regulations:

HOAs typically have a set of rules and regulations, often outlined in a document known as the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&R). These rules are designed to maintain the aesthetic and structural integrity of the neighborhood. They might include guidelines on exterior home appearance, landscaping, and even the color you can paint your front door.

Architectural Control:

If you plan to make significant changes to your home's exterior, like adding a deck or painting your house, you'll likely need approval from the HOA. This ensures that modifications align with the neighborhood's overall look and feel.

Community Amenities:

Some HOAs manage community amenities like swimming pools, gyms, or clubhouses. They oversee maintenance, set rules for usage, and sometimes organize community events.

Financial Management:

HOAs collect fees, known as dues, from homeowners to fund their operations. These dues are used for landscaping, maintenance, insurance, and other community-related expenses.

Pros and Cons of HOAs:


Aesthetic Appeal: HOAs can enhance the overall appearance of a neighborhood by enforcing rules that contribute to a well-maintained environment.

Community Amenities: Access to shared amenities can add value to your property.

Conflict Resolution: HOAs provide a forum for dispute resolution among neighbors.


Fees: Dues can be an additional financial burden for homeowners.

Rule Restrictions: Some homeowners may find the rules restrictive, impacting their ability to personalize their homes.

Enforcement Policies: Strict enforcement can lead to conflicts within the community.

An HOA serves as a community steward, working to maintain order, enhance property values, and create an enjoyable living environment. While there are both benefits and drawbacks, understanding and participating in your HOA can contribute to a harmonious neighborhood and a pleasant home ownership experience.

Posted in Buying a Home
Jan. 17, 2024

What's a CDD?

What's a CDD? Understanding Community Development Districts

In the realm of local governance and urban planning, you might come across the term "Community Development District" or CDD. While it may sound a bit bureaucratic, its purpose is quite straightforward – enhancing the development and well-being of a community.

What is a Community Development District (CDD)?

Imagine your neighborhood is a small town within a larger city. A Community Development District is like a specialized mini-government created to manage and fund specific aspects of your community's development. It's essentially a tool that local governments use to ensure that essential services and infrastructure are provided efficiently.

How Does a CDD Operate?

When a new community is being developed, especially in areas that were previously undeveloped or rural, a CDD is often established. It's like giving the community its own set of rules and resources to ensure it flourishes. The CDD typically has the authority to levy taxes, issue bonds, and manage funds to pay for various community needs.

Funding and Services:

One of the primary functions of a CDD is to secure funding for essential services and infrastructure. This can include roads, street lighting, water and sewage systems, parks, and recreational facilities. Instead of burdening the local government with all these responsibilities, a CDD allows the community to manage its affairs more independently.

Community Development Districts (CDDs) are typically funded through a combination of methods that are established when the district is created. The specific funding mechanisms can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the purpose of the CDD, but some common sources of funding include:

Assessments and Taxes:

Special Assessments: One common funding method is through special assessments levied on the properties within the district. These assessments are charges imposed on property owners to cover the costs of specific services or infrastructure improvements within the district.

Ad Valorem Taxes: CDDs may have the authority to levy ad valorem taxes, which are based on the assessed value of the properties within the district. These taxes can be used to fund general district operations or specific projects.

Bonds and Debt Financing:

CDDs often have the ability to issue bonds to raise capital for large-scale infrastructure projects. Property owners within the district may repay the bonds over time through assessments or taxes.

Impact Fees:

CDDs may collect impact fees from developers when new projects are approved. These fees are intended to offset the costs associated with the increased demand for services and infrastructure resulting from the new development.

Grants and Government Funding:

In some cases, CDDs may receive grants or financial assistance from local, state, or federal governments to support specific projects or services.

User Fees and Charges:

CDDs may impose user fees or charges for specific services provided within the district, such as water and sewage services, recreational facilities, or other amenities.

Transfer Fees:

Some CDDs may charge transfer fees when properties within the district change ownership. These fees contribute to ongoing maintenance and improvements.

Interest and Investment Income:

CDDs may earn interest or investment income on funds held in reserve or invested for future use. This income can supplement other funding sources.

It's important to note that the specific funding structure of a CDD is established at its creation and is typically outlined in the district's governing documents. These documents may include a development order, articles of incorporation, or other legal instruments that define the CDD's powers, responsibilities, and financial mechanisms. Additionally, CDDs often operate with a board of supervisors, elected or appointed, that oversees the district's finances and decision-making processes.

Decision-Making Process:

A CDD usually has a board of supervisors, which may be elected or appointed, that makes decisions on behalf of the community. This board takes into account the needs and preferences of the residents, making it a more localized and community-driven decision-making process.

Benefits for Residents:

For residents, the creation of a CDD can translate into a better quality of life. Improved infrastructure, well-maintained parks, and efficient public services are often the direct results of a well-managed CDD. Additionally, residents may have a more direct say in how their community evolves, fostering a sense of ownership and pride.

Challenges and Considerations:

While CDDs offer numerous benefits, they are not without challenges. Some residents may have concerns about the taxation authority granted to a CDD and the potential impact on their finances. Transparency and open communication are crucial to address such concerns and build trust within the community.

A Community Development District is like a local governing body tailor-made for a specific community. It empowers residents to take charge of their own development, ensuring that their unique needs are met. So, the next time you hear about a CDD in your neighborhood, know that it's essentially a community's way of steering its own course toward a better and more vibrant future.

Posted in Buying a Home
Sept. 7, 2023

Highway 50 in Winter Garden

Home  Neighborhood Blog Roads & Transportation › Hwy 50 Winter Garden

Hwy 50 runs nearly Coast to Coast through Central Florida.  Stretching from Titusville in the East to Weeki Wachee Springs in the West.

In Orange County, Hwy 50 is also known as Colonial Drive. Hwy 50 runs the entirety of the Winter Garden Community following a parallel East-West course with the Florida Turnpike.

Hwy 50 is a main artery for residents in the Downtown Winter Garden area and Oakland Area and is a commonly used road to reach Downtown Orlando East of Winter Garden. There are access points from hwy 50 to the Florida Turnpike in two locations, and to the 429 Expressway. 

Learn More about Colonial Drive at the Florida SR 50 Wiki Page.

Sept. 7, 2023

The 429 Expressway through Winter Garden

Home  Neighborhood Blog Roads & Transportation The 429 Expressway

The 429 Expressway runs south to I-4 in Davenport and North to Mt Plymouth just North of Apopka.

Also known as the Daniel Webster Western Beltway, the 429 is the western side of a loop around the metro Orlando area. 

The 429 Expressway runs the entire length of the Winter Garden Community and passes directly through three of the four areas that make up Winter Garden.

In the Downtown Winter Garden area, there is an access ramp at Plant Street as well as Hwy 50.  In the Winter Garden Village area, there is one access point at Winter Garden-Vineland Road, and in the Horizon West area, there are multiple access points including three full access points in both directions at New Independence Parkway in Downtown Hamlin, Schofield Road, and Western Way which is also Disney World entrance.  There is one northbound exit and one Southbound on ramp at Sidel Road next to Horizon High School.

The 429 Expressway intersects The Florida Turnpike in the Downtown Winter Garden area which will take you either North to Wildwood near Gainesville or South to Miami.

Get all the latest updates on the Central Florida Expressway Authority's 429 Daniel Webster Western Beltway site.

Sept. 7, 2023

Winter Garden Vineland Road Through Winter Garden

Home  Neighborhood Blog Roads & Transportation › Winter Garden-Vineland Road

Winter Garden-Vineland Road runs south to Kissimmee and North to Downtown Winter Garden and Lake Apopka.

The road runs the Northern and Central section of the Winter Garden community and is a main North/South artery for  those residents.

In the Downtown Winter Garden area, the road is also known as Main Street and its intersection with Plant Street is the heart of Downtown Winter Garden.  In the Winter Garden Village area, Winter Garden-Vineland Road makes a hard 90 degree turn South and travels under the 429 Expressway. It then winds Southeast into the Windermere community to Windermere High School where it makes another hard 90 degree turn East. The road continues and winds around the Southeastern edge of Walt Disney World. A final hard 90 degree turn is made South which leads through Lake Buena Vista and under I-4. A few miles beyond and Winter Garden Vineland Road terminates at Hwy 192 in the Kissimmee area.

Sept. 7, 2023

Downtown Winter Garden

Home Neighborhood Blog Attractions & Recreation › Downtown Winter Garden

Downtown Winter Garden FLDowntown Winter Garden is one of the most charming, historic and vibrant areas in the Orlando area. Like a modern day Mayberry, Downtown Winter Garden is where old, small town Florida meets modern retail and restaurant concepts to create a unique experience unlike any other in Central Florida. 

Here you will find rooftop and open air bars, funky boutiques, innovative culinary delights, unexpected entertainment and right in the middle of it all, one of the most beloved and historic trails in Florida.  

Where is Downtown Winter Garden?

Downtown Winter Garden is located along Plant Street West of S Dillard Street and East S Park Ave in Winter Garden FL. Found about 16 miles West of Downtown Orlando, it is 1 mile North of Hwy 50/Colonial Drive.  The West Orange Trail runs right through the center of Downtown Winter Garden and there are wide variety of parks, neighborhoods and businesses around the parameter of Downtown Winter Garden. 

Downtown Winter Garden Shops and Boutiques

Downtown Winter GardenDowntown Winter Garden offers a variety of unique shops including:

  • Adjectives
  • Burr Art and Music
  • Doxology
  • Driftwood Market
  • Encore Furniture
  • Garden Music School
  • Ruby and Rust
  • Tack Boutique
  • Tri & Run
  • Wheel Works
  • And Many More!

You will also find a variety of day spas, fitness/yoga studios, and a variety of other unique services in the Downtown Winter Garden area.

Downtown Winter Garden Restaurants & Bar Options

Downtown Winter GardenDining in Downtown Winter Garden offers a wide variety of options from quick serve to formal. Some of the restaurants found in Downtown Winter Garden include:

  • Axum Coffee
  • Hungry Bison
  • Market to Table Cuisine
  • Matthew's Steakhouse
  • Melts on Main
  • Moon Cricket Grill
  • Rosallie Le French Cafe
  • Scoops Old Fashioned Ice Cream
  • Thai Blossom
  • The Chef's Table
  • Eggs & Oats Breakfast and Brunch
  • The Tasting Room
  • The Whole Enchilada
  • Three Birds Cafe
  • Urban Flats
  • And Many More!

Downtown Winter Garden

Downtown Winter Garden Entertainment

There is plenty to see and do in Downtown Winter Garden including:

  • Central Florida Railroad Museum
  • Winter Garden Heritage Museum
  • The Garden Theater
  • The West Orange Trail
  • Crooked Can Brewery and Plant Street Market
  • Kids Splash Park
  • and more!

Day or night, young or old, Downtown Winter Garden has something for everyone.  For more information, visit the official Downtown Winter Garden visitors site.

Take a Virtual Tour of Downtown Winter Garden

Sept. 7, 2023

Lake Avalon - Winter Garden Lakes

Home Neighborhood Blog Lakes & Beaches Lake Avalon

Lake Avalon in Winter GardenFloridaLake Avalon is a 184 acre, freshwater lake in West Orlando. Sawgrass Lake is a smaller, grassy shoreline, non-ski lake in the Horizon West area between Winter Garden and Windermere.

The median depth of Lake Avalon is approx 163 feet. Lake Avalon is a private lake with no boat ramp access.

Lake Avalon Quick Facts

  • Size: 184 acres
  • Water Type: freshwater
  • Access: private
  • Fishing: Largemouth Bass, Blue Catfish, Red Drum
  • Lake Report: Orange County Wateratlas

Where is Lake Avalon

Lake Avalon is located in the Winter Garden community of Orlando It is South of the Johns Lake and West of the Stonebrook West Village Marsh Road runs along its Northern shore.

Winter Garden Neighborhoods on Lake Avalon

Neighborhoods on the shores of Lake Avalon include Waterside on the lakes Northwestern shore, Sanctuary at Twin Waters on its Northern shore and Individual Homes on its Southwestern shore.

Posted in Lakes-Beaches
Sept. 7, 2023

Johns Lake - Winter Garden Lakes

Home Neighborhood Blog Lakes & Beaches Johns Lake

Johns Lake in Winter GardenFloridaJohns Lake is a 2,580 acre, freshwater lake in West Orlando. Johns Lake is a large and winding lake that stretches from Winter Garden in Western Orange County into Clermont in Eastern Lake County. A popular lake for boating and fishing, there is a wide variety of shoreline including conservation wetland areas, grassy shorelines and planned unit neighborhoods with estate type homes with private boat docks.

The median depth of Johns Lake is approx 12 feet. Johns Lake is a public lake with public boat ramp located off Lake Blvd.

Johns Lake Quick Facts

  • Size: 2,580 acres
  • Water Type: freshwater
  • Access: public
  • Fishing: Largemouth Bass, Chain Pickerel, Channel Catfish
  • Lake Report: Orange County Wateratlas

Where is Johns Lake

Johns Lake is located in the Winter Garden community of Orlando It is South of the Hwy 50/Colonial Drive and South of the the Oakland community Marsh Road runs along its Southern shore.

Winter Garden Neighborhoods on Johns Lake

Neighborhoods on the shores of Johns Lake include Deer Island on the lakes Center shore and Johns Landing on its Northeastern shore. Both of those are located in the Oakland area of Winter GardenHickory Hammock on its Southeastern shore and located in the Winter Garden Village area of the community.

Posted in Lakes-Beaches
Sept. 7, 2023

Orange County National Golf Center

Home Neighborhood Blog Attractions & Recreation Orange County National Golf Center

Orange County National Golf Center and LodgeOrange County National Golf Center is a public golf club in the Horizon West area of Winter Garden near Walt Disney World in SW Orlando.

The club offers 45 holes including 2 championship courses, 1 nine hole short course, driving range/practice facility and golf academy.

Orange County National Golf Center also offers a 40 room lodge for stay and play guests, and a 22,000 sq ft clubhouse which houses the Orange 83 Pub and Grill and the Pro Shop.

The Courses at Orange County National Golf Center

The Crooked Cat Course features elevation changes, rolling fairways and large contoured greens.  It is a links style course and offers many twists, turns and bunkers.

The Panther Lake Course offers play over and around rolling meadows, wetlands and lakes.  It is a parkland style course with naturally beautiful surroundings and wildlife encounters.

The Tooth 9 Hole Walking Course provides gentle elevation changes, challenging bunkers and lake that is in play on four of the holes.  This Executive style course is as challenging as any of the courses on a shorter scale.

Golf Training & Instruction

Orange County National Golf Center offers a 42 acre training facility which offers multiple golf school instruction options and several different golf academies and performance instruction to fit every golfer's need.

The Orange County National Golf Center Clubhouse

In the Orange County National Golf Center Clubhouse, you will find the Orange 83 Pub and Grill.  The restaurant can accommodate up to 200 guests and also offers service on the patio.  There is a large bar area with 8 HD Televisions and they host regular week events such as drink your score and bingo.

The Golf Shop features 5,000 sq ft of retail space and offers the latest in apparel, equipment and accessories.  

Where is Orange County National Golf Center in Winter Garden?

The Orange County National Golf Center is located at 16301 Phil Ritson Way in Winter Garden.

The Walt Disney World Resort is just Southwest of the Club and the 429 Expressway provides quick access from most areas of Orlando.

It is just North of the Lakeshore neighborhood, South of the Sanctuary at Hamlin neighborhood, East of the Summerlake neighborhoods and West of the 429 Expressway.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Orange County National Golf Center

Sept. 7, 2023

Disney Springs

Home Neighborhood Blog Attractions & Recreation Disney Springs

Disney SpringsDisney Springs is a unique shopping/dining/entertainment experience like no other.

Evolving from a once quiet area of Disney World, the area went through several growth spurts and incarnations to reach its current form.  If you want to see how Disney does a mall, this is it.  Familiar brand names, unique restaurants and lounges and original entertainment experiences with a Disney twist set in a fascinating and visually stunning setting.

Disney Springs Entertainment

Want to fly high in the air, drive a car around the water, catch a concert or see your favorite animated Disney characters come to life?  Disney Springs has some unbelievable experiences in store for you.

  • Aerophile Balloon Flight
  • AMC 24 Dine In Theaters
  • Cirque du Soleil - Drawn to Life
  • House of Blues Music Hall
  • Splitsville Luxury Lanes
  • Vintage Amphicar
  • Meta Quest 2 Virtual Reality
  • And so much more!

Disney Springs Restaurants

Disney Springs at Disney World

From Quick Service to Table Service, Disney Springs has just about every style of restaurant covered along with some one of a kind dining experiences.

  • The Boathouse
  • City Works Eatery & Pour House
  • The Edison
  • Enzo's Hideaway
  • Planet Hollywood
  • Raglan Road
  • STK
  • T-Rex
  • and over 50 more to choose from!

Disney Springs Shops

Disney Springs at Walt Disney WorldThere are over 100 unique shopping experiences at Disney Springs.  From well know shops and brands, to one of a kind stores to specialty Disney shops only found at Disney Springs.

  • Art of Disney
  • Coach
  • Disney Pin Traders
  • Free People
  • Havaianas
  • The Lego Store
  • lululemon
  • Mac Cosmetics
  • Orlando Harley-Davidson
  • Pele Soccer
  • Ron Jon Surf Shop
  • Star Wars Galactic Outpost
  • Tommy Bahama
  • Kendra Scott

Disney Springs Bars & Lounges

The vast majority of the table service restaurants offer one or two bar and lounge areas and more often than not provide entertainment or shows in those areas.  However, Disney Springs also offers some unique lounge experiences that can be missed if you are not looking.

  • Coca-Cola Store Rooftop Beverage Bar
  • House of Blues Front Porch
  • Jock Lindseys Hanger Bar
  • Stargazers Bar
  • Wine Bar George

Disney Springs is located approx 15 to 25 min away from most areas of Winter Garden.