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City Initiates Land Use Study to Guide Future Development in Lake Wales

 

Last updated 3/3/2022 at 9:39am

City Development Services Division staff met recently to discuss the numerous projects they are working on. The new study approved by the commission will extend their view to areas still outside the city limits, but within the city's utility service area. (L to R:) Darrell Starling, CRA Project Manager; Jasmine Khammany, Senior Planner; Autumn Cochella, Assistant Director; Mark J. Bennett , Director; Shena Rowland, Executive Assistant; Cheryl Baksh, CRA Specialist

Keeping ahead of the numerous development proposals is a concern for city leaders and residents alike as some ten thousand new dwelling are at various stages of the lengthy approval process. City planning staff has been increased, but creating an overview is the goal of a new land use study The approved by the City Commission this week

The action authorized funding for S&ME, an engineering firm, to evaluate land in the city's designated utility service area surrounding Lake Wales in unincorporated Polk County.

"We plan to explore future expansion opportunities on the periphery of the city limits," Director of Development Services Mark J. Bennett said. "It's essential we be proactive and focus on responsible growth," he added.

S&ME specializes in geotechnical, environmental, civil, planning and construction services. The scope of services includes stakeholder engagement, land use scenarios and land use plan.

Land use scenarios is a key component of the study. It will help city staff consider certain urban planning techniques, such as transfer of development rights, conservation easements and/or agricultural conservation easements as possible methods to protect and preserve environmentally sensitive lands while addressing potential concerns to property rights.

"The land use plan is key to the growth of Lake Wales," City Manager James Slaton said. "We will know what land areas to protect, and the land areas suitable for development as it relates to a land owner requesting property annexation," Slaton noted.

City staff and S&ME will engage the public in the creation of the land use study. Public meetings and a project website will be available for public input and project updates.

"We should take full advantage of being in a seller's market," Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson said. "We'll work with those folks who are willing to counter urban sprawl with quality growth for an authentic town with a historic center and a priority for protecting its distinct character," Gibson said.

The land use plan will also be used as a basis for future infrastructure planning for utilities and transportation. City staff may share the land use plan with the county for consideration of a joint planning agreement.

 

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