Lake Wales Proposed Development Total Passes 12,000 Unit Mark
Thirty Projects Now in Various Stages of Approval Process
Last updated 6/16/2022 at 8:49pm
The parade of development proposals that have stirred citizen concerns of runaway changes to Lake Wales continued to be evident at the most recent city commission meeting as details emerged for several more projects.
A calculation by LakeWalesNews.Net staff has indicated that more than 12,000 new single-family homes, townhomes, apartments, and mobile homes are included in developments already on the drawing table. At least three other projects have been proposed but remain to be defined.
At the commission meeting the Chalet Suzanne corridor was cited as a traffic concern by former city commissioner Al Goldstein, who asked for a delay in further development in the area until road improvements are completed in "five or ten years." Already under construction on that road is the 336-unit Leoma's Landing subdivision.
Forest Lake, a newly-approved 295-unit single-family neighborhood, will include 66 townhomes. It is planned for 97.35 acres just to the east of Eagle Ridge Mall on the south side of Chalet Suzanne Road.
At the same meeting a large tract was rezoned to accommodate future apartments on the north side of the street, adjacent to the existing Serenity Apartments. Hillpointe is the working designation of the apartment site, which lies primarily east of the existing Serenity Luxury Apartments. That tract includes 195.23 acres, but according to city officials includes undevelopable wetlands. No specific development proposal has been brought forward by owners.
The numerous annexations which have occupied city staff during the current housing boom are the result of property owners within the city's broad "utility service area" seeking to secure a place in line for the provision of water and sewer services.
Other applications for new projects on the city's south side were also reviewed at the most recent commission meeting, including still more along South 11th Street, part of nearly four square miles of citrus groves being converted to new subdivisions.
Among those, Hunt Club North will wrap the East Lake Square shopping center on SR 60 with another 147 townhomes, along with 453 single-family lots lying to the south.
Hunt Club Grove South, a 542 unit project proposed for an area south of Post Salter Road will feature191 townhomes. Farther east, a 10-acre parcel along south Tangelo Street was annexed for potential future low-density residential development.
Also fronting on Post Salter Road and 11th Street, a 43.4 hayfield was approved to become Jewel Ridge, featuring 172 homesites.
At the same meeting commissioners tabled two proposals, including a rezoning decision for possible apartments requested by Trinity Baptist Church, but reduced to single-family homes by the Planning and Zoning Board.
The second tabled item was for a possible "Neighborhood Activity Center" permitting a small commercial strip at the south end of 11th Street at Hunt Brothers Road. They would be accompanied by an undetermined number of homesites.
The prospect of a wave of development has many area residents upset, fearing that Lake Wales will lose its traditional "small-town" feel. City planners have said that population would nearly triple if all the projects are built
The resulting need for several new schools was cited by the the Polk County School Board when they voted recently to create a new high school on the campus of McLaughlin Middle School. The Lake Wales Charter School system is presently engaged in building out Bok Academy North middle school on Seminole Avenue.
While most of the new development will be fully served by Lake Wales utilities, the 97-unit Mammoth Grove development near Country Oaks will rely upon septic tanks. Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson was the lone vote against that project as "premature" due to the lack of sewer service in the area.
Most of the proposed development on the city's south and east sides will be piped for re-use irrigation water, recycled from the city's sewer plant. That water is already used for irrigation in several areas of the city.
There has been much conversation among commissioners about the need to avoid "urban sprawl." That undefined term, it was agreed, is undesirable. Development Services Director Mark Bennett described it as the result of lots which are "too big to mow, and too small to plow.".
In bringing forward several of the projects Development Services staff cited the concept of "strategic density," by which development is concentrated near existing urbanized areas to spare surrounding farmlands and rural areas from acreage-gobbling large-lot projects.
Gibson referred to strategic density as the reason to approve higher-density apartment projects to provide housing.
Newly-elected commissioner Danny Krueger, unfamiliar with the term and in the absence of planning staff, said that he wants to see more projects "without strategic density."
The outcome of such discussions will do much to define the future form of Lake Wales, and whether it ultimately "sprawls" for miles, or remains a reasonably compact urban area.
A run-down by LakeWalesNews.Net staff of the current state of development proposals that have been brought before Development Services staff include:
• An innovative 31-unit "Pocket Neighborhood" planned for vacant land on Scenic Highway just north of SR 60
• The 29.4 acre "Bundy property" on Scenic Highway north of Chalet Suzanne Road and south of Brookshire on Lake Mable which is proposed to be the site of 142 single-family homes.
• K&M homes plans to build 67 single-family homes on property west of US 27 on the south side of Mountain Lake Road.
• Belle Lago, with 85 single-family homes, will occupy a former citrus grove on the west side of Scenic Highway on Lake Belle, south of Ridge Manor.
• Leighton Landing, a project of Southern Homes, will rise on the east side of Buck Moore Road with 46 single-family homes.
• Buck Moore Heights, with 100 single-family homes, will be west of Buck Moore Road.
• An unnamed 80-acre parcel north of Sunset and east of Buck Moore Road has been annexed for 349 single-family homes
• Towerview Apartments will be 91 units at the entrance to Towerwood mobile home park, being developed by John Wood Jr.
• Leoma's .Landing is a long-delayed development of 336 single-family homes now being constructed on Chalet Suzanne Road
• Robin's Run, with 144 single-family homes, will occupy land south of Sunset Drive and west of Buck Moore Road
• Robin's Walk will see 33 single-family homes built north of Grant Road, east of Buck Moore Road.
• Scenic Bluff Phase 2 will offer 55 single-family homes on Old Scenic Highway north of Burns Avenue. That project is in the construction phase now.
• The Preserve at Oakwood will allow seven new single-family homes on lots in that golf community on Capps Road
• Whispering Ridge Phase 2 is a project of 129 new single-family homes south of the present neighborhood on 11th Street and north of the Mid-Florida railroad line.
• Mammoth Grove will be 97 single-family homes and six acres of Neighborhood Commercial on the east side of Masterpiece Road at Mammoth Grove Road. The project will be served with city water but rely upon septic tanks.
• Tangelo Street will be extended southward to accommodate approximately 117 single-family homes just east of Walmart and south of the existing mini-storage warehouses.
• Valencia Hills will include a 654-lot mobile home park and 143 conventional homes on 208 acres of land east of Scenic Highway and north of Masterpiece Road. Undefined future phases are planned on their remaining 724 acres of citrus lands.
• Hunt Club North is a 600-unit project, including 147 townhomes wrapping around the existing Eastlake Shopping Center and Winn Dixie store. Single-family lots will stretch south to Post Salter Road, and west to 11th Street,
• Hunt Club Grove South, lying south of Post Salter Road and east of 11th Street, will include 191 townhomes in the 542 unit project
• Jewel Ridge will lie between the two Hunt Club projects, and feature 172 homesites along 11th Street and Post Salter Road
• The Groves at Orchard Hills tract includes 236.57 acres lying immediately southeast of the Ridge Manor neighborhood and north of Passion Play Road. It stretches from Scenic Highway through to 11th Street, and is planned to host 915 units and 28,600 square feet of commercial uses.
• The 1,800-plus acre Winter Haven Corporation property lying west of US 27 and north of Mountain Lake Road is eventually expected to host 2,800 single-family detached homes, 550 single-family attached homes, 950 townhomes and 1800 apartment units, for a total of 6,100 dwelling units. It would also include office, warehouse and commercial uses, and potentially a school site. A specific site plan has yet to be presented.
• High-density zoning already approved for the present site of the Green Gables Inn would allow up to 225 apartments. No site-specific plan has been approved, and will require a PDP.
The projects listed above reflect a proposed total of 12,110 units of housing. Other anticipated developments that have yet to be brought forward with specific site proposals and unit numbers include:
• Hillpointe, the working title of a new apartment site lying just north of Chalet Suzanne Road. The site received a rezoing action last week. No specific site plan or unit count has been announced, but the site could easily accommodate hundreds or even thousands of apartments depending upon undefined environmental limitations on the site. A Planned Development Project approval will be required.
• The 29.94 acre Story parcel on the east side of Scenic Highway and south of Mountain Lake Road has been zoned R-3, allowing for apartments. The Medium Density designation would allow up to 12 units per acre. No plan has been brought forward.
• Trinity Baptist Church has applied for medium density residential development, which would allow apartments on a 16-acre parcel lying to the north of SR 60 and the church along Evergreen Road. The city's Planning and Zoning board has recommended only low-density single family homes to match the surrounding neighborhood.