Communication Builds Our Community

Medium Density Residential Approved for First Street Property

Action Will Allow Creative Use of Property for Varied Housing Types

Several innovative designs presented for possible development of a site south of Southgate Shopping Center led the Lake Wales City Commission to approve the rezoning of a 6.5 acre parcel to allow higher density development.

The change from LDR, or low density to MDR, or medium density, will allow up to 42 residential units in a variety of housing types in the various scenarios. The change would allow up to 12 units p[er acre rather than the five units common in subdivisions.

The "L" shaped tract facing South First Street also faces Grove Avenue and wraps around a nursing home known as The Club, formerly Savannah Court. It is also across first street from the Water Edge development, and near several other apartment complexes in the blocks to the east, including Georgetown.

All the designs presented include a variety of housing types, including row houses, apartments, and single-family cottages.

The property is owned by Mathews Properties and Development Inc. and last changed hands in 2005 for $199,000.

Shelton Rice, an attorney with Peterson Myers law firm, tosd commissioners that the owner of the property is a very experienced developer who has "done a lot of projects in Osceola. He's done some in Polk, he's done single family, commercial, he's done charter schools."

Rice told the board that the owner had reached out to him because he had this property and he "didn't really know what to do with it." That's when he reached out to Mark Bennett, who ultimately put the matter to City consulting planner Victor Dover, who came up with the design options.

"In order to develop any of the concepts that Dover Kohl came up with, it would require a land use change to medium density residential," Rice said. He added that they have interest in following the concepts, despite not receiving an enthusiastic reception from area builders who are used to dealing with standard single-family subdivisions.

Commissioner Robin Gibson was enthusiastic about the designs, saying that Lake Wales should be different from other towns, and accent its Olmsted heritage. "If you drive from Lake Placid to Clermont, and Lake Wales looks just like every place else, we've failed," he said.

Increasing density near the urban core is a goal of modern land-use planning, seeking to concentrate development in smaller, walkable neighborhoods close to services and avoid consuming vast swaths of agricultural lands for sprawling subdivisions. The site is within three blocks of grocery shopping and schools serving K-12 students



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