Communication Builds Our Community

Steeple Chase Proposal Delayed in Face of Commission Resistance

New Project Among Seven Being Tasked With Facing Higher Development Standards

A 300-unit subdivision that would wrap around the northern and eastern sides of Ridge Manor has been delayed after the withdrawal of an application for a permit from the city.

The project, dubbed Steeple Chase, would occupy almost 98 acres on three parcels stretching east from Scenic Highway to beyond 9th Street. Developers had requested a Preliminary Subdivision Plat and a Special Exception Use Permit.

After their application was subject to a 35-minute discussion at a workshop session with the city commission, the developer decided to temporarily withdraw the request. The commission agreed to table the issue at their regular meeting last Tuesday.

According to developer David Warnecker, the delay is temporary and sue only to the absence of the attorney who was to represent the project at the commission meeting. The same firm is involved in several other projects around Lake Wales, including Hunt Club North and South, and others along Buck Moore Road.

Commissioners raised questions about conformance with the city's anticipated new development "aspirations," which were delineated in a January resolution. Those new standards are being codified in the Lake Wales Envisioned work now underway.

The proposed plan for the project allowed a "traditional subdivision," Interim Development Services Director Autumn Cochella told commissioners in the workshop. That would include berms and walls along the existing street grid, turning the development inward.

The proposal was reviewed by city planners Dover, Kohl a& Partners, who are presently developing recommendations that will comprise the Lake Wales Envisioned plan. The firm offered a 12-page analysis and an alternative design featuring outward-facing homes and rear alleyways. The "rear-loaded" design was described by Cochella as an alternative to the "garage-itecture" being built by most developers and builders.

In response the developer proposed only enhanced landscaping, retaining the inward-facing plan with exterior walls and rears of houses facing the existing streets.

Cochella cited the developments along Burns Avenue as an example of the traditional development style. That street is enclosed in nearly-continuous walls.

The project would have frontage on several existing streets, including 9th Street, Belleview Avenue, Winston Avenue, and Santa Maria Road. All would offer access to the three different parcels included in the project.

According to the review of the proposal by DK&P, "Streets are an essential component of the city’s public realm; walkable streets should be designed as quality public spaces, faced by the front, presentation side of new buildings. The proposed site plan faces many existing streets directly with rear lots, including Belleview Drive, Santa Maria Road, 9th Street and 6th Street. In addition, views across several proposed open spaces, including along Scenic Highway, would also be toward rear yards."

The "new urbanist" plans being advanced by planners are based on a return to features used prior to automobiles, creating walkable neighborhoods that de-emphasize cars in favor of shaded sidewalks and front porches.

According to the city's planning consultant Victor Dover, rear garages also offer the opportunity to create small "granny apartments" above, which can help address the affordable housing crisis.

Other elements that can be included in such neighborhoods include "mansion apartments" that resemble very upscale housing, described as an alternative to large-scale "cookie-cutter" apartment complexes.

In some new designs the common "lost land" of retention ponds instead become landscaped focal points for facing homes, featuring ponds and recreation space.

Cochella said that some of the seven projects in various stages of approval have shown flexibility in modifying their plans to accommodate the alleyways and other changes that are expected to be required under the new standards. Proposals have been withdrawn and are being modified to emphasize the "Garden City" concepts advanced by planners.

The Steeple Chase project would include a proposed extension of Grove Avenue along the northern edge of tiny Lake Serena, opposite the Lake Wales Lutheran Church, to provide a connection to 9th Street through the development. Completion of Grove Avenue as a through-street has been suggested as an alternative corridor to busy SR 60 for local traffic.

It is expected that the proposal will come back to the commission in the future incorporating many of the higher development standards.


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