Communication Builds Our Community

Will Lake Wales be Overrun by Growth? Envisioned Effort Offers an Alternative, But it Needs Your Input

Change is coming to Lake Wales. Are you worried? If so, your concerns are shared by thousands of your friends and neighbors.

Ours is a growing community. This special place has been "discovered" by ever-larger numbers of people who would like to share in the unique qualities the city offers.

As the agricultural basis of our economy is changing, so is the land use. Unproductive citrus groves decimated by disease are being offered for sale.

Savvy developers are snapping up lands to seek approvals. Many will flip the tracts or sell the lots to individual builders.

Scores of new residential developments have been proposed, both inside and outside the city limits.

The impending change is a cause of great angst and even hostile reactions from many residents who fear the impacts that they are sure will follow: traffic congestion, ugly suburban sprawl, loss of open countryside, and the pains of an urban lifestyle.

While some advocate for a halt to development, the reality is that private property owners have rights that cannot be legally denied.

City fathers have no control over the where or when development proposals will be brought forward. Their only power, and ours as a community, is over the how of the future development. That's where planning comes into play.

The current effort to shape the future, known as Lake Wales Envisioned, is expected to propose substantial changes to the city's development codes and regulations based upon best planning practices.

Across central Florida, hundreds of subdivisions have been built, but they largely consist of the same product: houses dominated by garages, streets dominated by driveways and parked cars. Sprawling single-family properties consume thousands of acres of former green space.

The Envisioned idea of our future is quite different.

Using the concepts of "Traditional Neighborhood Design," planners are calling for homes that reflect the more-beautiful era of our own city's history: architectural facades unblemished by enormous garages, which will be relegated to the rear of homes and accessed by alleyways.

New neighborhoods may be more akin to the historic residential area surrounding Crystal Lake, stretching down to Bullard Avenue, than the "garage-i-tecture" common in other cities.

"Complete Streets," featuring sidewalks, street trees, bike paths, and nearby access to services will make residents less dependent upon cars.

Parallel planning efforts are addressing the "Big Green Network" of new parks, conservation green space and wildlife habitats that will keep our best qualities intact.

Lake Wales Envisioned is being designed not only for the city limits, but for a much larger surrounding area stretching from Lake Buffum to Lake Pierce to Crooked Lake that could eventually be brought forward for annexation and city services.

Where will people live? We need to consider whether in-fill development at higher densities, such as townhomes, is preferred to land-gobbling suburban sprawl. Every resident of the Lake Wales area should be paying attention and participating in the effort to design our own future.

The effort cannot succeed in a vacuum, or without broad community involvement and support.

This isn't the first time the city has gone through gradual transformation. Founded as a resort "City in a Garden," it was once dominated by tourism. That economy was based on several local attractions and a good winter climate.

It gradually changed to become an agricultural community dominated by citrus. Now it's changing once more.

Our future will likely include serving as the economic hub of southeast Polk County, hosting scores of new restaurants, stores, and services. The challenge will be achieving the "soft landing" that will keep our community a special place. That's the Lake Wales way.


Reader Comments(1)

estevealpacas writes:

My Comments have more to do with the news item about the new Circular bus service ! I think it would be more beneficial to all residents of the Lake Wales area if the return route (after the Health Department) travelled East on Central Ave turned North on Scenic Highway then west on W. Sessoms ave to the Austin Center the South on MLK Jr. To Stuart Ave then East back to Scenic then left (North) to Chalette Suzanne Road to the Eagle Ridge Mall. This route would serve a much larger population and give more access to venue in the Downtown area as well ! Sorry to put this here,but there is no access to comments in the news section !

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