Lake Wales Country Club, Oakwood GC Site of Large New Development Proposal
Plan Would Consolidate Two Courses, add 1424 Dwellings
Last updated 12/6/2023 at 10:25am
A large-scale redevelopment proposal that includes both Lake Wales Country Club and the adjacent Oakwood golf course community is raising passions among residents, some of whom have differing responses to the concept, which merges the two golf courses into a single 18-hole course.
A new hotel would accompany hundreds of townhomes, apartments, and single-family homes, a total of 1,424 dwelling units spread across 522 acres. Nearly 152 acres would remain as open space under the draft proposal.
That proposed site design has been refined after several meetings with City of Lake Wales planners. The project requires the properties to be annexed into the city to access city utility services. Many of the country club residents depend upon a small “package” sewage treatment plant.
Property principal owner Frank Gandhi previously brought an annexation proposal to planners, “but we considered it incomplete,” senior planner Jasmine Khammany said. “We told him we can’t consider annexation until they can resolve the enclave issues out there.”
Those issues were created by a prior annexation several years ago. Most of the fairways and common areas in Oakwood are already in the city and receive city water. The existing residential streets at Oakwood remain in the county. The new plan would create additional enclaves on the country club side.
Florida Statutes prohibit “voluntary annexation when such annexation results in the creation of enclaves.” State policy is to eliminate enclaves and allows cities “to expedite the annexation of enclaves of 110 acres or less” through an interlocal agreement with the county.
LakeWalesNews.net attempted to learn whether the city would consider such an annexation to solve the problem but had received no response from city officials as this story went to publication.
Gandhi brought a representative of the Orlando engineering firm of Dave Schmitt Engineering, Inc. to the most recent meeting, “and now it looks like he’s serious,” Khammany told LakeWalesNews.net.
The newest iteration of the complex plan presented to the city calls for new commercial development along the Highway 60 frontage east of the LWCC entrance and a 75-room hotel located just west of the existing clubhouse on an interior parcel.
New streets would link to two communities, requiring the removal of some of the holes of the historic Donald Ross/Seth Rayner layout, which was developed 100 years ago by the City of Lake Wales, and later became a private club.
The Oakwood course, designed by Karl Litten, was opened in 1993. It has been closed in recent years, and the LWCC course is underutilized, according to residents. The inclusion of the hotel adjacent to the clubhouse is hoped to put the new layout on the map as a golfing destination, according to a representative of the owner.
Residents of the site offered differing opinions and perspectives. Ian Williamson told LakeWalesNews.net that the current situation is unsustainable.
“There’s a need for investment, not just in maintenance but capital investment in the infrastructure,” Williamson said, citing the tennis courts, clubhouse roof, and other areas as being in need. “At least they’re investing in the golf course now,” he added, “I just don’t want to live in a construction area.”.
Resident Mike Spotswood echoed some of those observations, saying that the club is “having a hard time surviving” and that change is needed. He was encouraged by the proposed hotel, but taken somewhat aback by the scale of the development.
“If they bring enough energy into this place it could shine,” Spotswood said, but “if he just sells those parcels off the golf course could go away.”
Gandhi, a resident of New Jersey, is also the owner of several franchise restaurant outlets. LakeWalesNews.net attempted to contact him for comment on this story but has received no response. An on-site manager said that he had no knowledge of the plans.
The draft site plan offered to the city includes lands belonging to at least two adjacent property owners and includes a street connection to Masterpiece Road/Burns Avenue from the north end of the development. Two new entrances are included at Capps Road, east of the site.
The latest version of the site includes 114 “estate” homes on 80-foot-wide lots, as well as 430 “garden” homes on 60’ lots. Another 548 “bungalow” homes would be constructed on 40’ lots. Most of the new homes, along with 212 townhome and “live/work” units would be built on lands to the north of LWCC and adjacent to Oakwood. The smaller lots would be provided with an alley for rear-access garages to improve the street appearance.
Four 30-unit multi-family buildings would occupy the present driving range at LWCC.
The project sets aside almost five acres of wetlands and buffers, along with 77 acres of stormwater retention and 73 acres of upland open space, mostly along roads and in six pocket parks. Three roundabouts are included to handle internal traffic.