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By Robert Connors
Managing Editor 

Split Vote by Commission Denies Development a Second Time

Staff, Planning Board Both Recommended Denial of PDP

 

Last updated 1/3/2024 at 9:01am

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The vacant parcel outlined in blue will remain vacant while would-be developers and city staff attempt to agree upon a design that will meet the city's eight aspirations for higher quality development.

A previously-denied development proposal was turned down a second time by a 3-2 vote of the Lake Wales City Commission after the engineers and planners failed to meet the city's criteria of a "superior" residential development.

Developers of the project, known simply as "Oak Development," applied for status as a Planned Development Project, or PDP, to allow sharply increased density from the underlying R-1 zoning. The PDP approval would allow the developer to define 64 lots on the 19-acre parcel.

The location, north of C F Kinney Road at the edge of the city limits, lies adjacent to Dinner Lake Estates and across North Scenic Highway from the Brookshire development.

Staff found that "the proposed subdivision is not superior to that of a subdivision standard to the R-1A zoning district, and that the project could be improved under the same design by designing lots to R-1A dimensional standards in keeping with the surrounding area."

The project was recommended for denial by both the city's Planning and Zoning Board and Growth Management Division staff, but still received votes in favor from commissioners Danny Krueger and Keith Thompson.

A previous presentation to the commission in September failed on a 2-2 vote in the absence of Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson.

Staff told commissioners that the redesigned project failed to meet the standards of "superior" that would justify the granting of the higher density. Growth Management director Autumn Cochella pointed out that the granting of a PDP is a privilege, not a right. "They can still develop this property" in compliance with the current zoning, Cochella said.

The city's planning consultant, Plusurbia, had pointed out several flaws with the design, which showed an inward-facing cluster of "front-loaded" houses. The city's eight development aspirations call for most new homes to be served by alleyways and rear garages, allowing homes to face the "public realm" and connect to existing street grids.

"Our builders don't build rear-loaded homes," developer Casey Crowser told commissioners.

The city adopted the eight aspirations as an interim guidance tool for city staff during the development of the Lake Wales Envisioned plan, which will guide future development to require higher-quality development. The effort was sparked by the rapid spread of suburban sprawl which has blanketed much of central Florida.

Attorney Jessica Icerman, representing the developers, said that they had presented a new set of conditions the day before the hearing, and after the Planning and Zoning Board had voted to recommend denial.

Plusurbia had made a total of 13 comments on the original design and submitted an alternative site layout that turned homes to face stormwater retention areas on the high and dry site, allowing them to be "usable and attractive open space and as an amenity for residents."

The tract is located adjacent to the TECO solar farm, and a previous design showed streets that stubbed out at the boundary of that project.

The eight Aspirations intended to guide new development were approved by the city commission early this year, and served as the guiding principals for the Lake Wales Envisioned include:planning process just concluded. The aspirations were stated as:

• We will seek to assemble an enduring green network of open spaces and conservation lands.

• We will partner with landowners, investors, and the community to encourage input, collaboration, and respect property rights.

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The subject parcel, marked in red, is located between Dinner Lake, seen here to the south, and Brookshire, located on Lake Mable just across Scenic Highway.

• We will make infill development and revitalization a priority.

• We will emphasize economic prosperity by increasing property values through quality development.

• We will facilitate employment opportunities by supporting a mix of land uses and industries.

• We will seek to make traditional neighborhoods with walkable, connected streets that create a high-quality public realm the norm.

• We will discourage conventional urban sprawl as defined in Florida Statutes Chapter 163.

• We will grow a livable transportation network by implementing the Lake Wales Mobility Plan and including context-sensitive Complete Streets.

 

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