Communication Builds Our Community

Lake Alta Proposal Modified by Developer, No Longer Impacts Park

24 "Cottages" Would Provide "Workforce" Housing, Commissioners Told

A development proposal adjacent to Lake Alta on the near north side of Lake Wales has been modified by the developer in an apparent attempt to reach a compromise with neighboring residents.

Growth Management Division Director Autumn Cochella attended a Community Redevelopment Agency meeting this week to explain to commissioners that developer J. Walter Homes will bring a new proposal back to the city's Planning and Zoning Board at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, calling for 24 rather than 28 "cottages" on the 1.4642 acre parcel.

If approved the development would consist of two-bedroom, two-bath and three-bedroom, three-bath "workforce-appropriate" homes, Cochella said, adding that the units would have front porches and be "rear loaded" with an alley providing parking access, in accordance with the Lake Wales Envisioned plan.

Cochella told commissioners that "the City saw an opportunity for a public-private partnership that could potentially bring more attainable housing to our community."

An earlier story published in Lake Wales News erroneously referred to the proposed two-story development as "apartments" but Cochella made it clear that it would consist of individual structures despite requiring narrow lots. It is unclear whether they would be owner-occupied or rental units.

The original proposal was not accepted by the city's Planning and Zoning Board in January, which tabled the request and asked the developer to meet with neighboring property owners to discuss a compromise. Neighborhood residents told that they have not heard from the developer, although Cochella said some in attendance at the meeting spoke with a representative afterwards.

The earlier proposal called for the CRA to grant ownership of the adjacent Lake Alta park land to the developer to allow for "open space and recreation" requirements to achieve the highest density through a Planned Development Project designation. The CRA board, consisting of the city commissioners, is the legal owner of the park. Commissioners were unaware of the proposal and were caught by surprise by vocal public opposition to the earlier plan at a recent meeting.

According to Cochella, the new proposal eliminates that request, along with an accompanying request for the closure of one-block-long Lake Alta Drive, which divides the acreage from the park land. Lake Alta, which was formerly an open-water pond, is choked with vegetation but is attractive to birds and wildlife. It would remain as is under the new proposal.

Prior property owner Henry Kebabjian asked the city to re-plat the property into six lots. When that request was denied, he apparently went to the county and had the change made, but the city initially refused to recognize the change.

The city ultimately issued a permit in November 2023 for six water and sewer connections along North Third Street. It appears that a contractor for J. Walter Homes installed 14 on that street.

"It's my understanding from speaking to my staff that in January, the Utilities Department shut down their site construction finding some deviations from the approved plans," Cochella reported in an email viewed by "The engineer stated they were "proactively" adding taps since they were going through the PDP process."

Residents have expressed concern over traffic in the neighborhood, which lies between Bok Academy North Middle School and Spook Hill Elementary and sees twice-daily flows of traffic at school openings and closings. Both the development parcels and the Lake Alta park land form part of the vista from the Lake Wales Trailways just across Kissimmee Avenue.

Lake Alta resident Trish Lettieri expressed surprise when they heard that the developer considered the discussion in the parking lot to be the meeting requested by the P&Z Board. "We thought that a formal meeting would be called with proper written notification" she said, "so that all the neighbors of the park and perhaps representatives from adjacent schools...would have an opportunity to come and speak...about our concerns with the project."

J. Walter Homes is based in Dalton, GA, with a local office in Lakeland. has reached out to the company for comment on the modified proposal but has not received a response.


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