Communication Builds Our Community

City Commission Votes Down Lake Alta High-Density Residential Project

A proposal that some city commissioners and staff saw as the best opportunity so far to implement the Lake Wales Envisioned plan died Tuesday night on a 3-2 vote.

The concept of a 24-unit single-family community on a 1.46 acre parcel generated intense opposition from residents of the neighborhood, located around the 3.566 acre Lake Alta Park.

News file photo

Tiny Lake Alta is surrounded by a 3.566 acre public park parcel that spans Lake Alta Drive. A proposed development would have transferred title to the land to J. Walter Homes, Inc. to allow the builder to meet open space requirements to achieve a high-density PDP zoning. Commissioners voted down the proposal Tuesday night in a 3-2 vote.

Commissioners received a letter signed by two dozen of them asking that the proposal be denied, and multiple speakers had criticized the proposal at meetings in recent months.

Among the most controversial elements of the plan was the sale of the pocket park to the developer, J. Walter Homes, Inc., for $10 to fulfill the open-space requirements of a Planned Development Project, which would allow the high-density requested.

The controversy was stoked after the developer installed utility connections for 14 units fronting along North Third Street after receiving a permit for six. Lake Alta Park lies just east of the site spanning Lake Alta Drive and fronting along the north side of Kissimmee Avenue.

Opposing residents cited the traffic the neighborhood already sees due to its location between two schools. Commissioners were told that the tiny lots proposed would leave no room for parking or even a single shade tree between the homes.

The houses depicted by the developer were two-story "cottages" of approximately 1200 square feet, accessed through an alley. There would have been 12 set in a block only 419 feet long from curb to curb, leaving less than 35 feet per home lot. The project was based on a similar successful one in Gainesville, although the lots in that development were larger than proposed here.

Commissioners Daniel Williams and Keith Thompson joined Mayor Jack Hilligoss in voting no on the motion offered by Commissioner Danny Krueger, who was participating in his final board meeting after losing his seat in the April 2 election. Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson seconded.

Despite voting against the project, Hilligoss told fellow commissioners and the public in attendance that "I felt, and I still feel, that this met the objectives of the Envisioned plan." Speaking of the TND designs called for in future development, Hilligoss added that "we still have to find somebody who will do this."

The Envisioned plan, an initiative of the commission, engaged hundreds of citizens in a five-month-long process seeking to build a consensus on growth. Infill development is seen as a key element of the plan, along with TND designs featuring rear access alleys and front porches in outward-facing developments.

Infill development utilizes existing streets, water and sewer lines, street lighting, and other services without significant increases in costs to municipalities.

Walled and isolated subdivisions, the recent standard for homebuilders, were revealed by planners as the cause of much traffic congestion because, since they are not connected to a "grid" of streets, they typically funnel traffic through a single intersection directly onto a busy collector road with no alternative routes available.


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