Communication Builds Our Community

Lake Wales Commissioners Challenged to Find Path to Employing Envisioned Plan Principles

Lake Wales is bound to grow, and in the minds of many, it needs to grow. Increasing demand for city services can easily outstrip revenue.

City commissioners have a tough job dealing with the pressures brought by development proposals, along with the vocal opposition some of those proposals have generated.

Courtesy Dover, Kohl & Partners

Traditional Neighborhood Design concepts have made Orlando's Baldwin Park among the most desirable areas of that city, with housing values rising well above surrounding zones.

The commission's decision Tuesday to deny a high-density development on a small parcel near Lake Alta pleased many residents of that neighborhood but drew complaints from some commissioners that their efforts to implement the Lake Wales Envisioned plan were being stymied.

The community-developed Envisioned plan calls for increased density in residential areas, particularly in town, and in-fill development that may relieve market pressure for sprawling "green-field" development of former agricultural lands in outlying areas.

The plan calls for "Traditional Neighborhood Design," such as can be seen in areas of Lake Wales that were developed a century ago. Homes feature broad porches and small front lawns instead of driveways, with garages typically relegated to the rear and accessed through an alleyway. Street trees and sidewalks complete the attractive, and valued, neighborhoods.

News file photo

The Envisioned plan kickoff event drew standing-room attendance, and public participation and input was a hallmark of the plan's development. Workshops, charrettes, and a week-long "open studio" gave great opportunity to have ideas and suggestions incorporated into the final plan, which leans on the concepts of "new urbanism" to advocate for "walkable" neighborhoods with basic services close at hand to reduce the need for vehicle trips.

Infill development using TND adds to the tax base without the need for major new investment in city services. It helps create housing within walking distance of services, reducing the need for auto trips. It reduces the cost of housing by providing a mix of types.

Accomplishing those stated goals will take serious effort.

Courtesy Dover, Kohl & Partners

TND designs include rear access developments on smaller lots with high-quality housing standards, including front porches, sidewalks, and street trees.

Commissioner Keith Thompson has opined that there are some citizens who are opposed to all new developments. While that may be true, there have only been a small number of projects that have generated any significant degree of opposition, and many annexations and approvals have drawn none. Most citizens recognize the inevitability of growth and look to the Envisioned plan to direct it into acceptable forms.

The Lake Alta proposal would have allowed the construction of 24 "cottages" on narrow lots through the employment of a Planned Development Project rule empowered only through the sale of a small city park. It is that contortion of norms to maximize the density that raised serious objections.

News File Photo

The public participated heavily in the development of Lake Wales Envisioned plan, attending multiple events at stages of the plan's development.

It didn't help that the development was proposed in an area of modest single-family homes on larger lots. Resident David Price pointed out that the resulting lots would be so small that there would be "zero" room for shade trees, or even a place to store a lawn mower for the resulting 400-square-foot front yards.

The small site could easily accommodate a lesser number of homes, but no visible effort was made to strike such a compromise. The developer told the commission at an earlier meeting that he could still profitably build on the site at a lesser density.

Commissioners should not be discouraged, but attempt to find the needed balance that will limit or silence opposition.

While interpretations of the elements of "traditional neighborhood design" will vary, the goal is worth pursuing. In the case of the Lake Alta proposal, it appears that it was simply "a bridge too far."


Reader Comments(0)