Lower-density changes OK'd for Tierra Del Sol vacation home resort

The new owner of a stalled Four Corners resort community has the blessing of Polk County's staff and Planning Commission to re-launch the townhome project with mix of housing types and lower density.

Tierra Del Sol, on the Osceola-Polk border, was originally approved in 2008 for 1,821 resort-style condos and townhomes with a huge water park, clubhouse and retail area on 121 acres.

To date, only 96 townhomes and a small neighborhood pool have been built. Of those, 33 are owner-occupied and 38 paid tourist development tax last year, indicating there is demand for primary residential use as well as short-term rental. 

Tampa-based Bering Homes bought the undeveloped portion of the community, which is at the corner of U.S. 27 and Bella Citta/Four Corners Boulevard, and won approval this week from the Planning Commission for a major amendment to the Planned Development to allow single-family homes in addition to more townhomes, condos and multifamily.

County Principal Planner Erik Peterson said Bering is looking for flexibility to be able to respond to market conditions. Overall, the entire property could contain as low as 808 total units or as much as 1,578 units, he wrote in his staff report.

"This flexibility requested by the applicant will result in a development that is not dependent upon any one type of residential market demand. This will result in a more sustainable community," he added.

Peterson said the new section of the community would have a compact design with reduced setbacks and a mix of 40-foot and 30-foot lot widths. 

"It’s in the county’s best interest -- we’ve made a lot of investment in water and sewer in the area -- and it’s best if that infrastructure is consumed," he told the planning board. "There is an existing amenity center that serves the 96 townhomes. The applicant is proposing a separate amenity center to serve the new portion of the development."

Peterson also supported Bering's request to eliminate a condition in the 2008 PD that required the developer to build a wall along U.S. 27. He said that condition was added when the scope of the project was more intense.

"The other issue that's come up is with the widening of US 27 to six lanes. FDOT went in and added a gargantuan wall on a portion of the project which the applicant, it would be really difficult for them to emulate," he said. "It looks like the Berlin Wall. We're in favor of removing the condition."

Bart Allen, a land use attorney with Peterson & Myers, said the developer would likely build a wall on any sections that back up to residential uses, but other sections could get by with a landscape buffer.

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