More than 35 years after the initial approval of the Ridgewood Lakes DRI in Northeast Polk County, 1,209 acres of Phase 2 have approvals to move forward on three projects that include single-family detached homes, townhomes, parks, lakes and an extensive conservation project.
Known as Greystone, the community is divided into three separate communities – West, South and North. D.R. Horton, America’s largest homebuilder, received approvals this week from the county planning commission for its residential developments with some reduced minimum lot sizes and setbacks, along with permission to increase the number of units in its planned townhome buildings. The homes will become part of Ridgewood Lakes master homeowners’ association.
“These are very interesting projects. There’s a lot going on here,” Bart Allen, attorney with Lakeland-based Peterson & Myers told the commission on behalf of D.R. Horton.
Greystone West would be developed into 222 townhomes on two parcels totaling 76.5 acres. The commission approved D.R. Horton’s request to increase the number of units per acre from three to eight, with a minimum lot size of 2,000 square feet. The property also would have 35 acres of open space including a park, ponds and conservation area meant to protect Horse Creek – an 8.5-mile stream located within a 76-mile watershed.
“The site falls within the urban growth area. This is an area in which the county has long foreseen this kind of growth and development and has invested funds” for improvements, Polk County planner Josh McLemore told the commission.
The project is located just south of Interstate 4, east of U.S. 27, along the north side of Ridgewood Lakes Boulevard, south of Ernie Caldwell Boulevard and north of White Herron Golf Course (formerly Ridgewood Lakes Golf Course). McLemore said it would be similar to D.R. Horton’s townhome community, Atria at Ridgewood Lakes, which is currently under construction nearby.
The biggest issue for Greystone West is that some residential units are planned to be built in wetlands, which under certain circumstances is allowed, planning staff said. Conditional approval included that “during level 2 application, they demonstrate that these lots can support residential structures on them,” McLemore said.
School capacity could also hold up approval during level 2 review, he said. There is currently no capacity for middle-school-aged children.
Greystone North, about 1.5 miles from Posner City Center, comprises 479 acres with 249.2 acres set aside for conservation. Here, D.R. Horton plans 276 townhomes and 464 single-family detached homes with 4,000 square foot minimum lot size– 168 with 40-foot lots and 296 with 50-foot lots.
“This has long been planned for residential development,” county planner Ian Nance said. “(It is) just being realized after the expansion of Ernie Caldwell which connected U.S. 27 and Lee Jackson (Highway).”
Some of the lots in this section also are proposed within wetlands. A total of 12-13 acres of wetland will be impacted by the entire Greystone project, Allen said. D.R. Horton plans to create added wetlands and shut down ditches that detracted from the wetlands and presented a wetlands mitigation plan from Ecological Consulting Solutions in Longwood.
Of the total 2,300 acres, 1,100 acres have been set aside for wetland mitigation, wetland preservation, wetland creation and wildlife protection, Allen said. “That is a substantial commitment to those environmental issues.”
“We are going to restore more than 90 acres of wetlands,” Ecologists Bill Griffy said. “Also, almost 20 acres of wetlands will be added along the corridor.” The mitigation plans that also include creating more uplands have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
County planner Chanda Bennett said by using some of the wetlands, D.R. Horton is able to protect more of Horse Creek than if they just built on the uplands. “This is so large and has such an important environmental feature running through it – Horse Creek,” she told the commission.
Greystone South would be an active adult community with 174 townhomes called Twin Villas, 347 50-foot lots and 82 60-foot lots. D.R. Horton received permission to decrease the minimum lot size for the detached single-family homes to 5,000 sq feet and to decrease the minimum lot size for the townhomes to 3,300 sq feet. The community would be adjacent to the Del Webb Orlando retirement community, which was built in Phase 1 of Ridgewood Lakes and is now sold out.
Approval of Greystone South came with two additional conditions: D.R. Horton must extend Ridgewood Lakes Boulevard from Oak Hammock Boulevard to the project entrance within the existing right of way and that prior to the Level 2 review, D.R. Horton “coordinate in good faith discussions with homeowners and the master association to define mutually agreeable enhanced pedestrian safety at each intersection of Ridgewood Lakes Boulevard.”
Neighbors living in Ridgewood Lakes expressed concerns about increased traffic, water protection and possible flooding issues.
Planning Commissioners approved each section separately by a vote of 5-0, with one abstention. Opponents have until April 14 to file an appeal to the Polk County Board of Commissioners.
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