Polk County Commissioners voted 3-2 on Tuesday to defend a "line in the sand" along U.S. 27 in Davenport that prohibits distribution warehouses on the east side of the highway.
Seefried Industrial Properties was seeking to add 1.4 million square feet of distribution warehouse space on a Four Corners site currently slated to be a regional shopping center. Seefreid originally sought approvals for 1.5 million square feet, but reduced the ask in response to staff and neighborhood opposition.
The site in question was the Four Corners Town Center at the corner of U.S. 27 and Ronald Reagan Parkway. It's already an approved Development of Regional Impact with entitlements for 1 million square feet of retail-commercial space and a movie theater, and is part of a subdistrict within the county, known as the Ronald Reagan Select Area Plan (SAP), that specifically prohibits development of warehouse distribution space on the east side of U.S. 27.
Commissioners had voted 3-2 in November to transmit the request to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which must review major amendments to the county's comprehensive plan. The DEO raised no objections to the Comprehensive Plan Amendment, so Tuesday's vote was a bit of a reversal.
Commissioner George Lindsey III said the proposed industrial park simply isn't compatible with the residential neighborhood around it, and is not permitted by county ordinance.
"The seminal element of the whole argument boils down to whether U.S. 27 is a line in the sand we want to defend or not," Lindsey said. "We went through a whole lengthy process that said this side of the road is reserved for these types of uses, and I would rather stand with the argument that we did what we said we would do, rather than twist like a pretzel to try to force compatibility."
He was joined by commissioners John Hall and Todd Dantzler in voting to deny the application.
Dantzler said the amount of truck traffic that would spill over from the business park was a major concern. And Hall said no amount of buffering could protect homeowners from the view and impact of a giant warehouse.
The 114-acre parcel has been owned by heirs of grocery store magnate Joe Albertson since the 1970s. They originally sought the restrictive Four Corners Town Center DRI in the early 2000s, when the property was under contract to a mall developer.
She said Intram was planning to develop a grocery-anchored retail center there, but the developer terminated the contract on Dec. 11 out of fear that commissioners would approve the Seefried project.
Dozens of residents pleaded with commissioners to deny the project.
Several opponents called the Albertsons hypocrites for saying the location could not support retail development, pointing out that another developer filed preliminary plans last month for a shopping center and hotel project on land the Albertsons own at the northwest corner of the same intersection.
David Albertson told commissioners he pursued retail development for more than a decade on the larger parcel. He claimed empathy for the residents, which is why he entered into a sales contract with Elevation Development for the land across the street.
"We really stuck our necks out on behalf of these residents, and we forced a buyer who wanted 2 acres to buy 15 acres," Albertson said. "He doesn't have a user for the whole 15 acres, and it's far from a closed transaction."
Commissioner Hall said the pending deal "would be an indication that there may be interest for more commercial in the area."