Polk County Developments

Creek Ranch owners pause request for land use amendment for 1,920-home development

Center State Development has asked for a 60-day continuance on its 1,920-home Creek Ranch development as Polk County officials work on a plan for growth in the northeastern region and the school board chooses a site for a new high school in the area.

Originally scheduled to be heard by the Polk County Planning Commission in April, Center State’s request for a Future Land-Use map amendment on 659 acres east of Marigold Avenue to Residential Low 4 and Institutional 2 from Agriculture/Rural Residential will wait until June, Center State partner Reggie Baxter told GrowthSpotter.


Baxter and Center State partner Bob Adams have been working on a development plan that will protect 700 acres of the 1,400-acre Creek Ranch on Lake Hatchineha and create home sites for the growing region of Polk County. Winter Haven-based Center State purchased the ranch that includes an 11,000-square-foot lodge from South Florida Asana Properties almost a year ago for $12.44 million.

Centerline Development is planning over 1,900 new homesites, plus a school complex, on the Creek Ranch property in Poinciana, just east of Marigold Avenue.

The request for a continuance came after meetings with county planners, a pre-application meeting with the Development Review Committee and planning commission workshop. Planning commissioners said they wanted to spend some time studying and planning for growth in the northeast.


“This is certainly a growth area for the county that has emerged,” Planning Administrator Chanda Bennett told GrowthSpotter. “We knew it was coming and it’s here. … The board understands that growth is coming. They want to do it the best way and where is the best way in the school. They want to be involved in that discussion.”

Creek Ranch abuts the former Poinciana Industrial Park, which was rezoned to allow for residential development and sold to Cassidy Homes. Lake Deer Community Development District along Magnolia Ave and Lake Hachineha Road is west of Creek Ranch and was approved in 2021 for 597 homes on 160 acres in the Poinciana Development of Regional Impact. Poinciana, located in Osceola and Polk counties, is the largest unincorporated master-planned community in the United States at 47,000 acres.

Before allowing more residential development, planners want to make to make sure they are prepared, Bennett said. They also are hoping for more commercial development to accommodate the residents.

Among the issues Polk County needs to address in the northeast are schools, utilities, sewage, traffic, road widening and resistance from area residents, Bennett said. School location is top on the list, she said.

The developer has offered to donate 124.4 acres marked in blue to Polk County Schools for a future high school to serve the fast-growing Poinciana area.

Baxter has said homes won’t be built until after the school is constructed. Baxter first offered to sell 124.5 acres to the school district for $12 million, then later offered to donate the land. The school board was set to vote on the purchase last September but pulled the agenda item after another land offer was presented. Board members then asked staff to evaluate all potential properties. Seven were identified, including the Baxter property. The pros and cons of each, along with staff recommendations, were presented to the school board at a November workshop.

In the presentation, staff wrote that the Baxter donation was “the best location for relief to Haines City High and (to) accommodate growth.” It recommended acceptance of the donation. The deal would close 10 days after the land-use designation and zoning become final. Substantial construction must take place within 3 years, or the land would revert back to Baxter. County planners now are accessing the property sites along with school officials.

“We need to know where that school is going to land so we can figure out where that growth is going to occur in the short term,” Bennett said.

After that, utilities must be planned. Polk County must decide whether to create a long-term formal contract with Toho Water Authority, which treats the sewer in northeast Polk, or build its own treatment plant.


With floodplains and wetlands in the northeast, “we have a very limited area,” for utilities, roads, homes and a possible sewage plant, Bennett said. “We’re going to be getting with our utilities (to see) so what does it mean to expand our service area and treat our own sewer and what process and funds does that require?”

Polk County is currently improving and widening Marigold Avenue. There also is a recently opened Polk County Fire Rescue Station 37 along Cypress Parkway in the Polk County section of Poinciana with a Sheriff’s Office substation is currently under construction next to it.

While the government entities get to work, Bennett said, we’re going to meet with residents as they call and want to talk about where they want growth. We want to talk to people more one on one kind of basis.”

Area residents have been holding townhalls and showing up to planning meetings, mostly to express concerns about increased traffic and opposition to development near them.

Baxter said Center State will keep the animals and the lodge and turn 700 acres of the property into a wetland mitigation bank. Baxter grew up in Lake Wales and now lives on the ranch. He said his grandson killed his first turkey there last Sunday.

“That eastern end of the property will never be developed ever,” Baxter said. “I’m going to protect that lake water and that water’s edge. I group here. That’s why I bought it; I want to protect that east end.”


EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story attributed one of Bennett’s statements to Baxter. It has been corrected.

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