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Lake Wales City Commission approves zoning for 6,100-home mixed-use district (updated)

The first reading for the Mixed-Use Planned Development rezoning in Lake Wales is scheduled for Aug. 3. The master plan covers 1,842 acres.
The first reading for the Mixed-Use Planned Development rezoning in Lake Wales is scheduled for Aug. 3. The master plan covers 1,842 acres. (Stantec)

The Lake Wales City Commission gave initial zoning approval Tuesday for the 1,842-acre Winter Haven Corp. mixed-used development at U.S. 27 and Thompson Nursery Road, but the project still has a few more steps before full approval and building.

Land use attorney Bart Allen, who represents the developer, asked the commission to table discussion and vote on the Master Site Plan until its next meeting so they can make revisions as responses to staff comments and conditions.

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“They relate to siteplan and where and how development will occur,” Allen said. “For instance – on the siteplan there were some walking paths that were shown in wetlands and we wanted to make sure we weren’t in the wetlands or affecting wetlands.”

The proposed community, located on Thompson Nursery Road at U.S. 27, across from Preserve at Lake Ashton South, could add 6,100 residential units and 725,000 square feet of commercial, office and assisted living space to the city.

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“This is going to be one of the biggest undertakings in the city of Lake Wales in a long time,” Mayor Eugene Fultz said. “We are excited about it.”

Among the 16 conditions for approval recommended by Lake Wales planning staff are requests for clarity on monotony standards and landscaping; consideration that developers participate in the Winter Haven Sapphire Necklace Water Supply Plan; updated master plan that includes utility details; and agreements about possible future mobility fees and continued allowance of pre-existing non-conforming agricultural uses on the property.

The sprawling community will take 20 years to build and add 6,100 more homes to the City of Lake Wales.

The city’s Planning & Zoning Board approved the master plan that when completed by 2040 would include up to 2,800 single-family detached homes, 550 single-family attached “paired villas”, 950 townhomes and 1,800 apartments. It also would have 400,000 square-feet of commercial space, 125,000 square feet of office space, 50,000 square feet for a nursing home, 20,000 square feet for a library, 40,000 square feet for an assisted living facility and 90,000 square feet for public/government facilities that may include a fire station, according to the master plan created by Tampa-based Stantec Consulting Services.

Development Services Director Mark Bennett said the mix of uses and different housing types will prevent the project from becoming urban sprawl. “A person I think could live here and not have to leave the development – go to grocery, public facilities, offices for a lawyer or doctor,” he said. The developer still needs to address the school issue because “eventually children will go to school in the community.”

If approved, the Master Development Plan would enable the development of this property and the potential increase in property value. Specifically, estimating a conservative median taxable value of $100,000 per unit, it could potentially result in over $610 million in taxable value, and generate $4 million in ad valorem taxes. This does not include potential revenue generated for non-residential uses.

City Commissioners recently amended the comprehensive plan to allow for a new mixed-use zoning category that will let The Winter Haven Corp. project move forward, Bennett said. It was created “with this property in mind.”

At the workshop, commissioners had questions about procedures and specific location of the Winter Haven Corp. property as well as its proximity to the Community Redevelopment Action Plan (CRA).

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated with details from the Aug. 3, 2021 city commission meeting.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at Newsroom@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-6261. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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