Lake Wales town commissioners voted on Tuesday in favor of a zoning change that could allow more than 1,200 apartments on 195 acres north of Chalet Suzanne Road and east of US 27.
Hillpointe LLC, acting as agent for owner Star Lake Inc., had applied for the rezoning to allow for high-density residential development.
While the land could, under R-3 multifamily zoning rules, accommodate 12 units per acre, there are approximately 100 acres of wetlands that are not developable.
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The developer has already submitted a concept plan for 550 units, but up to 1,236 units would be permitted under rezoning on the site’s developable land.
The area already has a Home Depot, Serenity at Lake Wales apartments and a Shoppes On The Ridge shopping center with a Publix and other retail outlets, as shown in a concept site plan.
Zoning approval was not unanimous. Commissioner Danny Krueger was the only dissenting vote on the ordinance. In a phone interview Wednesday, he said he didn’t see why there was a rush to change zoning.
A recent survey of the Lake Wales site in the area already shows 8,100 homes are planned or underway, he said. These new homes would double the size of the city’s population, but could take eight to 12 years to build.
“Huge growth is coming. And transportation and roads, that’s the big issue for a lot of people,” Krueger said. it is done.”
In the most recent April 2017 traffic study for the Florida Department of Transportation, the document showed that between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., an average of 4,073 vehicles per hour passed through the intersection where US 27 meets the Thompson Nursery and Chalet Suzanne roads. In one day, the traffic volume report shows that the intersection handles 53,238 vehicles.
There were also 83 accidents counted in the report between 2013 and 2015, including 58 rear-end collisions and one accident involving a pedestrian. A total of 24 injuries resulted from the crashes, but there were no fatalities.
Yet a resident on the dais told commissioners the data was too old and they needed to look at traffic volume data as post-pandemic vehicle numbers continued to rise.
As future plans are submitted by the developer, City staff may recommend that Serenity Boulevard, which serves the Eagle Ridge Mall south of Chalet Suzanne Road and the Serenity Apartments to the north, be extended by as a bypass to Star Lake Drive to relieve traffic on major roads.
Land currently zoned commercial on Chalet Suzanne Road was not included in the rezoning.
“It’s a great place,” Autumn Cochella, assistant director of development services, said over the phone. “It’s a perfect place for multi-family.”
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According to a report by LakeWalesNews.net, “The year-old Serenity Luxury Apartments have been filling up fast at record prices in the area, with some rental rates for larger units reaching almost $2,500 per month.
“The demand for housing in the area is driving an unprecedented wave of development proposals in the area,” the report said.
According to a memo to the City’s Planning Department Commissioners, “Part of the site is being considered for multi-family development; however, the plans have not yet been submitted for review.
“Plans for a multi-family residential development will require a planned development scheme which will be presented to the planning board for recommendation to the city commission,” the memo reads.
Cochella said the PDP would take months to develop before returning for a commissioners’ vote. Current plans remain “very preliminary”, she said.
The planning staff memo states that the R-3 zoning “is appropriate because the adjacent property to the east is zoned R-3”, essentially stating that the apartments are “a more appropriate transitional zoning from commercial to residential.” west and residential to the east.”
With the commissioners’ approval on Tuesday, a second reading and possible final passage will take place at a future meeting, the pending order said. The state planning agency or administrative commission would then determine that the amendment to the Lake of Wales zoning ordinances is in compliance.
Star Lake Inc. is owned by the Bice family, who have owned the property for many years, previously as a cattle ranch, Cochella said.