LAKELAND — The developer proposing construction of an apartment complex adjacent to the Lake Miriam Publix is expected to publicly present its revised plan to Lakeland City Commissioners this week.
Preferred Apartment Communities has offered to reduce the proposed development from 244 units to 211 . The changes were made to the project, which would be located at at 4730 South Florida Ave., in response to residents’ objections to a four-story complex and concerns about increased traffic.
City Attorney Palmer Davis said the developer and its representatives will give a presentation on the revised plans at the commission’s Monday meeting. Given it’s a first review, Davis recommended city officials keep their discussion to any factual questions as the quasi-judicial hearing on the application will be held June 6.
The commission previously voted in April to continue the hearing on the developer’s requested zoning change that would have paved way for the apartment complex. Currently, the 12-acre property owned by Publix Super Markets allows for nearly 40,000 square feet of retail space.
Commissioners Mike Musick and Mayor Bill Mutz have said they believe multifamily housing would be a better use of the land than commercial space, but struggled with the four-story buildings. The revised plans remove the fourth floor of the two tallest buildings for a maximum height of three stories.
The developer has also increased the number of parking spots from 356 to 368 spaces to accommodate more vehicles. This exceeds the minimum of 312 slots required under the city’s Land Development Code.
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Chuck Barmby, the city’s planning and transportation manager, said city staff has reached out to Polk County and Polk County School District to discuss possible changes that could improve traffic congestion.
One proposal is to widen the roadway to allow for the creation of a turning lane from Cleveland Heights Boulevard to the west side of the Lakeland Highlands Middle School property. Barmby said there is a left turn lane for drivers heading east on Lake Miriam Drive, though it doesn’t start until the far end of the school’s property. This leaves adequate space for cars to wait to make the left turn into the school’s driveway, without blocking the roadway.
“It would have the biggest possible impact in the shortest amount of time,” Barmby said.
Barmby said the idea would be to widen the roadway to three lanes across, then resurface and restripe it to create a center turn lane. County officials estimated it would cost around $1.5 million to widen Lake Miriam Drive, based on the costs of the current Pipkin Road widening project.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be a budget decision of both the city and the county,” Barmby said. “We can try to coordinate that over the next few months.”
Barmby said the city has also approached the school about changing its current dismissal time from about 4 p.m., the start of the evening rush hour, to 3:30 p.m. An answer has not yet been received, but Barmby said he’s hopeful Polk County Public Schools officials are taking it into consideration.
Commissioner Stephanie Madden said she was concerned about what could take the place for the former church/daycare property across the street at 745 Lake Miriam Drive that is up for sale. The property is located in the county and could impact traffic on the roadways.
Foundry Commercial’s website lists the 4.3-acre property with three buildings as currently under contract, with a listed sale price of $1.95 million. It notes the daycare on site was licensed for 72 students. It advertises the land is zoned as Institutional, designed for private and public service structures such as elementary and middle schools, government or cultural facilities, hospitals and some utility structures.
“We better be talking to all the people who are partners on the road to insure the quality of life for people who live in the county and the city,” Madden said.
Barmby said city staff is keeping a close eye on any development plans in the area that request a change of zoning or site approval from the county.
“We need to keep an eye on what’s going on out there and try to catch it the best we can,” he said.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545. Follow on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.