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Dixieland residents and city planners looked at the same drawings of a plan for three cottages on what used to be two lots, and saw two very different things.
City planners saw the fruits of updated land-use policies intended to prompt investment and “infill” in in-town neighborhoods by allowing smaller houses and lot sizes favored by Millennials.
Residents saw three look-alike houses spaced too close together likely to bring more renters to a neighborhood where an increasing number of owners lovingly restore the historic homes they live in.
The residents didn’t hold back on their opinions when Lakeland Community Development Department staffers came to hear their concerns at a meeting of the Dixieland Historic Neighborhood Association on Tuesday night.
Some of their concerns about the houses planned for 709 W. Hancock St.:
- The 30-foot-wide lots now allowed are incompatible with the neighborhood.
- 10 feet between houses is too close.
- The long-narrow “shotgun” houses look more like mobile homes than cottages.
- Residents will park on the street or in yards instead of using driveways that face alleys since there are no rear entrances.
- Developers will buy lots, demolish houses and build small rental units, eroding the area’s charm.
- The three houses look alike, while others in the area are all different.
Several residents asked how the project can be stopped.
The bottom line, the city planners said, is the project, developed by Batman Enterprises LLC, has the proper zoning to proceed and the cottages’ design has been approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Board.
However, city planning chief Jim Studiale told the residents he and his staff would “look at if cottage houses work and where they best work in light of the comments here.”
And this morning city historic preservation specialist Emily Foster told the residents on their neighborhood Facebook page how to keep up with activities of the city Historic Preservation Board affecting Dixieland.
The two lots where the cottages will be built held a single house that was demolished in October 2013 after it had deteriorated.
Under a zoning code updated in July 2014, cottages can be built on at least three contiguous lots with a minimum width of 30 feet each, reduced from a typical minimum of 50 feet. Setbacks are reduced, bringing a more urban feel typical of development before the days of suburbanization, Studiale said.
Plans call for three 1,586-square-foot houses that will have slightly different front porches, color palettes and front setbacks. Like nearby houses, they will be raised off the ground and feature gabled roofs and Craftsman doors and porch railings. Clapboard-style siding is intended to match nearby styles.
After reviewing the initial plans, the city’s planning staff recommended several changes to make the cottages look more like nearby properties. Those changes were made, and the city Design Review Committee and Historic Preservation Board approved the design last July.
Studiale pointed out that the interior space of nearly 1,600 square feet is “not atypical” for Dixieland and that a lot of younger homeowners don’t want as much yard to maintain as was once typical.
To concerns that developers will start buying up lots for cottages, Studiale pointed out that at least two side-by-side lots would be needed in order to meet the requirements.
As an example of cottage-style houses that fit a historic neighborhood, Studiale pointed to side-by-side houses under construction on Osceola Street behind the Polk Museum of Art. “We’re seeing new investment in the old neighborhoods,” he said.
City Commissioner Jim Malless, who attended the meeting, urged residents to monitor the Historic Preservation Board for issues affecting Dixieland and said he understood the concern about non-owner-occupied dwellings.
“You’ve got the attention of two commissioners,” he said, noting that Don Selvage conveyed concerns about the small houses at last Friday’s agenda study session. “This is something we (the City Commission) will be talking about.”
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