A 96-unit apartment complex is planned for the Westgate neighborhood, south of George Jenkins Boulevard and west of Lake Beulah, and should bring new affordable housing to the area, city officials said at Monday morning’s Lakeland City Commission meeting.
“This subject property was originally platted as part of the Westgate subdivision back in the 1920s, which explains the reason that there are some unimproved … rights of way that run through the property,” Lakeland Assistant Director of Community Development Teresa Maio said. “There are several easements that run through, utilities, so that in addition to the various future land-use zoning designations, and it makes a very complicated looking picture.”
The development site is on approximately 9.1 acres south of Olive Street, east of Oregon Avenue, and west of Beech Avenue. Tom Wodrich of TDW Land Planning LLC, on behalf of True Investors Development LLC, asked city officials to change the zoning from light industrial and single-family residential to a planned unit development to allow four, three-story, multifamily residential buildings, along with a clubhouse and fenced-in swimming pool.
Maio said, architecturally, the buildings will be mid-level-rise buildings.
“So they’re not going to be your typical — or what you would see in the area as being typical — in a duplex configuration,” Maio said. “And this would be a nice transition away from the single family.”
Plants and trees would be installed to be a buffer to neighboring single-family homes, along with non-intrusive lighting. The complex would also connect to the Westgate-Central Trail, a walking and biking path. There will also be a 20-foot wide easement on the eastern side of the property, parallel to a ditch.
Some of the neighbors were concerned about the 13-acre property north of Olive Street from the proposed development, Maio told commissioners. That is the site of the former Landia Chemical Co. and Florida Favorite Fertilizer, which the federal government placed on the National Priorities List of Federal Superfund sites in 2000.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a superfund site is one where hazardous waste was dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. These sites include manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills and mining sites.
The site has undergone cleanup starting in the 1980s, when Landia Chemical Co. removed more than 146 tons of impacted sediments from the first 1,000 feet of the Wayman Street Ditch, according to the EPA. In the 1990s, Florida Favorite Fertilizer removed an underground pipeline after it ruptured. Both parties removed 4,250 tons of soil from the Superfund site in 2001.
In 2006, a new owner, Sylvite Southeast LTD, began conducting operations that include fertilizer blending and mixing. PCS Joint Ventures, Inc., BASF and Agrico Chemical Co. are listed as the current owners.
The responsible companies have installed a clay cover area and planted trees, plants and flowers along the Landia property. “A wide variety of trees are present. Plants have been planted specifically for pollinator habitat. Butterflies, birds and ducks were present on site,” a 2017 EPA report reads.
However, that same report shows that some contamination was still present in 2017. Groundwater monitoring currently consists of a semiannual sampling of five dozen monitoring wells, with additional wells sampled periodically, throughout the property and neighborhood. They test for pesticides, semi-volatile organic compounds, nitrates and some metals. Nitrate and alpha-BHC plumes were detected above cleanup goals in October 2016, along with metals including arsenic and cadmium.
The EPA has reported that “site contamination does not currently threaten people living and working near the site. Nearby residents and businesses use the public water system for drinking water.”
In addition to the Superfund site, in 2001, Landia and Florida Favorite removed 510 tons of soil from the site currently slated for development.
“That had come up in some of the neighborhood meetings that were held and so staff have been aware of this previously,” Maio said. “There were concerns about whether or not there’s any contamination on this site. There has been a phase one environmental site assessment done. There’s no contamination on the site that would preclude it from being developed for the intended use.”
The land-use changes needed for the development were approved by the Lakeland Planning and Zoning Board on July 19. City commissioners are scheduled to vote on the project following a public hearing on Aug. 15 at their 9 a.m. meeting at Lakeland City Hall.
Kimberly C. Moore is an award-winning reporter and a Lakeland native. She can be reached at [email protected] or 863-272-9250.