In preparation for the Jan. 15 City Commission special election, LkldNow sat down with each of the three candidates and asked them the same questions — some serious and some light-hearted. The idea is to give voters a chance to get to know each of the three candidates better. Here is a transcript of our interview with Bill Watts. (All interviews edited for clarity.) More
As a voter research tool, LkldNow is compiling links to Ledger coverage of the early 2019 special election race for Lakeland City Commission:
Arts are generally regarded as important to the health and economic climate of a city, and Lakeland city commissioners devote a quarter of a million dollars a year to helping non-profit arts organizations stay afloat. But like all questions of using taxpayer funds, commissioners have to make tough decisions about which organizations are supported. In recent years, there has been intense debate about how to spread the wealth among eight Lakeland arts organizations that have been the traditional beneficiaries.
Until a new approach was put in place two years ago, city and arts leaders say that decisions were made in a haphazard fashion, with groups competing against each other for money and a few major organizations having the inside track. Even an attempt to set aside a permanent fund for the arts failed when the city commission raided the fund during the recent recession, leaving the arts community and its supporters to start over again. More
City commissioners delayed a decision Monday afternoon on whether to allow up to 60-feet-tall multi-family buildings in portions of the Garden District of the historic Lake Morton neighborhood.
City staff had devised a plan that divided the district into six subdistricts that define where the taller buildings would be allowed within the district.
But following a lengthy public hearing when a dozen people spoke, city staff was given instructions to come back with a revised plan that eliminates allowing taller buildings south of Lime Street near the lake and adds a provision requiring new multifamily buildings in the district go through the design review committee of the Historic Preservation Board.
Currently, multi-family buildings are limited to 40-feet, although taller buildings were allowed until recently.
Issues with the proposed amendment became apparent after developer Baylis Consulting submitted plans for a 54-foot-tall, 40-unit apartment building at the corner of Lime Street and Indiana Avenue. The conceptual plan for the contemporary-style building was approved by city staff, contingent upon the City Commission approving the proposed height amendment.
Another stumbling block was raised Monday when Commissioner Justin Troller asked if under the formula it would be possible to erect a 60-foot-tall building on the lakefront south of Lime Street if some of the current houses were leveled. Planning Manager Theresa Maio confirmed it would.
Neighborhood resident Michael Rogers presented slides illustrating the differences between the look of a 40-foot tall building, as currently allowed, versus a 60-foot-tall building at the site of the building Baylis is planning at the intersection of Lime and Indiana.
Neighbor Colin Weins spoke about how Orlando, Tampa and other cities are addressing urban density and walkability. Orlando’s Thornton Park has 30-foot to 40-foot height restrictions. While Tampa’s Hyde Park has certain areas that allow multi-family buildings up to 60 feet high, its architectural review commission guidelines for new construction say it is not permissible to add a building that does not maintain or blend in with the height of buildings on adjacent lots. “Some cities don’t have maximum heights but say it must be of compatible height and mass,” Weins said. “This is something you are not providing for.”
Melinda Rinker, who also lives in the neighborhood, said that while “we hear there are a lot of developers who purchased land with the understanding they will get the 60-foot height” but as homeowners “we have to stay within very strict guidelines for anything we do to our historic homes. We bought historic houses knowing we had those guidelines. They bought their land knowing those 60-foot height guidelines have not been approved yet.”
Edie Yates, a managing partner of Baylis who served 12 years on the City Commission leaving last January, defended her company’s plans for the building.
In 2017, “we were focused on how do we incentivize development in the area where not a lot had happened in last 20 years, an area that had deteriorated in that 20 years. It is an area surrounded by parks that the city spent a lot of money on to incentivize investment the downtown area.”
Yates also spoke about the review process, saying the staff review on the planned Baylis building was conducted by the same staff person who works with the Historic Preservation Board, using the Land Development Code for guidance.
“The idea was to make it simpler for people to do projects in an area that drastically needed new development,” Yates said.
When prompted by questions from commissioners, City Attorney Tim McClausand said that there likely is not a legal issue involved in changing the 60-foot height limit on certain properties at this time but commissioners may want to consider it as a fairness issue.
The commissioners agreed by consensus to continue the public hearing until Jan. 7, when city staff will come back with revisions to the proposed ordinance.
For other news about Monday’s meeting see: City Commission Report: Food Trucks, Hawthorne Hill, Mount Zion, and Broadband
Updated: 11:00 on 12/18/2018 to clarify information presented by Colin Weins
The Lakeland City Commission met Monday, December 17th, 2018 at 3 pm. Commissioner Bill Read was absent. See our previous reports on the proposed food truck park and the Garden District building height ordinance.
For more information on Monday’s Garden District ordinance discussion see: City Commissioners Delay Garden District Building Height Vote
Food truck park
Commissioners approved a contract with Project Redfish, LLC that relies on a public-private partnership to develop a food truck park on a half-acre, city-owned parcel at the northwest corner of North Massachusetts Avenue and East Parker Street.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency will provide $250,000 toward the project and Project Redfish will construct a 2,500-square-foot building with a bar and restrooms and and will develop an indoor/outdoor performance venue on the parcel. The company, which is based in Boulder, Colorado, will provide daily availability of at least one food truck and annually will sponsor at least 12 public food truck events.
Hawthorne Mill subdivision
Commissioners approved changes for the long-platted 487-acre Hawthorne Mill subdivision that will allow nearly one-third of the lots to be smaller than originally planned so that developers can include a five-acre Crystal Lagoon, a manmade crystal- clear lake with waterpark-style amenities.
The subdivision, which is south of West Pipkin Road, north of Ewell Road and west of Busy Bee Lane, originally was platted in 2007 as a planned unit development but left fallow during the Great Recession.
Instead of being solely 50-foot-wide and 60-foot-wide lots, up to 30 percent of the lots may now be 40-foot wide.
Only 60-foot-wide lots will be allowed in the portion of the subdivision that abuts the Lazy Creek subdivision and a 6-foot-high privacy fence will be erected.
The new plan also adds high-speed gigabit internet access and home automation. And it allots an area for development of a charter school for grades kindergarten through eight.
Mount Zion church expansion
Commissioners approved a conditional use permit to allow New Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church to convert a single-family home at 924 W. Ninth St. for use as a meeting space, lounge and computer room for the 500-member congregation.
The 2,113- square-foot house, built in 1969, will be connected to the church’s sanctuary building, built in 1996, via a sidewalk through the parking lot.
A six-foot-high privacy fence will be erected to buffer the new recreation building from homes to the south and east.
Commissioners approved spending $139,000 for Magellan Advisors LLC, to develop a Broadband Utility Business Plan that will look at expanding the city’s 330 miles of fiber optic cable into an investor-grade broadband service.
“We are creeping up on eight or nine years iin this process,” Troller said. With this investment, “in six to nine months, we will be at the step we can have an informed conversation.”
In the months since the Lakeland City Commission began talking about increasing the height limit on multi-family buildings in the historic Lake Morton neighborhood’s Garden District, developer Baylis Consulting put together plans for a 54-foot-tall, 40-unit apartment building.
But the developer cannot start construction of the contemporary-style building until city commissioners decide whether to amend an ordinance that would raise the building height limit from 40 feet to 60 feet. More
The city still has plans for a food truck park in Midtown, however after a seven-month delay another company has stepped in to help develop the project on a half-acre, city-owned site at the northwest corner of North Massachusetts Avenue and East Parker Street.
The concept is to provide food trucks, craft beer and public events – at least 12 a year – in a family-friendly, backyard-style setting that includes an indoor-outdoor performance venue and a 2,500-square-foot building with restrooms and a bar.
While there is space for four food trucks, the company expect to have one or two onsite daily, Alis Drumgo, CRA interim manager, told city commissioners when they gathered Friday morning for committee meetings and an agenda study session. More
The three candidates running in the Jan. 15 special election for Lakeland City Commission introduce themselves in videos produced by the city communications department. The candidates are asked to talk about their background, campaign themes, time management and why a citizen should vote for them. Video links:
Mike Ferguson, The Ledger’s new City Hall reporter, profiles the three candidates running in the Jan. 15 special election to fill the remaining three years on the southwest district seat on the Lakeland City Commission. The seat was left vacant by Michael Dunn’s resignation in October. The candidates are:
Patrick Jones, 53, who is focusing on expanding high-speed Internet to bridge the digital divide and increasing entertainment opportunities.
Sara Roberts McCarley, 47, who is focusing on making the city more attractive for young people to return to or stay.
Bill Watts, 53, who is focusing on streamlining code enforcement and permitting, areas where he believes the city has overreached.