Here’s our roundup of news from Monday’s City Commission meeting, starting with a short video of a wheelchair challenge conducted just before the meeting and also including action on city elections, a new CarMax, Watson Clinic rezoning, rail consternation and more.
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Mobility challenge: Six Lakeland city commissioners and an LPD captain got a first-hand look at the challenges facing people with mobility disabilities this afternoon. Participants said they learned it’s a more difficult physical ordeal than they imagined, and they praised the improvements made around town under the city’s accessibility coordinator. The seven participants traveled via wheelchairs to City Hall from the parking garage across Iowa Street. It required crossing the street, going up an incline and around a corner, up a ramp, through the main doors, backing into an elevator and up to the third floor. #lkld
Also: Ledger coverage of the wheelchair challenge
CARMAX: Commissioners spent nearly an hour on a request for rezoning that will allow CarMax to place its first Polk County used-car business on U.S. 98 just south of I-4. The sticking point was wording that will allow neighboring Market Square shopping center to create an access for cars to enter and exit via CarMax to Robson Street. The shopping center wants the access to align with the front of stores instead of behind Just Moves gym; CarMax said that would take up too much of the space where it intends to display its inventory. Commissioners ended up approving the zoning request and leaving it up to the two businesses to negotiate the access issue.
CITY ELECTIONS: As we reported Friday, commissioners had little love for a proposal to reduce the number of polling places for municipal elections from 25 to 12. The change was proposed to reduce costs and the administrative burden on the city clerk in running elections. But commissioners said they worried about confusion, especially since all precincts would be used for county, state and federal elections. The proposal was rejected unanimously.
WATSON CLINIC: A request by the clinic to rezone roughly 19 acres at its main campus that we previewed Monday was approved unanimously. At a future meeting, perhaps the one April 1, commissioners will take up a request to swap some land owned by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency with Watson Clinic; that swap essentially squares off the clinic’s holdings just north of West Lane.
CSX DISRUPTION: Declaring that “CSX has really done our community a disservice,” Commissioner Justin Troller suggested the commission write a letter to the railroad asking for better communication on its plans to repair tracks. The current work downtown, which has blocked four intersections, started later than expected and has taken several days longer than expected, city officials said.
UTILITY COMMITTEE: The City Commission reappointed two people to its the Utility Committee, which oversees Lakeland Electric: Terry Dennis of Florida Southern College, recommended by Lakeland Economic Development Council for a seat designated for industrial customers, and Mike McGee, a former tire store owner, recommended by the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce for a seat designated for commercial customers. See other board appointments here.
ALTINE ROAD: Commissioners approved two land-use changes that will allow the parking of semi-trailers along railroad tracks on a now-vacant 2.16 acres at the southeast corner of 10th Street and Altine Road.
N. CRYSTAL LAKE DRIVE: Commissioners approved an agreement authorizing the Florida Department of Transportation to plan a state-funded, five-foot sidewalk on the north side of North Crystal Lake Drive from Southeastern University to U.S. 98. The sidewalk will let students walk to 98 and points beyond like Lake Hollingsworth without having to cross Crystal Lake twice, as they do now, transportation planner Chuck Barmby said. Still undetermined: Whether roadway changes will be needed to leave enough space next to the Gapway Cemetery.
LPD: In other city news, The Ledger reported that a retired Lakeland Police sergeant filed a complaint alleging an improper relationship between former Chief Larry Giddens and a subordinate at the department. Giddens declined to comment, and the subordinate did not respond to requests for comment.