The Lakeland City Commission Monday will review Mosaic Development’s proposal for a 252-unit apartment complex at West Pipkin and Yates roads, the first of several coalescing large multifamily projects in southeast Lakeland set to go before it in the coming months.
Coming down the pike: Two evolving projects that could allow for nearly 700 more apartment units in fast-growing Southwest Lakeland.
The Lakeland Planning & Zoning Board on Tuesday heard two proposed land-use changes that seek to exchange commercial/institutional land-use designations for residential uses, and to amend previously approved planned unit developments with additional multifamily capacities.
Pensacola-based P&H Properties and the city are co-applicants in seeking to change the land-use designations on 8.44 acres within the Lakeside Preserve Planned Unit Development to allow for up to 120 units on 5.76 acres at the southeast corner of Parkway Frontage Road South and Pipkin Creek Road.
The parcel is now zoned for 20,000 square feet of retail/personal services uses and 45,000 square feet of office, institutional and hotel uses.
Lakeland Senior Planner Joshua Cheney told the board Tuesday that P&H Properties is developing the property on behalf of Alliance Realty Partners, which has purchased an adjacent property from the Lakeland Housing Authority where it plans to build a 271-unit apartment project.
Alliance attorney Tim Campbell said “the presentation is a little bit confusing” but the gist of the proposal is to add the 5.76 acres and its 120 units to the company’s planned 271-unit project as a “combined project” of more than 390 apartments.
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance manages 183 apartment communities in 28 states that house 53,000 units, Campbell said. “They are a very experienced developer and very excited to be in the (Lakeland) market.”
The company is “moving all steam ahead” with its existing project, he said, and “they plan to do this altogether” once the land-use amendments and zoning changes are in place.
Alliance Managing Director Bobby Anderson told the board all 390 apartments would one- or two-bedroom units with rental rates that “would be on par” with those in “older developments” in the area.
That “on par” rate is about $1.80 per square foot, he said, meaning “roughly $1,500 a month for one bedroom.”
“Unfortunately, with this type of project, even two years ago, we could have got that down to $1,200” but inflation is dramatically increasing building materials and labor costs, he said.
In his written presentation accompanying the proposal, Campbell said the emphasis on multifamily zoning “serves several demands that are essential to Lakeland and Polk County. Multifamily addresses a need because the lack of affordable and centrally located multifamily housing is an issue” cited by area employers.
Multifamily zoning “provides housing for residents who wish to work in Polk County and also provides additional consumers for Lakeland businesses,” he wrote, adding the project “will not create any impacts which are not or will not be addressed.”
The board will issue its determination at a later meeting, possibly in April.
Lakeland-based Next Level Planning is seeking to extract a 29.73-acre parcel from the previously approved Towne Park Estates PUD south of Towne Park Boulevard and west of Yates Road, and have it re-designated as Residential Medium, which allows up to 12 units per acre.
Nearly 26 of the almost 30-acre parcel has a Residential Low zoning that would allow up to about 130 units. The change to a Residential Medium would allow up to about 310 units.
The remaining 3.81 acres are designated Neighborhood Activity Center. Re-designating it as Residential Medium would allow up to 45 units, bringing the combined multifamily capacity to more than 350 apartments.
Next Level Planning’s Sara Case told the board the proposed land-use change is designed to “clean up” the PUD, which has failed to develop as originally planned.
Tuesday’s hearing focused on the proposed land-use change. Another “public hearing on the proposed detail of the PUD plan” will be staged in April with the proposal conceivably going before the City Commission for final approval as soon as May, city planner Phillip Scearce said.
“Prior to any development, applicant will have to delienate wetland boundaries” on the parcel, he said, noting there are about 10 acres of wetlands on the site.
“We are very aware of the environmental restraints on this property,” Case said, vowing that the “very large, quality wetlands on the site will not be interfered with in any way” because the residential areas will be separated from the wetlands by “buffers that will be well over 400 feet.”
Scearce said the other issue with the proposal is its “overall increase in density” from what was about 130 units to more than 350 and its ramifications on area roads.
Case said Mosaic’s proposed 252-unit project “going before the commission on the 21st is residential high; this is residential medium” so it is not as dense as other projects in the area.
While the densities may be different, both projects are being developed on behalf of Winter Haven-based English Creek LLC. Next Level Planning’s project has a 5201 Yates Road address while Mosaic’s project has a 3526 W Pipkin Road address, less than 4/10s of a mile from each other.
It is seeking multifamily zoning on 17.2 vacant acres at the West Pipkin/Yates intersection within an 18.7-acre parcel annexed into the city in 2001 and given a Neighborhood Activity Center land-use designation. It was originally envisioned as a shopping center with up to 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
The Residential High (RH) zoning would make way for English Creek’s proposed 252-unit project. RH zoning allows maximum density of 75 units per acre. English Creek’s proposed density is 14.6 per acre.
The other 1.5 acres will remain without zoning and under a Convenience Center land-use designation, which is a precursor to specific commercial-use zoning.
Mosaic Development’s preliminary site plan outlines seven three-story buildings on the 17 acres with a 4,000-square-foot convenience store/gas station on the 1.5-acre section.
According to a February 2021 city planners’ analysis, when the NAC designation was applied in 2002, “the Yates Road/W. Pipkin Road intersection was envisioned as a strategic location for the future development of neighborhood-level retail … to support the long-term plans for residential development in the area.”
But after Publix received approval in 2020 for its 31-acre Gresham Farms shopping center at 5140 County Line Road, about two-and-a-half miles west, “the market has shown little interest in developing a new shopping center at this intersection” and “it is not clear there will ever be sufficient demand to support another major activity center along the W. Pipkin Road corridor.”
City planners say commercial development, especially retail, generates more traffic than residential uses do. Placing residential zoning – even multifamily — on land reduces projected future traffic impacts.
According to an October 2021 traffic study by Michael Raysor of Raysor Transportation Consulting, Mosaic’s proposed apartment complex and convenience store would generate 2,026 fewer daily trips than a 100,000-square-foot shopping center would.
A zoning change that trims back those commercial traffic “entitlements” will reduce future traffic counts and tamp down urgency in planning road improvements, city planners say.
In West Pipkin Road’s case, that urgency has long since devolved into an emergency with the county approving a $42 million road-widening effort that began in January. Lakeland is contributing $6 million to the 17-month project, which will shut down parts of West Pipkin into fall 2024.
The three projects — only Mosaic’s is currently a formal proposal — could add nearly 1,000 rental units that would impact Southwest Lakeland roads, including that 3.8-mile stretch of West Pipkin Road between South Florida Avenue and Medulla Road that is being widened to four lanes.
Despite the additional apartment projects, the area is still primarily single-family home subdivisions with about 3,000 new homes planned.
Morgan Creek Preserve’s 133 single-family home development was approved by the board in November. In nearby Riverstone, 1,300 single-family homes are planned. Also nearby: the proposed 1,299-single family Hawthorne Mills development and 321 homes approved for Gresham Trails.
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