Gibson Trails renderings

North Lakeland’s 90-year-oid Wedgewood Golf Course has been sold to developers who propose building nearly 1,400 homes — including more than 1,100 apartments — on the 117-acre property south of Lake Gibson.

Mulberry-based SJD Development LLC purchased the golf course on Dec. 15 for $4.5 million from Kanes Golf of Florida LLC, owned by Sun Shin, according to Polk County Property Appraisers Office records.

Before the sale was recorded, a development application and project review application was filed in November on behalf of Jonathon Hall of SHD Properties, which has the same Church Street address in Mulberry as SJD Development.

Gibson Trails locator
The proposed Gibson Trails is shown in orange.

The proposed Gibson Trails project underwent initial reviews by city planners in December and went before a development review panel on April 12. The next step is mailed notifications to surrounding landowners, which are to be dispatched no later than Friday. 

The proposal is scheduled to go before the city’s Planning & Zoning Board for a May 17 public hearing and final vote on June 21. It could then go before the city commission in July and be approved by August.

A 10-page Wedgewood Vision Document presented to city planners by engineering firm Kimley-Horn’s Lakeland and Orlando offices outlines the proposed redevelopment of 117 acres of Wedgewood Golf Course’s “segmented developable area.”

The preliminary “residential infill development” proposal includes 11 parcels. Among them are:

  • Five multifamily parcels containing three apartment complexes totaling 1,028 units
  • Four parcels where 204 townhomes can be built
  • One 16-lot single-family-home subdivision on 7,200-square-foot lots
  • One parcel designated as a 150-unit assisted living facility

In the tentative site plan, the five multifamily parcels span 53 acres. The plan calls for a 316-unit complex on a 16.5-acre parcel, a 140-unit complex on 8.6 acres and a 572-unit complex on three combined parcels totaling 28 acres. All three will have four-story buildings, but the number of structures is not stipulated.

The four townhome parcels collectively total 40 acres and, as described on the preliminary site plan, all envision two-story homes on 1,600-square-foot lots. The four are: 48 units on 9.4 acres; 51 units on 9.2 acres; 37 units on 9 acres; and 68 units on 11.2 acres.

The 8.28-acre parcel designated for the 150-unit assisted living facilty would have four-story buildings and could house up to 180 units.

The introduction to the Gibson Trails project review application, filed Nov. 17, 2021, said the golf course was losing money and the area needs housing.

“Many golf courses have reached a point where they are no longer profitable to operate as a golf course and in many cases, such as Wedgewood, they are actually losing money,” it states. “Because of this, a great number of them are being repurposed into residential communities; this is what we are proposing for Wedgewood.”

In December’s preliminary reviews, planners cited numerous issues with early iterations of the proposed development, which is not unusual in early stages of a proposal, especially one this size.

Gibson Trails site plan
View a larger version of the preliminary site plan

To accommodate anticipated increases in water and sewer demand, a “hydraulic evaluation” is needed to determine if there is capacity in the existing water distribution and wastewater collection system “to accept the additional flows created with this development,” planners say, noting, “The Wedgewood lift station cannot accept any additional flow.”

Lakeland Senior Planner Todd Vargo said the proposal would require apporoval of three comprehensive plan amendments and a major modification to its original Planned Unit Development (PUD) land-use and zoning entitlements.

“It is strongly suggested that neighborhood charrette/visioning meetings take place with the existing residents in Carpenters Way. Please hold these meetings prior to the public hearing for the comprehensive plan amendments and the major modification to the PUD,” Vargo writes.

City Transportation & Development Review Manager Charles Barmby said the project will engender a “major traffic study” that will include “an operational analysis for Carpenters Way within the development area … to coordinate turn lane improvements, if needed, at each street connection.”

Barmby said the proposed Gibson Trails development will include the long-planned Lakeland Park Drive extension.

Developers and city planners “will need to have separate discussions regarding the alignment of, right-of-way dedications for, and construction of the Lakeland Park Drive Extension as part of a traffic mitigation package,” he wrote.

This western leg of the Lakeland Park Drive extension will include a 10-foot-wide asphalt multi-use trail along its north side, providing a direct connection to Lakeland Park Center and the associated park-and-ride/transit transfer center, the review continues.

And then Barmby writes this: “It should be noted that the city is pursuing a Brightline/High-Speed Rail station location within Lakeland, including the vicinity of the U.S. 98 interchange, and will request assistance of nearby property owners/developers in this effort,” which appartently includes SJD Development.

He said SJD Development needs to answer “How will the existing Carpenters Way Arch be impacted by the proposed development layout plan?” and “confirm that the new connections to Carpenters Way and Lakeland Park Drive Extension comply” with the city’s land development code.

As with Vargo, Barmby urges SJD to meet its neighbors.

“It is strongly recommended that the development team conduct outreach meetings with the HOAs and nearby residents to hear and address initial concerns,” he writes.

The city’s Public Works Department said it has concerns with “anticipated conflicts with existing gas main along the corridor of Lakeland Park Drive” but that the development could address calls “for improving accessibility to Douglas Cook Park at intersection of Wedgewood Estate Blvd. and Fenton Lane crossing.”

According to the state’s Division of Corporations, SJD Development was formed in August 2020. It not only shares the same Mulberry address as SHD Properties but the same registered agent, Fredetick Scott House, who serves in that capacity for several dozen Florida corporations.

SJD Development lists Scott House, a Fort Lauderdale-based Realtor and real estate broker with a background in hotel development, as founder and president. 

The company descrbes itself as “a full-service real estate development group that focuses on prime residential and commercial land development opportunities.”

Redesigned and renamed Wedgewood Golf Course in 1983, the property has been a golf course since 1931 when it was opened as the William L. Hutcheson Golf Course, part of a 1,700-acre property along Lake Gibson’s south shore owned by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America for retired union members.

The property was known as “Carpenter’s Home” and the golf course was commonly referred to as Carpenter’s Home Golf Course. It was the second built in Lakeland, following Cleveland Heights Golf Course in 1925 and is where generations of local golfers learned to play the game.

Its 7,000-square-foot clubhouse features signed photos of  famous golfers who have played there over the years, including Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Babe Zaharias, Patty Berg and Bobby Jones, who is rumored to have tipped his caddy $100, as well as many Detroit Tigers.

Shin purchased the golf course in 2001 for $3.7 million  and transferred the title for $100 in 2014 to newly created Kanes Golf of Florida. The course and its three buildings, including the 7,000-square-foot clubhouse, actually sold for more a decade earlier when it was sold for $3.9 million in 1989.

The golf course has been closed for months. Its website is still online but its last Facebook post was May 20, 2021.

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