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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Lake Alta Park Remains! Lake Wales City Commissioners Vote Against Controversial Proposal to Transfer City Land to Private Developer


by James Coulter

Residents living near Lake Alta Park can rest peacefully knowing that the 3.5-acre piece of land will remain intact and not have its ownership transferred to a private developer.

Lake Wales City Commissioners voted against two ordinances that would have amended the future land use and zoning designation to a parcel of land known as Lake Alta Park.

Both ordinances would have changed its land use designation from “Public” to “Low-Density Residential”, and the zoning from “Recreation” to “R-1C Residential.”

The parcel is located north of Kissimmee Avenue, east of 3rd Street North, south of Osceola Avenue East, and west of 4th Street North.

Lake Alta Park, as it is known by residents, had been transferred by the city to the Community Redevelopment Agency, which was considering transferring the land to a private developer.

The proposed land use and zoning change would have allowed the developer to construct 24 cottage-style homes on approximately 1.7 acres. The current zoning and land use designation would have only permitted half the number of homes.

As for Lake Alta Park itself, the land would have been left open to the public and maintained by the HOA associated with the cottage homes.

However, residents living nearby had raised concerns about the city transferring public land to a private developer, as well as the main complications the potential development could have created with traffic and parking.

While both ordinances had initially passed their first reading during a previous city commission meeting on Mar. 19, both ordinances were voted against during their second reading at the recent meeting on Tuesday with a vote of 3-2.

Mayor Jack Hilligoss and Commissioners Daniel Williams and Keith Thompson voted “nay” on both ordinances.

Mayor Jack Hilligoss, while he understood the hard work of the planning team and the good faith of the developer, voted against the ordinance due to the overwhelming citizen outcry against it.

“Folks around here don’t want this,” he said. “This is where I stop. I cannot vote in favor of this.”

Commissioner Robin Gibson voted in favor of both ordinances. He claimed that the development would have been similar to Baldwin Park in Orlando. He called it “one of the finest neighborhoods” in Orlando, especially since it was a traditional design neighborhood like was proposed in the Lake Wales Envisioned Plan.

“The property value in the neighborhood have gone up considerably, [especially with] the quality of the design and construction there,” Gibson said. “They have done a great deal for Orlando.”

“But we are not Orlando,” one member of the audience called out.

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