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Lake Wales
Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Lake Wales City Commission Approves Amendment Incentivizing a Traditional Neighborhood Design for Future Developments


by James Coulter

Future developments will be incentivized to be built to traditional neighborhood designs as prescribed in the Lake Wales Envisioned Plan (LWEP) now that commissioners gave preliminary approval to a proposed amendment.

On Tuesday evening, Lake Wales City Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the first reading of an amendment to Chapter 23 of the Land Development Regulations (LDRs), which would incentivize new developments to be constructed with a traditional neighborhood design.

The amendment was proposed by city staff “to establish standards for a Traditional Neighborhood Development, including incentives to design a Traditional Neighborhood” for all future developments as prescribed in the LWEP.

The LWEP, as mentioned in the city staff memo, contains the following action item: “Create and adopt traditional neighborhood development (TND) ordinance that will specify requirements for neighborhood design, and streamline approval for development that meets the code.”

These Traditional Neighborhood Development (TDP) standards were designed in collaboration with LWEP consultants Dover, Kohl, & Partners and the city planning staff to help accommodate “complete, walkable neighborhoods with a mix of uses and housing types.”

However, while city commissioners voted unanimously to approve the amendment, many city residents spoke out during public comment against it. Many claimed the requirements were still too stifling and could detract potential developers from working with the city.

Danny Krueger, a former city commissioner, claimed that while he appreciated the LWEP and its overall vision for the city, he did not consider it prudent to require all future developments to conform to one style or design.

“I believe there needs to be design standards but also flexibility,” he argued. “If we lock ourselves into one design. Then everything else is rejected out of hand because we have chosen only one specific route to go down…Traditional neighborhoods should be an option. If it is a good design, there should be a demand. It should not be mandated. It should be incentivized to developers if it is good design.”

Becky Winecoop, a regular resident who speaks during public comments, and who had been a vocal opponent of Krueger during his time as commissioner, found herself surprisingly in agreement with him.

“I find myself in an impossible position: I agree with Dan,” she said. “It [the TND standards) may look good on paper but it may not fit into every situation in the city…Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Another resident, Charlene Bennett, expressed concern about the lack of public hearings with ordinances such as this. Likewise, she was also skeptical towards a “one-size-fits-all” model for future developments within the city.

“We do not know if the product will look anything like the pictures we are shown,” she said. “I don’t know if the picture fits the specifications.”

However, Commissioner Keith Thompson, insisted that the ordinance was not “one-size-fits-all”, as many residents assume. Furthermore, he argued that the TND standards were necessary to further implement the vision as prescribed in the LWEP.

“Here is the thing: You are welcome to feel what you feel about it, but it does not matter how you feel. This [the LWEP] is what we approved. We are married to it. We have to figure out ways it can work…We have adopted this thing and [we are] trying to make it work.”

Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson also claimed the ordinance was a good fit. He argued that other communities that had implemented similar standards have seen good results.

“This is a way to incentivize the traditional neighborhood development…[and has been] a huge success in other places where it has been utilized,” he said. “When people step out and do it, it has proved itself.”

Editors Note: When we first published this article we used the word “mandatory” and “all”. This was definitely a mistake and incorrect reporting on our part. We sincerely apologize for the incorrect reporting. This is just one of several options a developer can use. This is an incentive-laden process, but in no way is mandatory. We thank readers, city officials and friends for reaching out so we correct the mistake. – Carl

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