Lakeland – North Lakeland residents are skeptical of a developer’s claims that doubling the number of homes on the former Wedgwood golf course will not create a bottleneck on Carpenter Road.
Mulberry-based SJD Development presented its revised plans to build 994 residences on the former golf course before Lakeland commissioners Monday morning. The proposed project, dubbed the Gibson Trails, won approval from the city’s Planning and Zoning Board in November, but still faced stiff opposition from nearby residents.
“It’s the density, it’s the traffic,” said Gina Ward, homeowner of 20 years at Wedgwood Estates. It doesn’t matter if it’s three floors, four floors, or five floors.
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Ward said there are current traffic problems on Carpenter Road with approximately 880 homes built adjacent to the former golf course. SJD Development looks to add an additional 994 units Ryan Companies US, Inc. The Tampa-based company is also adding 320 multi-family apartments at the north end of the avenue.
“We can’t handle it,” Ward said. “We will not be able to leave our homes.”
There are eight intersections within three-quarters of a mile on Carpenter Road, said planner Scott Mengonet of the Lakeland-based Kimley Horn Company. Mingonet said the developer’s plans would not create any new intersections along the route.
The developer’s traffic study estimated that the current traffic volume for Carpenter Road is approximately 71% of the road’s total capacity. Mingonet said the road is expected to reach 85% capacity once the golf course is fully redeveloped.
Mingonet said lap counts were made at some of the major intersections along Carpenter Road. During the evening rush hour, the busiest corner had about 45 vehicles, or less than one vehicle per minute. Accordingly, Mingonet said the developer would not require it to add any turn lanes to the road.
“Citizens don’t want to see a four-lane road with turning lanes,” he said. This is not what they are looking for and it is not what is needed here.
Ward said she didn’t believe the developer’s analysis after recording non-stop traffic heading south on Carpenter Road to Lakeland Park Drive. She believes that the road conditions will only get worse
“The snowbirds are arriving now,” Ward said. “The traffic is heavy.”
Many of the roads in the area are privately owned by homeowners’ associations, and are not open to traffic. Ward said she believes the developer will have to construct new roads off Carpenter Road to move forward with its plans.
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Pat Teahan, owner of the Wedgwood Estate home, confirmed that the nearby intersection of Carpenter Road and U.S. Route 98 North is “terrible.”
The community is currently awaiting an FDOT study to re-tim the traffic lights on 98 in an effort to improve traffic flow, according to Ward.
“Do we want to become another Lakeland Brandon?” said David Simpson, a Lakeland resident. Brandon’s nightmare.
Lakeland commissioners will be asked to consider residents’ concerns at their meeting on December 5, when they are expected to vote on the Gibson Trails plans.
City Attorney Davis Palmer said the commissioners have two decisions before them. The first is to change to the city’s comprehensive land use plan, which under state law is a legislative decision.
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“The only criterion really is that you can’t act arbitrarily and capriciously,” Palmer told officials. “You must have some kind of rationale for your decision but it does not have to be supported by competent and substantial evidence.”
The commissioners will also have to decide whether to approve zoning changes requested by the developer to allow the change in home density. Under state law, Palmer said it is a quasi-judicial hearing in which the decision must be based on competent and substantive evidence.
Residents will have an opportunity to raise their concerns and testify at the second public hearing, tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. December 5 at City Hall, located at 228 S. Massachusetts Ave.
Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7545. Follow us on Twitter @SaraWalshFl.