P&Z Okays Apartment Complex at Spring Lake Rd. and Poinsettia St.

A hand-lettered sign nailed to a tree nearby expresses one local resident's sentiment.

A hand-lettered sign nailed to a tree nearby expresses one local resident’s sentiment.

Fruitland Park’s Planning and Zoning Board approved plans for a 156-unit rental apartment community on 14.27 acres on Spring Lake Rd. at Poinsettia Ave., just east of the historic Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

To read this article at DailyCommercial.com, click here

By Steve Fussell | Special to the Commercial

Coral Gables developer Jonathan Penner, who attended the meeting, is seeking approval of a Small Scale Amendment to the city’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan — known as the comp plan — and a rezoning of 9.06 acres of the property from R-2 single-family residential to a Planned Unit Development, or PUD.

Penner’s development plan would not change zoning on five acres of the property that fronts pristine Lake Geneva. That part of the property would be dedicated for conservation and on-site storm water retention.

About a dozen local residents who spoke against the development in the sometimes contentious meeting won over one board member, but their pleas were not enough to sway the majority. No residents spoke in favor of the development.

Community Development Director Charlie Rector told residents that city commissioners will hear a first reading of the board’s recommendation on Dec. 12 and will hear public input before taking a final vote on the development plan at the commission’s Jan. 9 meeting.

Myron Waye, whose family has lived on property adjacent to the planned development for almost a century, said the project doesn’t fit the rural community that surrounds it.

“These are single-family homes on oversized lots. This is quiet country living, and it’s mostly people who have lived there all their lives,” Waye told board members. “I’m the youngest man in my neighborhood,” the 54-year old said.

Father Ted Koelln, rector of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, said he is afraid excessive traffic generated by the development will create unnecessary danger.

“Traffic on Spring Lake Road is already heavy and adding 156 apartments will make it much worse,” Father Koelln said. “Something is going to happen, and it’s going to be bad.”

Rector said an independent traffic study on Spring Lake Road commissioned by Lake County found the roadway would support development of up to 176 rental apartments on the site.

Only board member Colin Crews spoke in favor of residents.

“In my opinion, this is a drop-in,” Crews said. “It looks like spot zoning, and I have difficulty agreeing with it,” he said.

Penner said he owns three apartment communities and several retail properties. He acquired the Spring Lake Road site in 2006 at the height of the real estate bubble and said he plans to work with neighbors to allay their concerns.

“I’m in this for the long term,” Penner said. “I’ve been where they are. I want to develop an upscale apartment community that will serve the needs of the community and our studies show that there is demand for this type of development here,” he said.

Penner said he anticipates he could begin site work as early as next summer and start construction of apartment units by the fall.

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