Commissioners Brainstorm Five-Year Growth Plan at Saturday Workshop Session

Fruitland Park commissioners held a rare Saturday morning workshop session yesterday to discuss which Capital Improvements projects the city will need first as its population doubles over the next three years.

Mayor Chris Bell set the tone for the 9 a.m. session: “We’ve made suggestions that [Villages development] will benefit our residents,” Bell said. “I think we should be able to show them the benefits.” Bell said he hoped commissioners could agree on parameters for a five-year capital improvements plan.

City Manager Gary La Vinia told commissioners to brainstorm.

“Talk about what the commission would like to see—your vision over the next five years,” La Vinia said.

That vision includes the proposed Villages of Fruitland Park, with more than 2,000 homes valued more than $1 billion, according to Villages projections, and about 4,000 new city residents—all of whom could arrive next year.

Commissioners will review the first round of Villages development plans at their meeting Thursday night at 7 p.m.

The project is expected to generate $1 million to $1.4 million in what a former city official called “disposable revenues.” The big question will be how to spend those revenues.

Florida’s Sunshine law prohibits commissioners from discussing city business except in open meetings. La Vinia explained that while he can talk to commissioners to get a feel for individual hopes and plans, Saturday’s public meeting will help key staff understand where the commission as a body wants to go.

He urged commissioners to think beyond immediate needs required to accommodate development of the Villages of Fruitland Park.

“The Villages is on the way, but the Villages is what it is,” La Vinia told commissioners. “The real impact is development outside the Villages,” he said.

Community Development Director Charlie Rector agreed.

“Forget the Villages,” Rector said, “they’ll take care of themselves.” Rector and La Vinia have  held extensive meetings with Villages developers to review plans and negotiate concessions, such as a new sewer line The Villages will build on the north side of C.R. 466A. That project—at a cost of close to $500,000—will open hundreds of acres of property within the city to commercial development, which generates higher tax revenues.

Last month Rector told commissioners that more than 500 new homes planned and approved in Fruitland Park could start development soon. Those homes—planned within projects that went dormant when real estate values plummeted five years ago—are back on the drawing boards.

New development projects now seeking approvals include rental apartment units on a 14-acre site at Spring Lake Road near Poinsettia Ave. and a 72-unit assisted living facility on Miller Street (S.R. 466A) near the city’s center.

Approved projects with renewed activity include:

  • 166 single-family homes at Fruitland Estates, on Urick St. east of Olive and Myrtle Lake avenues;
  • 116 single-family homes at Chelsea’s Run, on Cooke Street, east of U.S. 27/441;
  • 15 single-family homes at Deep Wood, also on Cooke Street west of U.S. 27/441

Rector said an even bigger wave of development is expected to get under way within the next several months along the north side of S.R. 466-A.

The 68-acre tract known as the Bouis property on the northeast corner of Timbertop Lane and S.R. 466-A—diagonally across from the eastern entrance of the proposed Villages of Fruitland Park—recently changed hands and Rector said he expects development applications to start soon.

The Bouis property is the largest single tract on the north side of S.R. 466-A and Rector said smaller land owners will likely wait to see what developers propose before planning any additional improvements.

“I would anticipate commercial development there, probably retail, and probably a shopping center to serve the new Villages of Fruitland Park,” Rector said.

Rector told commissioners yesterday that his office is fielding calls from developers every day.

“I spend hours on the phone every day now with property owners and developers who want to talk over their options,” Rector said. “It’s like a horse race. They’re all lining up at the gate and we’re waiting to see who’s the first off the line,” he said, “and every new conversation starts with The Villages,” Rector said.

Commissioners took about two hours to outline their five-year plan and prioritize Capital Improvements projects. They include:

  1. Improvements to the city’s wastewater facilities;
  2. Improvements and expansion of the city’s water facilities;
  3. Street paving projects throughout the city;
  4. A new Public Works facility;
  5. A new community center complex where the city’s century-old Casino now stands;
  6. Recreation department expansion;
  7. A new swimming pool north of Miller Blvd. (CR 466A);
  8. A combination Visitors Center, Chamber of Commerce Office and Historical Museum, to be housed in a building the city already owns
  9. Design standards for new development  that will focus on ‘enhancements’ such as fencing, signage, and functional improvements such as service roads that will allow developers ample leeway to design appealing projects

One Response to Commissioners Brainstorm Five-Year Growth Plan at Saturday Workshop Session

  1. L Reply

    July 12, 2014 at 5:27 am

    The Casino was donated to the people. Not to the city.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>