The Lakeland Planning Board today approved several changes to a 300-unit apartment complex planned for Airport Road at the entrance to Carillon Lakes: Buildings will be fewer but taller than originally planned, and for now, hoped-for access on Airport Road will be for emergency vehicles only.
The “minor alteration” to the Parkway Preserve apartment complex approved by the Lakeland Planning & Zoning Board will allow for six four-story and one three-story buildings instead of the previously approved nine three-story structures.
But despite council’s 3-1 approval, access to the proposed 29.3-acre resort remains a contentious issue with residents of Carillon Lakes, a community mostly aged 55 and over made up of 650 single-family people and attached homes and townhouses in rapidly developing Southwest Lakeland.
Parkway Preserve is planned for a now vacant lot west of Airport Road and south of Carillon Lakes Boulevard. It will be across Airport Road from Publix Headquarters.
As part of the tentatively approved site plan amendment, access to Parkway Preserve will be via Carillon Lakes Boulevard and will be shared with the gated community behind.
Attorney Timothy Campbell, who represents the developer Matcon Building Services of Tampa, said a second entrance on Airport Road serving Parkway Preserve is “not feasible for the project and not necessary to service the development.”
Campbell said the resort will have “emergency access from Airport Road” to provide exit onto the property exclusively for emergency vehicles only.
Matcon worked with the Carillion Lakes Homeowners Association and the Florida Department of Transportation to set up a separate entrance on Airport Road, he said.
The first proposal was rejected. Ultimately, the DOT determined that an entrance to Parkway Preserve is not necessary, but could be installed under a proportional sharing agreement with the homeowners association.
Matcon offered a $50,000 contribution for a second entry before it was determined it would cost around $300,000, Campbell said, adding, “Instead of saying we don’t, we decided to share” with an optional contribution.
“We wanted to be on the table, so we came up with that ‘before’ we subsequently learned the final numbers” for a second entry, Campbell said.
Although talks with the owners’ association continue, that $50,000 offer stands, he said, noting that if the owners’ association wants a second entry, they would have to pay most of it.
“Traffic access via Carillon Boulevard is appropriate. We provide a right-turn lane” on southbound Airport Road, Campbell said. “The association has declared that it has no objection to this request. It has been approved by the (planning) staff; determined that improvements to the site plan are adequate. It was always planned that access to this project would be via Carillon Boulevard. I anticipate (a second entry) will be no more feasible for the association than for Parkway Preserve.
The approved site plan amendment will allow Matcon to build seven apartment buildings instead of nine. Six of the seven will have four stories, up to 55 feet high, rather than three stories capped at 40 feet high.
Last January, the Lakeland City Commission approved Matcon’s proposed 300-unit apartment complex following a heated six-hour hearing that forced the city to lease Sikes Hall in the RP Funding Center. The site had already been approved for 142 townhouses.
Planner Phillip Scearce said the changes “move” buildings south on the plot and provide more open space without increasing density and provide the possibility of a second Parkway Preserve entrance on Airport Road as part of the a cost-sharing agreement.
“We met the association. We have good communications with the association,” Campbell said. “The association has seen the plan and has no objection to this plan. We are happy to be at this stage, moving forward.
Carillon Lakes Homeowner Association board member George Lussier said council and residents had many objections but few options.
“We’re not all happy, but we understand resistance is futile,” Lussier said, noting that the DOT approved a second entry as “a cost-shared venture.” (Matcon) said they would be willing to do their part – if we paid them $250,000. Mr. Campbell has a knack for making a sow’s ear ring like a silk purse.
“It has nothing to do with a cow or a pig,” Campbell said. “If it’s important enough for you to control (access), then that’s what our offer was. It’s not a good option. That’s why we pass it on and donate ($50,000) to the association.
Planning board members questioned why Parkway Preserve, with average monthly rents of $1,800 that will generate approximately $6 million a year, has determined that $300,000 for an Airport Road entrance is “not feasible” and said that despite interim approval, access is still a negotiable issue and will be further considered.
Medical Marijuana Facility
Matcon’s site plan change was among several issues on Wednesday’s agenda that concerned residents of Carillon Lakes, including the prospect of a second large commercial marijuana plant adjoining the subdivision.
JPRI representative Matthew Baker said the warehouse’s garage bays, windows, and closed-loop air vents “are all angled away from the neighborhood to dampen noise and odors.” The building would act as a buffer.
Baker said the ventilation and exhaust of marijuana plants is “something (JPRI) takes very seriously” with “100% (of the activity) occurring within the building.” In fact, he said, the marijuana will be grown “in a building within a building” with an HVAC system that will clean the air before exhausting it.
Lussier said JPRI’s proposed plant would be “the second pot-growing facility on our border and I can tell you we’re smelling pot-growing” from an operation on near Hamilton Road, just outside city limits.
Another Carillon Lakes resident said the plant would add to traffic problems and “the smell on Hamilton. You’re in the car and the overwhelming smell of cannabis skunk overwhelms you.
Assistant City Attorney Jerrod Simpson said the city’s main concern is how to handle odor complaints. The best tact, he said, is to manage it through the code enforcement process and, perhaps, to require those operations to include “an odor reduction plan” with their proposals.
Simpson expressed reservations about the number of conditions the city can impose on commercial marijuana operations, as “express provisions can be preempted” by the state, which is Florida’s primary industry regulator.
Whether the smell is coming from a factory inside the city or outside of it “really doesn’t make much difference to us,” Lussier said, predicting, “We’ll end up in a situation “where the two operators “stand there and point at each other” when there are complaints and nothing happens. We’re not really excited.
Baker said the building was designed in coordination with the Carillon Lakes Homeowners Association “over a decade ago” and the plant would be at least 1,000 feet from the nearest Carillon Lake home. There are homes in the housing estate that are about 140 feet from the Hamilton Road plant, he said.
He did, however, agree to appear before the commission again on February 19 with an odor reduction plan.
Lussier said Carillon Lakes is increasingly surrounded by traffic jams and the “constant noise” of trucks and planes, and “our new neighbor is a pot farm, so the smell of pot wafts through on a windy day. “.
“We are being offered taller buildings where trees once stood,” he said. “No more noise and smell. More danger for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. More roofs than treetops. Are we supposed to believe this is progress?