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Lakeland City Commissioners Vote To Increase Building Heights

City of Lakeland/Facebook
Residents of Lakeland's historic districts oppose taller building heights approved by city commissioners.

Lakeland’s historic district, peppered with low-to-the-ground bungalow-style homes covered by a thick canopy of trees, could start to feel the effects of the city’s growing urban presence.

City commissioners voted Monday to increase the height limit of multi-family buildings to 55 feet in areas between Interstate 4 and Polk Parkway. There is another proposal to increase another area’s maximum building height to 70 feet.

Residents of the historic districts have made their opinions clear to city officials.

“Many of the neighborhoods feel that they would lose their character if you’ve got a bungalow next to a four-or-five-story building,” said Lakeland spokesman Kevin Cook. “That neighborhood charm and character, they want to maintain that quality of life.”

At the meeting, commissioners unanimously voted to exclude historic districts of Lakeland from the new building rules. This may seem like a victory for residents in historic parts of the city, but the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association took to Facebook to warn its members that the fight isn’t over yet.

“This is great news, but it is not the end,” said the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association in a post. “There is still an appetite on behalf of virtually all of the commissioners to increase building heights in the Garden District…Some commissioners will push for 70 feet limits there.”

The Lake Morton Neighborhood Association sent a letter to city commissioners before the decision citing problems with the city’s plan.

“The City Commission should recognize that Lakeland’s urban historic districts are different than other, more suburban areas,” said the association in the letter. “And that a one-size fits all approach is not appropriate.”

The letter went on to ask that commissioners work with residents to help identify the best areas to construct taller multi-family buildings.

According to The Ledger in Lakeland, residents are already getting ready to oppose commissioners in the next meeting. The commission heard a proposal Monday to create a “special public interest zoning district” to expand housing options. The proposal includes increasing the maximum height to 70 feet for multi-family buildings in one area.

The commission will meet again on Aug. 6 to vote on the proposal.

Sam Newlon interning as a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news reporter for spring 2018.
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