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Friday, September 29, 2023

Neighbors Say NIMBY To Proposal to Rezone WH Residential Unit to Mixed Use

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Neighbors Say NIMBY To Proposal to Rezone WH Residential Unit to Mixed Use

by James Coulter

Located at 1103 Fifth Street SE in Winter Haven, this 1,792-square-foot single family home was constructed in 1966 and has remained relatively unchanged since then.

Now, a local developer wishes to convert the building into a mixed-use unit with an office space on the first floor and a residential unit on the second.

However, some of the neighbors are saying “not in my backyard” to this proposal, and one of them spoke before the city commission to say as much.

During the Winter Haven City Commission, one local resident, speaking on behalf of himself and his neighbors, took to the floor during public comments to urge commissioners not to consider rezoning the proposed residential unit.

On Monday evening, city commissioners considered the first reading of an ordinance that would rezone a parcel at 1103 Fifth Street SE from Single Family Residential Small Lot (R-2) zoning district to Mixed Use (MX) zoning district.

William Wright Sparling Irrevocable Trust had petitioned the rezoning change, according to the city memo, “for the purpose of allowing the existing single-family home to be redeveloped into a mixed-use building with an approximately 832-square foot office on the first floor and a residential unit on the second floor.”

“There are no current plans to further redevelop the property,” the memo stated. “However, should the property be redeveloped in the future, the requested MX zoning could potentially allow up to a maximum of 6 residential units or 13,721 square feet of office or light commercial uses permitted in the MX zoning district.”

However, one lone neighbor objects to this proposal.

Tom Leary, 70, who lives three houses down from the parcel, has been living in that neighborhood since 1989. He considers Winter Haven to be one of the best places in Florida to live. He loves his neighborhood for its peace, tranquility, and light foot traffic–all of which he feels this rezoning could threaten.

“Finding this spot was a gem,” Leary said. “I don’t want anything to ruin it…I want to keep it the way it is. It’s peaceful. It’s comfortable. It’s one of the gems in Winter Haven, one of the reasons we have lived here since 1989. And I wish serious consideration be given to denying this.”

Mayor Brad Dantzler conceded that Leary had a point. The mayor mentioned that allowing this parcel to be rezoned could open the door for other parcels in the neighborhood to be petitioned to be re-zoned similarly.

“He does raise a good point about incrementalism,” Mayor Dantzler said. “If we do approve this, how do we not approve the neighbor? Will we go down the whole row? Is that a logical conclusion?”

Sarah Case from Next Level Planning and Permitting, who is the applicant for the proposed project, took to the stand to defend the proposal.

She mentioned that she and David Sparling from Sparling Family Trust wish to preserve the neighborhood as is without the proposed change becoming a severe detriment. She mentioned it would be up to city staff to ensure that such a domino effect occurs.

“We do not feel this will be a detriment to the neighborhood,” she said. “It will be up to staff to address the domino staff of where they draw the line. I am trusting that staff will do that as well and protect the neighborhood. They are infused in this neighborhood. They do not want to see anything that is a detriment.”

City Commissioners motioned to move the first reading of the proposal to their next meeting on Sep. 12. Case mentioned that she and her partner would be presenting a presentation that delineates precisely the actual lines with zoning and land use for the proposal.

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