With housing demand strong and available inventory at record lows, more new homes are in the review process for Lakeland.
The city’s Board of Commissioners approved unanimously a preliminary development plan Thursday, July 8, for the 80-acre Heathfield on Scott’s Creek residential project between Old Brownsville and Seed Tick roads north of U.S. 70. An outline plan for the 118-lot project was approved by the board in March.
Commissioner Wesley Wright previously opposed the project but voted “a calculated yes” at the meeting.
“I had reservations, but I felt comfortable on the designs even though I’m still not a fan of the lot sizes and exposed density,” he said.
The proposal features 24 suburban estate lots larger than 17,500 square feet, 81 suburban manor lots larger than 10,000 square feet and 13 suburban cottage lots larger than 5,500 square feet.
The approval came with conditions, including making sure the Lakeland Design Review Commission could review the placement and landscaping around the neighborhood’s cluster mailboxes.
The U.S. Postal Service’s requirement for cluster boxes in new developments has been a controversial issue. Heathfield developer Trey Sowell, owner of Acorn Development and Sowell Investment Group and president of the West Tennessee Home Builders Association, attended the association’s government affairs meeting earlier July 8.
“Congressman (David) Kustoff has signed on to a bill addressing this, asking or mandating that the post office remove this requirement,” Sowell said. Kustoff, R-Germantown, pulled his own bill addressing the issue and signed on with U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Knoxville.
At the city’s request, the developer also narrowed the number of architectural styles used in the Heathfield project.
“The intent is to allow our architects and builders to explore good architecture in these disciplines…and to provide interest in the neighborhood and the community as opposed to producing a tract-type, cookie-cutter development,” Sowell said.
The board also voted 5-0 for an amendment to the preliminary development plan for The Lake District southeast of the Interstate 40-Canada Road junction. Changes include adding a meandering sidewalk to the northeastern area of the site and adding some dark-sky streetlight fixtures to the mix.
The board approved unanimously new multi-family amendments prohibiting apartment projects in the city’s four commercial districts and limiting them in residentially zoned areas.
Current regulations allow 43 units per acre, and Lakeland Planning Director Richard Donovan has proposed reducing that number to 12 units per acre to discourage building apartments.
“Multifamily, with it being removed from commercial, is only allowed in one district throughout the city,” Donovan explained at a board work session last week. “If that were the case, right now today, you’re looking at about 43 units per acre that would be allowed. To me or to someone else, that says we really want apartments. That’s a large number. That’s atypical of a city the size of Lakeland.”
Once the city’s moratorium on new apartment projects ends in October 2022, the city would control allowing apartments everywhere except for three parcels zoned R7, which would still allow for apartment construction. Only one of those three parcels — a mobile home park on New Canada Road — is large enough for concern.
“I think the citizens out there just want zero (apartments) in the future, so we’ll work towards that,” Commissioner Richard Gonzales said.
The changes will be temporary fixes until the city creates a new comprehensive development plan and reexamines its regulations over the next couple of years.