The modifications will likely be reviewed by the City Commission in April.
It was 2006 when the North Park Isles Community District was first approved for 397 acres at the end of Park Road.
But since then, Plant City residents said, things have changed.
Residents who live near the site spoke about their concerns with the planned district at the Planning Board meeting Thursday, March 17. The Planning Board approved increasing the number of dwelling units in North Park Isles from 947 units to 1,219 units following comments from residents. The board also approved changing the name from the North Park Isles Community District to the North Park Isles Planned Development District.
Updates & Modifications
Though the community was first approved a decade ago, the housing market crash prevented the owners from beginning construction.
Devon Rushnell, who is part of the applicant team, has been involved with the North Park Isles project since 2004.
“After the market crash, the project went on to the back burner,” Rushnell said.
He added that because the price of development has increased, reducing the setbacks on each unit and increasing the number of units in the community makes North Park Isles a viable project once again.
“It’s going to be a beautiful development, as long as we stay out of wetlands as best we can,” Rushnell said.
When the community was first approved, North Park Isles had the traditional setbacks. The 60-foot by 80-foot lots had setbacks of 20 feet in front of the lot, 10 feet on each side of the lot and 30 feet on the back of each lot. As part of the Planning Board’s approval of the modifications to North Park Isles, the units in the community will have yard setbacks of about five feet.
Additional modifications to the community include providing more recreational open areas and adding a row of cottage-type lots with rear alley access. Each lot will be 30-feet by 40-feet.
The proposed changes required that an additional transportation study would be done on the community. The study was completed in February by Sprinkle Consulting Inc. It was determined that before the first certificate of occupancy is issued, a specialized dual northbound left turn lane must be added at North Park Road and Sam Allen Road. A westbound right tun lane also will be added at North Maryland Avenue.
Additional requirements may be determined by Hillsborough County, or by the Florida Department of Transportation.
All units in North Park Isles must connect to the City of Plant City’s water and sewer services. The community also must provide reclaimed water.
“This has been a long journey,” Jamie Davis, who represented the applicant party, said. “This is what we believe to be a very unique property in the making. This is a beautiful area of Plant City. We believe this will be a real tribute to Plant City.”
What about the wetlands?
Prior to the Planning Board’s approval of the modifications to North Park Isles, residents who lived near the property expressed their concern with building on the area’s wetlands.
One of the primary reasons that construction in North Park Isles didn’t begin in 2006 was because the 397-acre community consists of 291 acres of floodplains, 134 of which are wetlands. The area is mostly herbaceous in the center, and the western part of the property is the wettest.
Plant City resident Larry Granger has 20 acres adjacent to the property, and is concerned about potential flooding.
“These ponds won’t hold water that goes through there now,” Granger said. “It spreads over the whole property … creeks and rivers can’t handle it.”
Laurie Milam has similar concerns. She has 70 acres that back up to the North Park Isles property.
“My concern is the water,” Milam said. “We are flooded now when it rains. It’s impossible to drive back there during heavy rain. I don’t know if they can have enough ponds in there to built to withstand water runoff.”
But, as the Planning Board told residents, building on wetlands must undergo strict regulations. All aspects of the building process for North Park Isles must be approved by the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission, as well as other similar agencies.
“I’ve seen this type of thing many, many times,” Assistant City Engineer Terry Ritter said. “What I can tell you is that when you design these types of projects, you realize flooding is an issue. They do have to maintain some flood capacity on the site as they did before.”
Ritter added that he anticipates that flooding will not occur on the site.
“I have a lot of confidence in what they’ve done,” he added. “I believe the project can be done.”
Nate Kilton, who serves on the Planning Board, added that the project had already been approved, and that the board was only reviewing a procedural change to determine if the modifications to the community would be consistent with the City of Plant City’s Comprehensive Plan. Even if the Planning Board did not approve the modifications, which still must be approved by the City Commission, the owners of North Park Isles are still pre-approved to build 947 units.
“We’re only looking at the comprehensive plan,” Kilton said. “You’ve got such a beautiful property like this, but it’s a challenge being a few miles from the interstate. The dilemma is, how do we accomplish preserving environmental areas while still growing? We’re trying to find that balance.”
All members of the Planning Board approved the modifications. Principal Planner Phillip Scearce said that the City Commission will most likely review the modifications sometime in April, though the dates are subject to change.
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