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Plant City Observer Thursday, Mar. 22, 2018 6 months ago

Dodson dissents on development details

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Commissioners voted to allow narrower lots and bigger yards in a new single-family housing development.
by: Daniel Figueroa IV Staff Writer

The City Commission, in a rare 4-1 vote last Monday, approved rezoning a new housing development at the northwest section of Alexander Street and Jim Johnson Road to have more narrow lots with larger backyards than previously requested.

The single-family home development was originally slated to have a mixture of 45, 50 and 55-foot wide lots with depths of 90 feet. William Sullivan, of the Potomac Land Company, asked to change the zoning to allow only 45 and 50-foot wide lots with depths of 120 feet. The change, he said, follows trends of narrower side-yards and longer backyards.

“Lifestyles have changed over the course of the years and we’re trying to provide more rear yard space for people versus side-yard space,” Sullivan said. “We’re putting in larger lots so they’ll have bigger backyards to play in and do more things in.”

Sullivan said the homes will likely be in the $200,000 range and cater to first-time buyers and retirees looking to downsize.

Last summer, a Harris Poll online survey for SunTrust Mortgage found that 33% of first-time home buyers ages 18 to 36 said having more yard space for a pet dog was a primary purchase motivator.

The new dimensions change the minimum lot size from 4,500 square feet to 5,400 square feet. Minimum space between buildings was reduced from 15 to 10 feet. Previously, only 60% of the planned 156 lots could be 45 feet wide. The Commission’s vote increases that percentage to 70, or 23 more 45-foot wide lots, meaning most of the lots can be longer, but narrower.

The change in lot sizes did not sit well with Vice-Mayor Bill Dodson, prompting him to vote against the change. Generally the Commission votes as a unit, either fully supporting or denying something once commissioners hear from the community and discuss the topic among themselves. Dissenting votes are a rare occurrence in City Hall.

“I have some pretty serious reservations about the long-term affects of these types of developments. Not only in our community, but in any other community moving in that direction. It seems strictly because of economics there’s more and more of it that way because the developers are saying we can’t afford building on 60-foot lots any longer. They have to have smaller lots with greater density to afford the product they’re putting out.”

Dodson said his decision was a matter of the quality the commission wants to see and the quantity it would allow. Dodson said he can see a developing public safety issue. Narrower lots, he said, mean less space for vehicles and more parking on the street creating issues for emergency service responses. He also said reduced space and more cars could create instances of children playing in streets and running in front of cars. He said he’s already experienced the issue too many times.

Sullivan said that’s exactly why he wants to be able to provide more backyard space.

Commissioner Nate Kilton said supporting these developments is about looking at the big picture, increasing quality of life and weighing pros and cons.

“We have to be open to flexibility in these types of things and understand that it’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “When we do these things, it does add to congestion and there might be a point where Plant City is too busy for me and I understand that. But if we’re talking about things like sustainability and being on the cutting edge…it’s not just how we build…it’s understanding that in order to preserve the heartland of our state we have to make some decisions about putting these types of densities in places where we have existing infrastructure.”

Mayor Rick Lott said he prefers wider lots personally, but the trends throughout the county show more construction on narrower lots. If Plant City wants to attract developers, he said, it must meet the market.

Daniel Figueroa IV is a Staff Writer at the Plant City Times & Observer. He has been covering Plant City since 2017. Previously, he was the politics and veteran affairs reporter at the Ledger of Lakeland. He probably wants to ride motorcycles and trade books with...

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