Commissioners approved the map amendment and the conceptual modifications to the general site development plan of the Varrea Planned Development District.
City commissioners buckled in for a long night Monday as they prepared to approve a variety of agenda items and sat through several public hearings, including a massive conversation about Varrea.
Commissioners were at the dais for nearly four hours. It took two of those four hours for commissioners to agree to move Varrea into the next step. It was broken up into a few different items: first to adopt a map amendment, then to approve conceptual modifications to the general site development plan. Varrea, which is located at the southwest corner of Charlie Taylor and Knights Griffin roads north of I-4 and east of Frazier Lane, is currently approved for 2,640 residential units, 345,000 square feet of commercial, retail and civic use and 50,000 square feet of office use.
One thing that was repeatedly highlighted throughout the evening was that there were no changes proposed to the number of residential units nor to the nonresidential square footage currently approved. That wouldn’t change regardless of what happened Monday evening, so commissioners instead were asked to focus entirely on the the following proposed modifications to the Varrea PD district:
– To modify the development pattern from the TND standards and develop the PD under our PD standards while utilizing the reduced setbacks opportunity available to those developments larger than 350 acres that provide at least 30 percent open space with 10 percent of the open space being usable open space.
– To change the roadway layout and access points to accommodate the new proposed development pattern.
-To expand the Mixed Use Area 1 (northeast area of PD) as per proposed PC/CPA 20-03 Comprehensive Plan Amendment.
-To add a proposed school site to the plan.
-To propose the smallest single-family detached lot be 40 feet wide, but placing a limit on the number of 40-foot wide lots to 582, which is 30 percent of the proposed maximum of 1,940 single family detached and attached units
Varrea committed to having 50 percent of Open Space with at least 10 percent being useable open space “in order to achieve 5-foot side yard setbacks.” But what was repeatedly addressed were concerns about lot sizes, about flooding, about roadways, about the impact on neighbors and about the proposed layout of some major buildings. Varrea, for its part, also had representatives discuss the many concessions it has made with its neighbors to make a community that would work for everyone.
Mayor Rick Lott stressed that the decision Monday evening was just the next step — one of many— and that he felt there were improvements that made this proposal better than what they were already working with. One of his biggest complaints, however, was the location of the proposed school. He said it simply “didn’t make sense” at the proposed spot and felt it would effect the neighbors negatively.
He wants to see Varrea move that site, but said with all the concessions it made with the neighbors to the development that this was “the best plan moving forward,” and added he would hate to not approve it and then all of the concessions moving forward would be lost.
“I’m going to support this, but I don’t want it to just be an effort on the part of moving the school. If we need to help you we are very close to the school board, we can help you deal with that, OK?” Lott said. “Trust me, we can support that effort. We have over 1,000 acres. We can find another location.”
Commissioner Bill Dodson brought up a concern he also shared with the North Park Isle Development: lot sizes. He said he respectfully appreciates all the views of his colleagues on the commission, that they had very similar conversations with this development that they had with North Park Isle and seemed to get the same response. However, he added that he believes they must make decisions based on community values and not just market decisions. On that note, he repeatedly said there were too many 40-foot lots with 30-foot homes being placed on them. In his opinion, that was not a community he felt represented Plant City.
“I value the quality of growth more than I value the quantity of growth, and that’s the bottom line of how I feel about it. So I have to place my vote going forward with staying with quality over quantity,” Dodson said.
Commissioners approved the map amendments 4 to 1 with Dodson dissenting. They also approved the conceptual modifications to the general site development plan, 4 to 1, with Dodson dissenting. If you would like to review the details of the proposal, you can stream the meeting at the City of Plant City Government’s YouTube channel.
“I always like to simplify things,” City Manager Bill McDaniel told the Observer. “What you saw (Monday) was that Varrea dropped a green flag. The race has begun, but we aren’t anywhere near the end of the race. All of those discussions you were hearing about the concerns about the roads, about flooding, even about the school — all of those conversations are still ahead of us. They will have to address those in the future. There is still quite a ways to go. All we did Monday was let the race begin.”