Clear Springs Construction A Step Closer

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Protecting Our Resources

I’m excited to report on a planning effort that is producing visible and very positive results.

Because of the importance of the Peace River to Southwest Florida’s economy and ecology, the 2003 Florida Legislature directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and others to develop a management plan to minimize or compensate for negative impacts that have occurred over the years.

The resulting Peace River Basin Resource Management Plan was published in March 2007.

The Peace River is a dominant ecological feature in Southwest Florida, flowing from Saddle and Peace Creeks in Polk County on its way south through agricultural and mining areas to Charlotte Harbor.
It establishes much of the area’s natural character, provides extraordinary recreational opportunities, and drives the local economy.

One successful consequence of implementing the plan is the cooperative effort developed between DEP and the Clear Springs Land Company, which recently resulted in common-sense limitations on future urban development in the upper Peace River basin. In November, the Department of Community Affairs approved the City of Bartow’s comprehensive plan amendment creating Clear Springs Conservation – a land use category to protect the river’s wetlands and floodplains.

Clear Springs owns nearly 18,000 acres annexed by Bartow.

The Peace River and a major tributary, Peace Creek Canal, traverse the property.

Along with its other virtues, the river is a source of drinking water for central and south Florida.

The new conservation designation will buffer the main stem of the river and include a 700-acre basin along the canal to protect water quality and serve as a surface water storage area.

The company’s original development plans could have allowed industrial, commercial and high density residential development in the wetlands and floodplain areas.

But, after consultation with DEP staff, Clear Springs chose to modify the original plan in order to safeguard the river, canal and floodplain.

Stakeholder cooperation works and, when it works, everyone benefits.

The Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority is another example of cooperation and progress. Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee and Sarasota counties work collectively to provide an average of 18 million gallons of high quality water every day for some 750,000 area residents.

The Authority draws water from the Peace River only when flows are adequate, treats it and stores it underground until needed, thus preserving the river and generating an alternative source of water that also conserves area ground water.

The most recent Peace River Basin Management Advisory Committee meeting took place January 15 in Sarasota and focused on the progress agriculture is making in protecting the basin.

This is largely being achieved through the implementation of agricultural best management practices for citrus, row crops, cow/calf operations, and sod farms.

These practices involve careful fertilizer use and judicious water management, among other things, to maximize crop production while minimizing environmental impact.

We encourage you to join us in protecting and restoring the river. The task before us will take commitment and resolve from committee members and everyone living in the area.

If you want to help develop and guide the actions to improve and preserve the Peace River Basin, I invite you to participate. Information is available at http://www.dep. state.fl.us/water/mines/prbmac.htm.

Mimi Drew is Deputy Secretary for Regulatory Programs for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

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Clear Springs Plan Moving Forward

Development plans for the first 7,606 acres of the approximately 17,600 acres of Clear Springs Land Co. property are moving through the series of regulatory approvals required for what will be the largest single development in Bartow’s history.

In development terms, the city commission has approved the “detailed specific area plan.” The Clear Springs project is one of five authorized by the Legislature to be processed under a new development concept called an “optional sector plan.”

Most of the land is east of U.S. Highway 17.

A centralized Town Center commercial area will serve residents of the area. The purpose is to serve those residents, and not to compete with existing businesses, according to Planning Dir. Robert Wiegers.

Georgiann Ratliff of Wilson Miller, Inc., lead planner for the development, said the plan calls for a mixed use community, to include the Polk Community College corporate campus, a research corporate park, industrial development, residential areas, commercial services, schools and parks, recreation and open space, and agricultural operations.

Adam Carnegie, a planner with Wilson Miller, said the research corporate park will have 478 acres. Within that parcel will be the PCC corporate college training center.

A parcel of 1,365 acres is designated for industrial development.

The commercial parcels comprise 180 acres, 77 acres of it in the Town Center.

The plan designates 440 acres of recreation and open space, with 778 acres of wetlands and 563 acres of water bodies.

Conservation lands embrace 1,165 acres.

The plan calls for greenways and bicycle and pedestrian trails.

Residential development will cover 2,639 acres.

The plan sets aside 77 acres for two schools.

The project will have 21.27 miles of roadways.

Construction of the first phase is projected to take 10 years.

Population of the first phase of the Clear Springs development is projected at 6,300.

The development is estimated to create 7,900 jobs, Carnegie told the commission.

Ultimately, the developers project the population of the entire Clear Springs area to be about 21,000.

Except for PCC Corporate College, the first five years will be devoted primarily to planning, engineering, and zoning, Carnegie said.

Pat Steed, executive director of the Central Florida Regional Planning Council, said special attention was given to ensuring that land uses next to Bartow Municipal Airport will be compatible with the airport.

At a public hearing on the plan, Gerald Cochran predicted “more problems than these people are talking about down the road.”

He said the project will put a strain on the area’s water supply, especially downstream on the Peace River.

He asked who would maintain the roads after they are built.

Cochran also asked how the development would affect the city’s tax base.

Mayor James F. Clements said that would depend on values set by the county property appraiser.

Betty Lattimore, who lives on 80 Foot Road, said people who live in her neighborhood moved there to escape residential encroachment.

She said she would like to see more agricultural use in the area.

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Carnegie said most of the agricultural area is south of Bartow.

Smaller agricultural parcels will be located in other areas, he said.

Pete Hubbel of Water Resource Associates said the Clear Springs development will not reduce the quantity or quality of water to the south.

Commissioner Wayne Lewis commended the developer for seeking public input into its planning.

“We look forward to continuing to work with y’all,” Mayor James F. Clements told the Clear Springs development team.

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First Phase of Clear Springs To Include 10,000 Homes, Town Center Shopping Area

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p>Development plans for the first 7,600 acres of Clear Springs Land Co. property, to include nearly 10,000 homes, a Town Center shopping development, and enough industrial and commercial activity to provide nearly 8,000 jobs, was approved by the Bartow Zoning Board on Monday.

In development terms, it’s called a detailed specific area plan, and it is the next step in the planned 30-year development of the more than 17,000 acres of Clear Springs property.

The detailed specific area plan — DSAP for short — begins to provide details for the “optional sector plan” approved earlier this year that set forth the general concept for the Clear Springs development.

The initial 7,600 acres selected for development are east of U.S. Highway 17 and the Peace River. “This becomes the future land use plan,” Planning Dir. Robert Wiegers told the board. “The end point will be development of a community, another part of Bartow.”

Build-out of this phase is expected to take 10 years, with most of the construction taking place in the second five years.
The next step in the development plan will be zoning changes and commercial site plans, Wiegers said.

“This is the second step in a process that still has a long way to go.”

The plan calls for 9,998 dwelling units on 2,639 acres.

It is the intent of Stan Phelps, the Greenwich, Conn., entrepreneur who bought the land and is overseeing development, that the project will provide jobs for people who live in it.

The property also includes the Polk Community College parcel on State Road 60 and commercial land uses near Bartow Municipal Airport.

The Clear Springs Town Center is planned just south of Connerville. Wiegers compared it to the sprawling Lakeside Village off Harden Boulevard in Lakeland

The concept is to complement Bartow’s existing commercial district, not to compete with it, Wiegers said.

Bartow’s water use permit has been increased by enough capacity to support the first phase of the Clear Springs development for 10 years, he said.

The city is planning an expansion to its wastewater treatment plant that will have the capacity to serve Clear Springs, he said.

Eventually, two new elementary schools and a new middle school will be needed to serve the development.

Additional police and fire personnel will be needed eventually to protect the area.

Georganne Ratliff, a planner for the Clear Springs development, said the detailed specific area plan begins the process of spelling out the development plans for the next 10 years. Several state agencies and the Central Florida Regional Planning Council will have 60 days to review the plans after they area submitted by the city. The final planning step will be rezoning of the parcels, Ms. Ratliff said.

Adam Carnegie, another planner, said the DSAP reserves sites for schools. There are 2,023 acres designated for industrial and commercial uses and a research industrial park. Carnegie said 7,938 jobs will be needed to support people living in the residential area.

Recreation and open space uses are allocated 440 acres, and 1,165 acres are designated as conservation lands, much of it along the banks of the Peace River.

Another 778 acres are designated as wetlands, and there are 563 acres of water bodies and 92 acres of greenways.
Paths and trails will be developed in the greenways, Carnegie said. The developer’s target for indoor use of potable water is 90 gallons per person per day. Part of the residential area will be set aside for “affordable housing.” Development will be low in the first five years, Carnegie said, as the planning process continues.

Pat Steed of the Central Florida Regional Planning Council said major issues addressed by the developer include natural resources, soil conditions, water resources, schools and public facilities, housing in a variety of types, fiscal impact on the city, transportation, airport compatibility, urban form that is complementary to the existing city, intergovernmental coordination, and public participation.

An array of federal, state, regional, and county agencies have been involved in the planning process. Transportation planning is a major consideration, Ms. Steed said, and a detailed transportation plan has been prepared.

Dan O’Neal, who lives just beyond the northeast corner of the Clear Springs property, was the only person who spoke at a public hearing on the DSAP.He expressed concern about the traffic impacts created by industrial development near his home. At present, the land is agricultural and woodlands, he said.

Zoning Board Member Cliff Daniels asked if future land development code changes in the city could be applied to the Clear Springs plan, noting wording in the DSAP that would appear to override any other city regulations.

Wiegers said he believes that much of what goes into the Clear Springs planning will be incorporated into code changes that the city will make.

Carnegie said the intent of the language is to ensure that higher standards proposed by Clear Springs will not be overridden by less restrictive standards in the city code.

The zoning board voted unanimously to recommend to the city commission that the plan be approved.

The board also recommended adoption of a comprehensive plan amendment to correct an omission in the earlier adoption of the Clear Springs optional sector plan and to clarify and correct other wording.

The city commission will act on the recommendations at its Dec. 15 meeting.

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Clear Springs ‘Sector Plan,’ Metro on Main Development, Approved by Commission

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p>A hearing on the largest development in Bartow history drew little public interest Monday night, but a 1.4-acre mixed use development on West Main Street at Mill Avenue drew skeptical comments from two neighbors.

Bartow city commissioners approved both, along with several other planning and zoning actions.

First to be approved was Metro on Main, a planned development with retail, office, and residential uses, including a restaurant, on a vacant parcel of land at Main and Mill.

William Likely, II, president of Nu-Era Construction, and Jahi Wright, chief operating officer, outlined plans for the project.

The development “will be sensitive” to downtown Bartow’s historic heritage, Likely said.

Lofts will be built on upper floors over the businesses.

Two buildings will be built in two phases, Likely said: the first facing Main Street, the second behind the first.

Wright said either pre-engineered metal buildings, masonry construction, or a combination could be built on the site.

Likely said it will take several months to get all the permits for the project, and another year to build it.

Matt Kovschak, an attorney for adjoining landowners, expressed concern abut the stormwater runoff. The city should monitor stormwater permits, he said.

He said the underground stormwater system proposed for the development could cost half as much as the construction itself.

Flooding on the property already is a problem, he said.

He also said the increased traffic generated by the project “is begging for disaster.”

Likely called on Sara Case, an engineer for the project, to talk about the drainage process.

She said the Southwest Florida Water Management District will not allow the developer to create a drainage problem.

Kelly B. Hardwick, whose law office is across the street from the development, said his main concern is that the site is the lowest acreage in the area, and that flooding sometimes requires blocking of traffic on Main Street.

He questioned the ability of underground “drainage chambers” to handle stormwater runoff.

He urged the commission to make issuance of SWFWMD permits a condition of the development.

Ms. Case said the issue before the commission was zoning, and that the city will not issue a building permit until SWFWMD approves the project.

Commissioner Pat Huff called the development “a pretty innovative project.”

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rezoning.

Hampton Inn
Commissioners approved a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning requested by Ashley Glen Corp. for the site of a Hampton Inn hotel and adjoining office and retail development on Old Eagle Lake Road at Wilson Avenue.

Ms. Case said the Hampton Inn will be an 89-room hotel. Tenants for the commercial outparcel have not been identified.

Robert Leynes said he has a problem with the main entrance being on Old Eagle Lake Road. He said it should be from Wilson Avenue.

Ms. Case said the Bartow city staff would not permit an entrance from Wilson Avenue, and that a Tampa Electric Co. easement across the property also would prohibit access from Wilson Avenue.

Commissioner Adrian Jackson also expressed concerns over the entrance location.

Commissioners voted unanimously to pass the ordinances.

Clear Springs
Approved without opposition from the audience was the Clear Springs Land Co. “optional sector plan conceptual overlay,” changing zoning on its property from phosphate mining, the designation under the Polk County zoning code, to agricultural use under Bartow’s zoning.

Clear Springs owns 17,676 acres of property – most of it reclaimed phosphate land – which stretches from Bartow Municipal Airport north of Bartow, going down the east side of the city, and wrapping around the south side of town.

Planning Dir. Robert Wiegers said the plan sets forth “guiding principles” for the development. The agricultural designation will be changed as each element of the plan is implemented.

It is one of only five “optional sector plans” authorized by the Legislature for large-scale developments in Florida, Wiegers said.

Georgianne Ratliff of WilsonMiller, one of the project planners, said a parcel of 200 acres has been deleted from the plan because of a question over ownership of that acreage.

She said that “good mixed use communities” will be developed, with residential, retail and office uses.

Neighborhoods will be connected by “greenways” with a minimum housing density of three homes per acre.

Parks and recreation lands will be set aside.

Commissioner Adrian Jackson asked about water to serve the development.

Pete Hubbell, who developed the water management plan for Clear Springs, said that 2.5 million gallons per day will be needed in the first 10 years of a planned 20-year build-out.

A “dual line system” to supply water to the property will be installed, with one line used to allow for reuse water for irrigation.

John Anderson, who lives in Connersville, said Clear Springs “is being a good neighbor to our community.”

The company has held community meetings to keep people aware of what is planned, and has completed reclamation along 91 Mine Road, he said.

The company furnished heavy equipment and manpower to do work on property of First Baptist Church of Lake Garfield, he said.

“We appreciate them as neighbors,” he said.

Wiegers thanked Pat Steed of the Central Florida Regional Planning Council for that agency’s help with the Clear Springs plan.

Commissioners unanimously approved the plan.

School Sites
Commissioners approved a comp plan amendment and rezoning of school board property from residential to institutional for the balance of the land at Summerlin Academy on the southeast corner of the Bartow High School campus.

Bill Read told commissioners the land is in the 100-year floodplain.

A similar comp plan amendment was approved on the campus of the new Spessard Holland Elementary School on U.S. Highway 98 north of Bartow.

Lyle Parkway
Commissioners passed an ordinance rezoning 104 acres of land on Lyle Parkway from agricultural to low density residential and classifying 16 acres of wetlands as conservation lands.

The land is owned by Jack and Bet James, who have said they have no immediate plans for development.

The plan calls for a maximum density of 2.9 units per acre.

Tracy Mullins, a consultant for the owners, said the change would be the “highest and best use” for the property.

Water Supply Plan
Commissioners also approved incorporation of the city’s 10-year water supply plan into the comprehensive plan.

No expansion of the city’s water treatment plant will be needed for at least five years, Wiegers said. That need will have to be studied on an annual basis beginning in 2013, he said.

The city now has a permit to pump 4.4 million gallons per day, while the plant has the capacity to pump 8 million gallons per day, he said.

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Clear Springs Workshop Set on Roads, Plan, Corporate College

Dr. Eileen Holden, president of Polk Communtiy College, and representatives of the team planning two proposed new roads, Bartow Northern Connector and the Central Polk Parkway, will be featured at an upcoming Clear Springs Public Workshop.

The workshop will be held on Thursday June 19, at 6 p.m. at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch at 3350 State Road 60 East.

It also will feature an update by the Clear Springs staff and consultant team on the plans in progress and offer the opportunity for participants to ask questions and make suggestions about the Clear Springs Sector Plan.

Holden will report on the progress of the plans for a new Corporate College program being funded by the Clear Springs Project, as part of its corporate park development plan.
The Bartow Northern Connector is a new roadway being developed by Polk County that will connect U.S. 98, U.S. 17, and State Road 60 near the Clear Springs project.

The Central Polk Parkway, under study by the Florida Department of Transportation, may connect State Road 60 west to the Polk Parkway and east to U.S. Highway 27. These new roadways would impact the area near the Clear Springs sector plan site in East Bartow.

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Clear Springs Workshop Has Guest Speakers

Dr. Eileen Holden, president of Polk Communtiy College, and representatives of the team planning two proposed new roads, Bartow Northern Connector and the Central Polk Parkway, will be featured at an upcoming Clear Springs Public Workshop.

The workshop will be held on Thursday June 19, at 6 p.m. at the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch at 3350 State Road 60 East.

It also will feature an update by the Clear Springs staff and consultant team on the plans in progress and offer the opportunity for participants to ask questions and make suggestions about the Clear Springs Sector Plan.

Holden will report on the progress of the plans for a new Corporate College program being funded by the Clear Springs Project, as part of its corporate park development plan.
The Bartow Northern Connector is a new roadway being developed by Polk County that will connect U.S. 98, U.S. 17, and State Road 60 near the Clear Springs project.

The Central Polk Parkway, under study by the Florida Department of Transportation, may connect State Road 60 west to the Polk Parkway and east to U.S. Highway 27. These new roadways would impact the area near the Clear Springs sector plan site in East Bartow.

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Phelps Reaffirms $12 Million Pledge For PCC Campus

Even though the Florida Legislature did not appropriate matching funds, Stan Phelps, owner of Clear Springs Land Co., said his offer for 20 acres of land and $12 million to build a branch campus for Polk Community College still stands.

The gift reportedly is the largest ever made to a Florida community college.

The land and money is for an “advanced global technology center” to be built just east of Bartow on part of the 17,676 acres of Clear Springs land annexed into the city limits.

The center would train a labor force for the high tech industries that Phelps plans to recruit.

In a letter to Dr. Eileen Holden, president of the college, Phelps said:

“Eileen, I know that you have worked very hard toward the realization of this vital project and I have every confidence in your ability to see the Center through to fruition.

“I, along with Clear Springs’ staff, remain available to support and assist in any way possible.”

The gift was made in the assumption that the Legislature would provide a $12 million match for the center.

The $12 million was the largest single item in the “facility enhancement challenge grant program” submitted to the Legislature by the Florida Community College System. The total request was for $46,204,000.

The Legislature appropriated only $8,810,309, more than half for Dade-Miami, and about one fourth for Indian River.

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Friday Fest Will Be Blue . . . berry

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p>Bartow’s monthly Friday Fest will be held on May 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. along East Main Street and Central Avenue in Downtown Bartow.

Bartow’s Clear Springs will sponsor this month’s event, which features live music by Band Haven, and blueberry samples for the community.

The fifth grade class of Linda Hughes at Bartow Elementary Academy will share experiences from a blueberry growing project, and the water slide will return for children.

Food and refreshments also will be available. Friday Fest is held on the third Friday of every month. For more information, call 519-0508.

Conceptual Plan Overlay’ For Clear Springs Property Approved by Zoning Board

The next major step in development of the 17,676 acres of Clear Springs land that abuts Bartow on the north, east, and south began Monday night with the zoning board’s approval of the company’s “conceptual plan overlay.”

The overlay, which spells out in broad terms how Clear Springs and its owner Stan Phelps, wants to develop the property, doesn’t constitute approval for any specific projects, Planning Dir. Robert Wiegers said.

“It sets the framework in place,” he said.

It also sets into motion the array of government approvals that will make the Clear Springs project one of only five in Florida that have been authorized for adoption under an “optional sector plan” process created by the Legislature. The process is limited to developments of 5,000 or more acres.

Creation of “detailed specific area plans” will follow approval of the conceptual plan overlay.

Wiegers said he sent out some 900 notices to people who owned property near the Clear Springs tract, and got about 150 responses; 90 percent of the callers said they had never heard of Clear Springs Land Co., he said.

The zoning board’s action was to recommend that the city commission forward the plan to the Florida Dept. of Community Affairs for review.

Pat Steed, executive director of the Central Florida Regional Planning Council, discussed major issues embraced by the plan. They include:

Zoning Board Member Gail Schreiber said it is important to get the school board to change its policy that prohibits construction of schools on mined-over phosphate land.

Ms. Steed said the board now accepts mined lands for school sites.

Georgianne Ratliff, planning consultant for Clear Springs, said Phelps’ vision for the development calls for mixed use of the acreage, to include:

Build-out is projected to take 15 to 20 years. “The workforce training center is the centerpiece,” Ms. Ratliff said.

Phelps has donated $12 million in matching funds for the center, she said. Until the specific area plans are developed and adopted, the entire 17,676 acres is designated as agricultural lands.

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