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:
- Protecting natural resources, in particular the Peace River Basin and the area’s water supply.
- Providing for schools and other public facilities, to include co-location of schools and recreational facilities.
- Developing houses for people who hold the jobs that will be created.
- Fiscal impacts and economic benefits.
- Transportation, to include the creation of “walkable communities.”
- Making development compatible with Bartow Municipal Airport.
- Ensuring an “urban form” that is compatible with Bartow’s community feel and appropriate for the market.· Ensuring intergovernmental coordination and public participation in the planning process.
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:
- A research/corporate park.
- Schools and parks.
- Recreation and open space.
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.