Polk’s Permissive Development Regs At Center of Tuesday Hearing

Next Tuesday the Polk County Commission will have to deal with a roomful of angry homeowners.

The issue is a plan to use a permissive provision of the county’s development regulations to cram a subdivision with 5,000-square-foot lots in an area where many of the lots are as much as 50 times as large.

Residents appealed the case after even the developer-friendly Polk County Planning Commission split 4-3 in recommending the project’s approval.

At the heart of the dispute is something called density bonus points.

This is an oddity of Polk’s development regs that provides a windfall for property owners with land that is dominated by wetlands or other development limitations.

It reflects the inordinate influence of the development community in drafting Polk’s development regulations.

In the case of this proposed development, it works this way.

The site is 121 acres, about 73 acres of which is covered with wetlands.

This land in the Kathleen area, lies in something called the Suburban Development Area., where development density is normally limited to one home per five acres.

But a loophole in the development regulations allow applicants to cram housing lots on the non-wetlands portions of the property at the rate of one home per wetlands acre if they agree to review as a Suburban Planned Development, which allows additional conditions, such as building sidewalks and putting in street lights.

So instead of about 10 lots on the 48 developable acres, there will be 139 lots.

I predict the application will be approved because it complies with the regulations.

Until the regulations are changed, this will recur and there isn’t much anyone but the County Commission can do about it.