While the long-sought eastern leg of the Central Polk Parkway remains unfunded, the development community has come up with an abbreviated Plan B.
This involves the extension of Powerline Road from its intersection with South Boulevard along an arching northwesterly route all the way to U.S. 17-92 on the north side of Davenport just north of the predominantly African-American Jamestown community.
This will be a public road, not a toll road. The original proposed route of the toll road would have taken it to U.S. 17-92 somewhere near Loughman with some sort of planned connection to an already congested segment of Interstate 4.
On Tuesday the County Commission quickly agreed to a $10.8 million reimbursement package in impact fee credits and cash from the taxpayer-funded county budget to the project’s developers, who will handle design, permitting and construction costs.
County Manager Bill Beasley said the project aligns with the commission’s road priorities of creating a parallel route in northeast Polk County to relieve current and future congestion on U.S. 27 and 17-92.
That’s the official story anyway. But it is only half the story.
For one thing, most of the congestion on those highways involve travel headed to destinations along those highways or beyond in places like Orlando and Tampa.
Additionally, what this, as with any developer-backed road project, is not about regional congestion, but is all about is opening more land in the countryside to more intense development.
The list of corporations scheduled to be reimbursed are all housed in the offices of the Berry-Cassidy development entities based near downtown Winter Haven.
This may be a shocker, but it seems the Berry-Cassidy folks already own substantial acreage near the road’s planned route. Once the new road is constructed, the now landlocked parcels will be eminently developable. There may be other nearby major landowners, such as Standard Sand & Silica, that could be interested in taking advantage of the new road as well
That, coupled with some of the leapfrog annexation and development approvals that Davenport officials have supported within the past year will eventually radically transform once-rural areas east of Davenport into another urban sprawl complex similar to what’s already happened elsewhere in the area.
And the idea that this will relieve congestion on U.S. 17-92 is laughable, since what it will really do is dump a lot more traffic onto what is not a relatively uncongested section of US. 17-92. There will be a traffic light, though, to keep traffic from moving too quickly.
But hold on to your wallets.
This is just the first phase.
The second phase that has been discussed would involve extending Powerline Road from Hinson Avenue in a southwesterly direction through even more undeveloped farmland to link to State Road 17 and maybe U.S. 27 itself somewhere on the south side of Haines City.
The land ownership along that potential route is more mixed, but that same Winter Haven address pops up on corporate ownerships of some of the major parcels. Just a coincidence, I’m sure.