The Polk County Commission voted unanimously today to approve a rezoning request that will allow the development of a 1,000-space RV park on County Road 630 not far from the edge of the 106,000-acre Avon Park Air Force Range east of Lake Wales.
The approval was unsurprising because the zoning in that area already allows a fair amount of development in rural areas with a planned development, which is pretty much rubber stamped if it meets the minimal criteria in the county’s development regulations.
Representatives of the military base, which is part of one of the largest training facilities in the country, said they were concerned the development of the RV park could lead to complaints that may curtail some military training flights that include low-altitude aerial maneuvers and that lights from the development could disorient pilots who often conduct training flights at night.
But representatives of the approved development said they were willing to work with military officials to resolve any conflicts, adding the proposed development probably poses the least conflict because it will not contain permanent residences.
The proposed development drew criticism from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which reviews proposed growth changes, because state officials said the proposal conflicts with recommendations in a joint land-use study completed several years ago to reduce conflicts between the military base and surrounding development.
However, the study’s recommendations were voluntary and Polk officials did not adopt some of them in deference to developers, according to testimony at Tuesday’s hearing.
In addition, the testimony revealed that state and federal officials did not take advantage of earlier opportunities to acquire the property where the RV park is planned or at least to purchase development rights to limit the intensity of future land uses as it has done on a number of other properties—mostly ranches—surrounding the base.