When it comes to large business developments in Lakeland, they often unfold across many years working thru various local boards and elected bodies. That process has helped lead the way to Lakeland’s goal of a smart, intentional growth pattern. That growth has been well-received by most residents, however, there has been consistent pushback and scrutiny when it comes to one idea: apartments.
On Thursday evening, December 14, 2023, the Lakeland Municipal Planning and Design Review Commission met at City Hall to consider a request for amendments to the Ashmont planned development which is located at Canada Road and Davies Plantation Road. Some of the proposed amendments to the 100-acre project were considered minor and acceptable. However, a request to include an age restricted, multifamily apartment complex raised concerns among commission members and met with opposition from many, including elected officials and city staff. Former Lakeland Mayor, Wyatt Bunker, who now serves at the Chairman for the planning commission, voiced concerns about enforcing the age-restricted aspect of the apartment complex. “The developer wants clarification on whether or not the LDR governing age restricted independent living permits apartments under multi-family. I voiced my opposition to this portion of the project because it’s my understanding that governance of the age restriction is difficult if not impossible,” he said. “If that’s the case then we would simply be approving more apartments. I’ll continue to oppose the proposal until I’m convinced we can effectively enforce the age restriction.” Mr. Bunker suggested deferring the age restricted apartment request until next month to explore solutions for defining and enforcing age-restricted units.
While the question about age restricted apartments hangs in the balance, the ambitious $220 million Ashmont project has been navigating the clearing process for months and getting closer to construction. Ashmont’s planner, Cory Brady, who was in attendance at the planning meeting noted other adjustments to the development, including the reduction of residential lots from 147 to 90. That change means the average size lot for single family homes would be 1/3 of an acre. Ashmont officials also said they have secured contracts with a national grocery store, a restaurant developer, and an extended-stay hotel. Names of those businesses where not provided though.
Developer Vince Smith, who is also the developer of Lakeland Town Square on Highway 70, acquired Ashmont from John Hyneman earlier this year.