Home Local News Hyneman Planned Development Still Being Pursued

Hyneman Planned Development Still Being Pursued

Proposed layout of Ashmont.

by Matt Wright

At the Municipal Planning Committee (MPC) meeting Thursday evening, March 17th, a large development for the corner of Canada Rd and E. Davies Plantation Rd was once again back on the table. The property, which is right off I-40, is approximately 100 acres and is currently owned by the Hyneman family. A sketch plan for the property, which was previously called Lakeland Park, was denied by the Board of Commissioners in November 2021 with Commissioners Atkinson, Wright and Dial speaking out against the development, while Mayor Cunningham and Commissioner Gonzales spoke out in favor.

At the meeting in November, multiple issues and concerns were brought forth about the development including the small homes and small lot sizes, the traffic issues, and most importantly, the large convenience store and gas station that would be built at the corner. Other facets of the development would include senior living, town homes, a hotel, and some other unspecified commercial aspects.

At the MPC meeting Thursday evening, Keith Grant of Grant Homes unveiled a new version of the development, now called Ashmont. According to Mr. Grant, developers took feedback from the BOC’s meeting in November and implemented some of the requested changes. While some of those concerns do address some of the previous issues, the major sticking points expressed still revolved around heavy traffic, the number of small homes in the plan and the proposed convenience store and gas station. Mr. Grant said he worked with Mr. Hyneman to improve the plan but he stated the convenience store and gas station were appropriate because of its close nature to an I-40 exit.

The corner of Canada Rd and Davies Plantation would include a gas station according to the proposed development. File photo.

Residents from both Bartlett and Lakeland attended the meeting and everyone that pulled a card to speak spoke out against the development. Bartlett residents, who rarely attend Lakeland meetings, felt it was important to speak out since the development runs up against their homes in Davies Plantation. They fear such a large development would lead to flooding of their homes, an issue they already struggle with because of the sharp topography of the property. Lakeland residents from the Windward Slopes neighborhood, which is across the street from the proposed development, expressed concerns about traffic issues and the number of small homes, which range from 2,200 square feet to 2,700 square feet. Mr. Grant said that while the homes and lots are small, they would start at a price point of $450,000.

The owner of the Mobile gas station, which is located across the street from the proposed development, also spoke out asking the MPC members why there’s a need for another gas station when three already exist off the exit in Lakeland. He said staying in business is already hard and another gas station would almost certainly put him out of business, leading to an abandoned building at the exit. Mr. Grant responded that other gas station owners simply do not want the competition of another station. Commissioner Richard Gonzales, who is not a member of the MPC but was in attendance in the crowd, came to the podium to express his desire for the development, including the gas station, saying it might help gas prices go down. This was disputed by the owner of the gas station, saying gas margins are already small.

Nearly three hours into the marathon meeting, Mayor Mike Cunningham once again spoke in favor of the development as he did in November. Mr. Cunningham said he still supported the plan, saying the developers were known for quality work and that it was a viable plan. The mayor took time to express how much the new Lakeland high school cost to build and how that bill was coming due over the years. The high school, which was funded by a USDA Rural Development loan, has a 40-year loan term. He also told the crowd there was not much commercial space left in Lakeland and this project had to be done to help drive revenue. If not approved, he told the crowd a tax increase would be coming at some point.

Commissioner Jim Atkinson. File photo.

Commissioner Jim Atkinson, who is the former City Manager of Lakeland, reminded the mayor it’s not the job of the MPC to consider tax implications or debt issues when making a decision, rather, that is the job of the elected body (BOC). “We (the MPC) are not forced to approve anything,” Commissioner Atkinson told the mayor. He explained to the mayor the job of the MPC is to look at projects and make a decision based on the development standards already in place and that is all.

Based on the number of concerns, Mr. Atkinson officially suggested the topic be deferred to the next meeting. “I don’t feel comfortable moving forward with a positive recommendation,” he said.

Developers of the project now have the opportunity to make changes to the plan and bring forward an updated version of the plan for approval, or they can abandon the project entirely.



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