Home Business In Split Vote Lakeland BOC Approves Equestria Neighborhood Development

In Split Vote Lakeland BOC Approves Equestria Neighborhood Development

One of the roads in Oakwood Grove leading into the future neighborhood, Equestria.

After years of debate and opposition from neighboring subdivisions, The Grove and Oakwood Grove, the Lakeland Board of Commissioners (BOC) narrowly approved a proposed neighborhood development called Equestria in a 3-2 vote. The decision was made at a recent meeting held at City Hall. Mayor Josh Roman and Vice Mayor Wesley Wright voted against the proposal, while Commissioners Jim Atkinson, Connie McCarter, and Michele Dial voted in favor. The approved plan is a General Outline Plan, with the Municipal Planning Commission having recommended the project last September.

The 86-acre Equestria planned development will be situated off Memphis-Arlington Road, between The Grove and Oakwood Grove. Once a horse farm with extensive forested areas surrounding a meadow, the land was originally approved in 2008 before the Great Recession.

Renaissance Development plans to construct 119 single-family homes, with nearly half of the acreage dedicated to open space. However, the primary point of contention remains traffic concerns. Maple Walk, a road running through The Grove neighborhood, has become a major thoroughfare connecting to Oakwood Grove. Residents are worried about the impact of another neighborhood in the area and the additional traffic it would bring. The proposed solution is to extend Lakeland Trace, a road that will eventually run north and south through Lakeland to Memphis Arlington Road. This extension would provide residents in the new neighborhood with their own connecting road, reducing the need to cut through established neighborhoods.

Proposed layout of the new Equestria neighborhood, including Lakeland Trace which will be built to help with traffic concerns. Click on image to enlarge.

Commissioner Jim Atkinson emphasized the importance of the decision, stating, “This is a critical decision, it’s a tricky one. Maple Walk is intended to be a local neighborhood street, not a collector, but it’s functioning as a collector because the road network is not built out. That’s the source of the problem.”

Mayor Josh Roman expressed appreciation for the city staff’s recommendation of the new plan but noted that area residents do not share the same sentiment. He stated, “Although the plan seems to be progressing for the better, I’m not getting the same feedback from homeowners.”

Developer Doug Swink, present at the meeting, assured the board that he was open to meeting with any resident to discuss details and had already done so. He stated, “We’ve met with the individuals that came up here with concerns, and quite frankly, I feel like we have addressed all those that came to the board meetings.” To further manage traffic, a traffic signal will be installed at Lakeland Trace and Maple Walk after Equestria is completed, according to Swink.

Vice Mayor Wesley Wright acknowledged the plan’s improvements and its “redeemable” qualities, including design standards. However, he expressed concern about the new road, Lakeland Trace, and the number of homes that will be built along it. He hoped Lakeland Trace would function more like Seed Tick Road, with neighborhoods connecting off the road rather than homes directly on it.

Before construction can begin, a Planned Development outline providing more details about home construction, size, materials, and other items will still need approval from the Lakeland planning commission and the BOC.