WINTER HAVEN — Carlton Arms plans to bring another apartment complex to Winter Haven near Cypress Gardens Boulevard and Lake Dexter.
The Winter Haven Planning Commission approved plans for Florida-based developer The Mahaffey Company to produce 300 multi-family residential units on 38.63 acres. The development will be located east of Lake Dexter and approximately 1,000 feet north of Cypress Gardens Boulevard, according to the Planning Commission agenda.
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The development must also receive approval from the Winter Haven City Commission.
The Mahaffey Company was established in 1962 and has built 21 apartment communities across Central Florida and in Indiana, according to its website. In Polk County, there are two Lakeland Carlton Arms communities and another in Winter Haven, also near Cypress Gardens Boulevard.
The new proposed development, The Carlton at Lake Dexter, would be closer to the Legoland resort.
On Jan. 4, the developer — under the name Mahaffey Associates Lake Dexter, LLC — asked to add nine annexed parcels to an existing development plan and to increase the unit count from 240 to 300 units.
The developer requested that the commission assign Regional Activity Center and Conservation future land use to nine parcels and amend the future land use designation from Residential Low-Density to Regional Activity Center on another two parcels. According to the request, 16.27 of the total 38.63 acres is proposed for conservation.
Additionally, the developer asked to amend the existing Planned Unit Development on three parcels and assign Planned Unit Development zoning to another nine parcels.
The planning commission approved the requests, paving the way for a new apartment complex with a density of about 13.41 units per acre, since the proposed units will be built on just 22.36 of the total 38.63 acres.
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The commission also approved a request to increase the maximum building height within the complex from 35 feet to 42 feet.
The new plans retain the original PUD condition requiring a minimum of 5% of the total number of units to be affordable "for low to moderate income residents," according to planning documents. The condition came with the land purchased by the developer.
But William Mahaffey, president of The Mahaffey Company's Board of Directors, made it clear that no special plans are being made to highlight affordability. He said he understood resident concerns about "the low-income part."
Mahaffey said the requirement is "very ambiguous — there's no guidelines, no regulations."
"We haven't changed our units, the rent structure; nothing is different because of that requirement," Mahaffey said. "We're not a subsidized community and we're not under the control of any agent, of any government agency."
The Carlton at Lake Dexter will be a market-rate community.
Prices for apartments at the existing Carlton Arms Winter Haven development range from $706 for a 450-foot efficiency to up to $1,493 for a three-bedroom, 1,400-to 1,500-square foot townhome, according to the community's website.
Mahaffey said this new project will be "business as usual," despite the affordable housing condition.
"We do consider our smaller units affordable housing," Mahaffey said. "Especially how the market is today."
The city concluded that the development fulfills a need for a greater variety of market-rate housing types. Evidence, including skyrocketing apartment rates over the past year, support the idea that Polk County as a whole is sorely behind on new construction.
The city also considers this complex a step towards its mission of adding more affordable housing to the area, but without an enforcement mechanism tying affordable units to a specific area median income, the developer does not seem poised to alter plans to promote low-income housing.
"The low-income has really got me bothered because I thought that was the way we were going in the future," Cathy Santman, a resident who spoke against the development, said. "And when you say 5% of 300, that's 15 units. I thought we were trying to help our residents."
Eight other residents spoke against the development at the planning commission meeting. They raised several concerns with the development, including the addition of potential crime, noise, traffic and danger as the result of a new apartment complex in the area. Residents didn't want to see the unit count increased for the project or the new building heights.
Timothy Campbell with Clark, Campbell, Lancaster & Munson represented Mahaffey at the Planning Commission meeting. He said because the developer was annexing additional parcels for the development, the increase in unit count wasn't significant.
In response to resident concerns about buffering between the new apartment complex and their single-family homes, Mahaffey said the traditional fencing buffer would be replaced by a wall for additional privacy and noise protection.
"This is a long-time, family-owned, multifamily developer," Campbell said. "They own their communities. They have a lot of experience managing them. So a lot of the concerns of the behavior and activity that occur within the community are well-managed."
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Commissioners unanimously approved the proposal under the condition that the development's trash compactor and car wash station be moved from its current place in the plans so that it's not adjacent to any single-family homes surrounding the proposed development. Neighbors complained about the smell and noise those areas would generate near their properties.
The proposed development will reflect the modern Carlton Arms design, a step away from the developer's traditional Williamsburg, colonial-style complexes. It will be a gated community with three-story apartment buildings, if given final approval.
Maya Lora can be reached with tips or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mayaklora.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: New apartment complex on Cypress Gardens Blvd. is pending city approval