WINTER HAVEN – The Winter Haven City Commission meeting Jan. 28 lasted five hours.

It included with four-fifths of the commission voting 4-0 to send a proposed “aging in place” assisted-living facility on Country Club Road to Tallahassee for state regulatory review just before midnight on Jan. 28.

The state regulators will allow public comment for two weeks, make a decision and send their decision back to the City Commission, who would make a final vote sometime in March or April.

Included in the proposed project would be a three-story assisted-living facility toward the center of the 70-acre property, several two-story townhouses so able spouses of those in assisted living can live close to their loved one, a meeting hall, a restaurant and around 4,000 square-feet of office space for businesses.

Sage Road, a dirt road used by the old Humane Society building at Dundee Road, would be paved and extended from Dundee Road to Country Club Road. City staff said no commercial offices could open until the Sage Road extension is complete. Trails would wrap around three lakes on the property and connect the residents to Outback Oasis. The property was purchased over the past few years by Outback Oasis owner Paul Schulz.

For more than three hours, lawyers on both sides of the issue and 19 area residents stated their opinions, 12 in opposition and seven in support. Most in opposition said they preferred to keep the County Club Road area rural and undeveloped. Many spoke of cows, beehives, quiet sunsets and tree-lined roads with little traffic.

One of the last to speak was Winter Haven City Commissioner Pete Chichetto, who lives near the proposed development, in the Hamilton Pointe subdivision, and spent $500 to hire a lawyer to oppose the development.

“Would you like to see this across the street from your house?” Chichetto asked the commission.

Against legal advice, Mayor Brad Dantzler, whose family owns ranch land near the Schulz property, said he was going to support this project. The mayor said he has been driving on Country Club Road since a teenager and that if this proposal is not approved as planned, Schulz could instead build as many as 210 houses on the property — as currently zoned — and that Schulz could do so without having to donate any of his land to extend Sage Road.

“My entire life I have wanted Sage Road to connect northeast Winter Haven to southeast Winter Haven, and the only way to get that is through this development,” Dantzler said. “If we don't approve this we won’t get that connector road. ... In spite of whatever we feel about development, the property is going to be developed. We can’t stop everybody from developing their plans.”

Those interested in learning more about the opposition to this proposed development can go to https://countryclubroad.org/ .

The commission also voted 4-1 in opposition of a proposed concrete-crushing business on West Lake Hamilton Road on grounds of noise, water pollution and proximity to residential housing. Mayor Pro-Tem Nat Birdsong was the dissent vote.

Contact Charles A. Baker III at cbaker@scmginc.com.

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