BARTOW – With Bartow City Commissioners amending a few codes, a subdivision of up to 74 new homes may be located behind Walmart, off U.S. 17, and will also include a small shopping area.

The area will be on 36 acres, of which 27.1 acres is slated for houses and 8.9 acres for commercial. It is north of the back entrance to Walmart and across the street from Central Florida Truss Plant.

The houses will be built on 50-square-foot lots. The size of the houses, prices and when they will be for sale is still to be announced, as Heritage Investments, a subsidiary of Southern Homes, did not return several inquiries.

Bartow Planning Director Robert Weigers said while the development calls for 74 homes, it could go as high as 78. The commercial area could be home to food, service and/or retail businesses and would not have any manufacturing or industrial businesses.

Vice Mayor Scott Sjoblom, who was running the city commission meeting in Mayor Billy Simpson's absence, said the lot size concerns him.

“My primary concern is the lot size,” he said. “The 50-foot limit creates a small space.”

He said easement and power lines run through the area and, with it being set behind commercial businesses, it does not make it attractive for residential development. He said while he was not telling developers to do, his concern was what the property would look like after a decade. He would like to see the proposal reworked to make the width bigger than 50 feet.

Commissioner James Clements suggested the smaller lot sizes would mean more reasonably priced houses and that they might fall into the category of work-force housing. The developer, Econ South, said the price point would be considerably less than some of their other projects. Clements said regulations for parking could be put in place by a homeowners association to avoid any future problems.

“This is the type of development we need very much,” Clements said. “Bartow would benefit greatly from this.”

Sjoblom said using the price point is a variable target, as it moves based on what the market demand is.

Commissioner Trish Pfeiffer said she does not like the idea of houses being that close. She said a subdivision in Mulberry has 10 feet between the houses.

“I'm torn, too,” she said. “There are shifts in the market now. … If people want that kind of neighborhood, that is great — it gives them an option.”

Pfeifer said she agrees with Clements that the location is not ideal, but added that she thinks Econ South did a good job making use of the space.

Going forward, she said hopes they can grow that market to the higher end, because there are a lot of higher end people that work in Bartow and live elsewhere because there isn't much choice for them.

Sjoblom agreed with Pfeiffer and Clements and suggested that when the houses have been lived in for seven years, the luster is gone. As it is behind a commercial development it lacks green space and other amenities that reinforces his concern.

In a roll call vote, commissioners voted 3-1, with Sjoblom dissenting, for amending the city's zoning map of 36 acres for a planned development. In roll call votes on amending the future land use map of the Comp Plan and amending the Zoning Map, commissioners vote 4-0 on each item in public hearings.

Simpson was not present at the meeting and did not vote, though he indicated later that he was in favor of the development.

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