LAKE PLACID — Head of the town’s Local Planning Agency, Hoz Compton, asked to be put on Monday night’s Town Council meeting agenda to speak to council members, and county planners who were in attendance, about his concerns over the aesthetics of the new Wawa.
Compton asked council Monday if there was still a need for the LPA and if so, what its function was.
The town added a discussion about adding development variances for potentially new businesses coming into the town, looking at how it can best combine architecture and engineering to keep the town looking quaint and not like a big city.
Compton said he has been involved in the LPA for some 20-30 years. He told council that much of the work of the LPA has been delegated to town and county staff in efforts to streamline the process of new businesses coming into the town, the process known as commercial site development plan.
Those planning staffs check all the right boxes for utilitarian purposes such as drainage and safety. However, Compton says there was very little room for aesthetics or architecture that helps Lake Placid keep looking like the “quaint” small town it is.
He gave the example of the RaceTrac gas station in town. The LPA suggested a brick building and other aesthetics that would make it look very different from the RaceTrac station on U.S. 27 in Sebring.
Compton was sympathetic to the planners and engineers and said he knew they were doing their jobs well but more needed to be considered.
County Planner Supervisor Jodene Thayer explained the Land Development Regulations were amended in 2017 in order to streamline the commercial site development process. The LPA was removed from the process, which Thayer said did reduce the timeline a bit. Since then, the staff (town and county) have taken over the process.
Thayer also said in the two years since switching to the staff review, her office has reviewed three plans without any issues.
That is why the LPA was asking to be included again in the process.
Compton says the LPA has some of the best members it has had in years. It currently consists of Compton, Dr. Ed Oxer, Jack Edgemon, Dustin Wood and Donald Clarke. He said the diversity of the members creates objective and worthwhile suggestions.
“These are people who really care about the town and how it looks and feels,” Compton said.
That’s where the LPA normally would come in. Compton said that the Wawa building was never brought to the LPA. If it had, they would have had the opportunity to make suggestions.
In an email to the planning department, on June 26, Compton said the canopy of Wawa did not fit the aesthetics of Lake Placid. If the LPA had been given the commercial site review, they could have asked for comprises.
Councilman Greg Sapp said he never saw any renderings of the Wawa station so he was unaware of the facade of the building or how traffic was going to flow into and out of the parking lot. Councilwoman Debra Worley said she had not seen renderings either.
Joe Barber, town utilities director, said he received them but did not send them to council as it was a staff review. He did not favor an individual review on every project but wanted the LPA to strengthen architectural codes for future projects and future LPA boards.
The LPA members are not in it for the money; they are all volunteers and participate because they love their town, Compton said. The LPA reviews land use and zoning before those go to council.
“We are a town not a city,” Compton said. “Look how beautiful it looks.”
Councilman Ray Royce asked Thayer in the meeting if there was a checklist that is used when reviewing a proposed commercial development. She said there was a checklist for code but not for architecture.
Worley reminded Thayer that the buildings on Dal Hall Boulevard had to have a brick facade. Worley said that may have fallen through the cracks, especially since Wawa’s address is listed as U.S. 27. Thayer did not realize the rule was in effect. Sapp said the address on the property appraiser’s site is 411 Dal Hall Boulevard.
Barber said that many items such as the brick facade needed to be codified and put into the architectural standards for future staff. He said the brick stipulation was not in the code.
Town Attorney Bert J. Harris III clarified the brick issue as being a deed restriction, not a code item back when the Smoaks owned the land.
Harris was surprised that leaving the LPA out of the process did not save them much time.
Barber said he looks at projects very differently than the LPA does because he is not looking at the aesthetics necessarily. Mayor John Holbrook said he would like the LPA’s opinion on architecture and found it valuable.
Thayer said on Thursday she might recommend the LPA meet with the developer at the same time staff review takes place.
Council recommended that planning staff and Harris get together with the LPA and form a plan that future projects will take and bring it back to council.