Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Lakeland Business Center’s Development Plan Sparks Neighborhood Protests

Lakeland Business Center'S Development Plan Sparks Neighborhood Protests

Croix Business Center in Lakeland is opposing plans to expand the center, saying it would dramatically change the use of the property.

The business center, completed in 2000, is currently home to Premium Moving & Storage, Metro Dentalcare and Surf & Turf Direct.

Owner Jackie Aldridge has applied for a modified conditional-use permit for the property to allow three additional tenants and to allow internal division of the building’s warehouse space. She also intends to add a new portable loading dock on the west side of the existing warehouse space and overnight parking for tenant service trucks in an enclosed fenced area.

Lakeland City Council is expected to vote on the revised CUP application at its meeting on Tuesday night.

Lakeland City Clerk Michelle Elsner said the 2.7-acre parcel, located at 44 St. Croix Trail S, is retail business, and Eldridge’s plans do not require variation or reconnection of land.

Residents who live near the business center in the city’s Elmwood neighborhood have raised several concerns about the plans since they were last considered by Lakeland City Council. Among them: increased large truck traffic, increased diesel noise and pollution, and increased on-site operations.

One of the most outspoken critics has been Julie Throne, wife of Lakeland City Council member Mike Throne; The couple live directly behind St. Croix Business Center.

“It’s just not compatible with the neighborhood, especially with the homeowners being so close,” said Julie Throne. “There’s no buffer. It’ll back right into our backyard. All of our homes are split-level, and the main floor is topped by a 6-foot fence, so we can see clearly into the property, and the headlights are on at night.” Shine in our windows.

One of the biggest concerns is potential diesel exhaust from moving trucks, she said.

“They say they will shut down the trucks and not let them idle, but with diesel trucks in the winter, do you really think that’s going to happen? I don’t think so.”

A former tenant of the building, Anchor Away Boat Storage, recently moved to Afton; Julie Throne said the boat-storage business was a good neighbor because “there was no activity from late fall to early spring as the boats are stored for the winter.”

Premium Moving and Storage, on the other hand, will operate year-round, and they have publicly stated they want to grow the business, she said.

Aldridge, who lives in Naples, Fla., said she has no plans to expand the business center’s footprint or scope of use.

“But we need to adapt to attract new tenants and meet the needs of our existing tenants,” she said. “The costs keep going up. This year alone my property tax was increased by 26 percent, and I need to stay financially viable if we’re going to keep the business center open.

Aldridge’s attorney, Jim Gasperini, said he expects Lakeland City Council to approve his application. “It’s not a significant change in usage at all,” he said. “What they’re proposing is allowed under the city’s current zoning ordinances.”

He added that Aldridge has made “considerable concessions to all neighbors and adjacent properties”, including an extensive buffer zone on the west side of the property.

“She has proven to be a good neighbor, and she will continue to do so,” he said. “There haven’t been any complaints in the past 20 years that I’m aware of, and she doesn’t anticipate that there will be any complaints in the future.”

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