Neighbors who live near the St. Croix Business Center in Lakeland are protesting plans to expand the center, saying it would drastically change the use of the property.
The business center, completed in 2000, currently houses Premium Moving & Storage, Metro Dentalcare and Surf and Turf Direct.
Owner Jacki Aldridge has applied for an amended conditional use permit for the property to allow for up to three additional tenants and to allow for internal division of the building’s storage space. They also want to add a new portable loading dock on the west side of the existing storage space and overnight parking for tenant service trucks in a gated gated area.
Lakeland City Council is expected to vote on the CUP’s amended request at its meeting on Tuesday evening.
The 2.7-acre parcel, located at 44 St. Croix Trail S., is zoned retail, and Aldridge’s plans do not require a variance or rezoning of the land, the Lakeland City clerk said, Michelle Elsner.
Residents who live near the business center in the city’s Elmwood neighborhood have raised a number of concerns about the plans since they were first considered by Lakeland City Council last fall. Among them: increased heavy truck traffic, diesel noise and pollution, and increased site operations.
One of the most vocal critics was Julie Thron, wife of Lakeland City Council member Mike Thron; the couple live just behind the St. Croix Business Center.
“It’s just not compatible with the neighborhood, especially with the proximity of the owners,” Julie Thron said. “There is no buffer. He would come right back to our backyard. All of our homes are split level, and the ground level is above the 6ft fence, so we can clearly see into the property, and the headlights shine in our windows at night.
One of the biggest concerns is potential diesel exhaust from moving trucks, she said.
“They say they’ll turn off the trucks and not let them idle, but with a diesel truck in the winter, do you really think that’s going to happen? I do not think so.”
A former tenant of the building, boat storage Anchors Aweigh, recently moved to Afton; Julie Thron said the boat storage business was a good neighbor because “it had no business from late fall to early spring as the boats are stored for the winter”.
Premium Moving & Storage, on the other hand, will operate year-round and they have publicly stated that they want to expand their 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 have to adapt to attract new tenants and meet the needs of our current tenants,” she said. “The costs keep rising. I’ve had a 26% increase in my property taxes this year alone, and I need to stay financially viable if we’re going to keep the business center open.
Jim Gasperini, Aldridge’s attorney, said he expects Lakeland City Council to approve his candidacy. “It’s not a substantial change in use at all,” he said. “What they are proposing is permitted by the city’s existing zoning ordinances.”
He said Aldridge had already granted “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 have been no complaints in the past 20 years that I know of, and she doesn’t anticipate there will be any in the future.”
The new dock for the business center would run north-south “so there would be no light to the neighbors to the west”, he said. Truck parking will also face east, he said.
Hours of operation will continue to be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, plus 24-hour administrative use, Aldridge said.
Mayor Joe Payment said council had strongly encouraged Aldridge and nearby residents “to meet and try to come to a mutually agreeable set of terms that would allow for a change in use of the property.” I still think this is the best resolution. I’m still optimistic that they might be able to do that.
Thron said attempts to reach a resolution were unsuccessful. She said many residents of the Elmwood neighborhood had lived in their homes for over 30 years and had invested in them, “relying on the business center to operate as it has for 20 years.”
In addition to diesel truck exhaust and lighting, neighbors are concerned about declining property values, increased noise, visual impact, hours of operation and increased truck traffic in Washington County 18/St. Cross Trail, she said.
The road is a narrow corridor with three roundabouts, one of which is located near Afton-Lakeland Elementary School, and has heavily used bike/pedestrian lanes on both sides of the road, she said. .
“If this happens, we will have 26-foot diesel trucks crossing the bike/pedestrian path on the west side of County Road 18 to enter/exit the St. Croix business center,” she said. . “This type of business proposed by definition is a ‘truck depot’, which should be in an industrial park – not adjacent to a residential area.”
The city’s zoning company Swanson/Haskamp, which originally handled the amended CUP application, is no longer under contract with the city; zoning is being done on an interim basis by Rum River Construction Consultants, the company contracted to perform Lakeland building inspections.
Three new zoning corporations will be discussed by Lakeland City Council at Tuesday’s meeting, Elsner said.
Close neighbours, who call themselves the Concerned Elmwood Residents group, hope the council will refuse the request. Twenty-four years ago, band members helped derail plans for a 4,000-square-foot convenience store, gas station, car wash and auto repair shop proposed for the property.
“We love that the business center is there,” Thron said. “It’s a beautiful building, and it’s an asset for the city. But there have simply been too many changes and inconsistencies with this new proposal. We believe this does nothing to improve the community. On the contrary, it diminishes it. This type of business belongs to an industrial park – not near residences. A new business proposal should be compatible with adjacent properties and have minimal impact. »