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HAINES CITY – According to Haines City Manager Deric, the state of Haines City is better than it’s ever been. That was his report at the State of the City Luncheon held recently.

“We are open for business,” Feacher said. “It’s ‘Haines City Forward.’”

“Haines City Forward. One City. One Vision.” is the new motto for the town and Feacher and other city officials are focused on continuing with that momentum seen over the past year.

“We don’t want to bring in the commercial developments and destroy our community,” he said. “We want to have all the amenities that so many of our residents want. We want to be the desired destination.”

In order to grow wisely, Feacher and other city leaders say they have been assembling special teams to plan accordingly. And, the city’s ever-expanding number of rooftops and, therefore, population growth seems endless.

In fact,some big construction numbers are still planned: 10,422 single-family homes and 721 multi-family structures in more than 50 housing developments, as well as a handful of apartment or duplex projects. So far, 760 single family home building permits have been pulled – a 197 percent increase from last year.

Over the last nine years, the population has exploded from less than 15,000 residents to the current 25,000-plus, according to Feacher.

Those residential neighborhoods are popping up all around the city. For example, the Estates at Lake Hammock, with 152 single-family homes to the west and to the Cypress Park Estates with 711 single-family homes. On 14th Street, there are 30 duplex units and near the hospital is Saxon Apartments, with 225 units.

“We want those people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Kissimmee and Orlando to come here,” Feacher said. “I don’t call anyone a visitor — I call them future Haines City residents.”

The city experienced an increase in taxable value of 12 percent, taking its collective taxable value to $1,309,579,759 from $1,158,806,082 realized in FY 2019.

“The housing market in Haines City is currently consistently breaking permit records in efforts that will prove to make substantial gains that pay dividends now and will continue to in the future. This has provided for Haines City to construct its 2020 budget on the same millage rate that

was adopted in 2019 (7.5895),” Feacher wrote in the Adopted Annual Budget 2020.

The city staff and other employees have had a busy year with the Haines City Fire Department’s calls increasing 5.6 percent to 3,849. Crime was reduced by 10 percent; total library circulation was 293,317; 41 special events were held with 43,000 attendees; nine CRA Building Redevelopment Grants – six are complete and three are still active; eight façade grants with one still active.

“We are investing in downtown and CRA projects,” Feacher said. “We see it and it is tangible. The property owners are excited and new businesses are opening.”

Pending projects include the 7th Street Parking Lot, the Community Garden at Boys and Girls Club, the U.S. Highway 27underpass mural, the Langston Avenue property development, Wayfinding Signage and Arts in the Alley.

New and current commercial developments include a Carvana facility, an Arby’s Restaurant, the expansion of Elcozalo Fish Market and the Webb’s Commercial Center expansion.

“Carvana is investing in our city, right here in our backyard,” Feacher said. “Now we are partnering with Ridge and Travis (Vocational Schools) to train these mechanics and other workers to be able to go to work there.”

The city’s budget for FY 2020 is $65,806,345 and, in the Adopted Annual Budget 2020, Feacher wrote that the budget is a responsible spending plan which will provide citizens with the same level of service as in previous years.

Haines City Forward is about engaging people and providing amenities, he said.

“How do we get to ‘yes?’ How do we remove the barriers and open up our city?” he asked. “I believe in trying to a way.”