Haines City Commissioner Jayne Hall

Haines City Commissioner Jayne Pool

HAINES CITY – Of late, several developers building residential subdivisions near Haines City have applied for those subdivisions to be annexed into the city. Over the past year, the Haines City Commissioners have had a number of close votes on such matters, with Commissioner Jayne Hall often functioning as the deciding vote.

During a Haines City Commission meeting May 7, Hall proposed hosting a workshop. The purpose, she explained, would be to let developers know that the city may start considering more stringent rules associated with property development in the near future, in comparison to what is required of developers to build outside of city limits on land in unincorporated Polk County.

The workshop is scheduled for May 21.

During her first year on the commission, Hall often sided with developers. Her remarks at the May 7 meeting appeared to mark an evolution in her approach to the explosive growth in and around Haines City in the county’s northeast quadrant.

In an interview, Hall credited a growing confidence in handling such matters, citing an April 16 meeting as an example of her newfound confidence. At that meeting, an engineer representing a developer discussed how some of the houses they wanted to build in Haines City could have backyards as small as 10-feet-deep.

“You can't even build a hot tub in a backyard like that,” Hall said.

Prior to the May 7 commission meeting, there was another workshop, during which a lot of time was spent discussing how Clayton Properties Group representatives refused to build a sturdy dividing wall that would survive a hurricane around the proposed Cypress Park Estates subdivision. City staff told commissioners that the developer would only commit to building a PVC pence around the property, which is located east of Powerline Road, between Johnson Avenue and Baker Dairy Road.

When the subject came up during the regular city commission meeting May 7, Hall, Vice Mayor Anne Huffman and Commissioner Horace West said that, in many circumstances, a PVC fence would be sufficient — but that along heavily-used traffic corridors, they wanted to remain firm on having a more substantial barrier.

It was at that point that Hall suggested hosting a workshop to let developers know the rules may be changing, perhaps serving as a dialogue and a polite way of seeking change.

“I didn't want to rip the rug right out from under them,” Hall said.

Commissioner West also expressed his opinion on the matter.

“We've got to set a standard for our community,” West said. “We've got to say ’no, this is what we are looking for. This is what we want Haines City to be.’ As I've said many times, at this particular point in history, we are the stewards of Haines City. We've got to make sure we uphold certain standards and not just let these guys put up whatever they want and then they go home.”

City Attorney Fred Reilly and City Manager Deric Feacher said taking such a stand could pose some risk, in that developers could decide to withdraw their voluntary application for annexation and build on county property — which would mean the city would not benefit from any property tax income.

The workshop May 21 will be hosted on Zoom.

Clayton Properties Group representatives submitted multiple requests for annexation May 7. All of the requests for voluntary annexation were continued until May 21.

Contact Charles A. Baker III at cbaker@d-r.media.