A public hearing to determine whether to expand the industrial park surrounding the CSX Intermodal rail yard is scheduled to take place during a Winter Haven City Commission meeting on Dec. 14.
Current zoning, adopted in 2012, allows for 7.9 million square feet of industrial space and limits the maximum height of the buildings at 85 feet.
If the zoning is changed as proposed, the owners of the 932-acre industrial park would be able to develop 10.2 million square feet of industrial space at the park and buildings could be constructed to heights as tall as 160 feet.
Some residents have previously expressed concern about rail traffic crossing Eloise Loop Road to get to the industrial park area. Expanding the industrial park could increase rail traffic.
Winter Haven Economic Development Council President Bruce Lyon said owners of a “vertical farming” operation have expressed interest in building an indoor produce farm on the property over the past year. The proposed changes would be necessary to encourage the owners to invest in the location.
“So much of this is really about moving the project out of the 2008 cross dock warehouse standard and to a contemporary manufacturing logistic hub model that will serve us much better,” Lyon told the Winter Haven Planning Commission Nov. 2.
Most of the industrial park is empty, but construction recently began on the $120 million Florida Caribbean Distiller aluminum can manufacturing plant. That plant may be in operation by 2021 and could employ up to 160 area residents who could help produce up to 1.6 billion cans per year at the plant.
The industrial park is located within a Federal Opportunity Zone and has been identified in the Hillsborough-Polk Freight Logistics Zone Strategic Plan as a critical logistics asset and employment center.
Florida Department of Transportation staff are working toward building the Southwest-Central Florida Connector – a toll road roughly from the CSX Intermodal rail yard traveling south, toward the Naples area – which could make the park even more attractive to investors.
The planning commission unanimously approved the proposal and recommended it be brought before the city commission.
Commissioners are scheduled to discuss the proposal Nov. 30. A public hearing and the final vote is scheduled for Dec. 14.