Auburndale neighbors protest possible warehouse plans

- A large group of neighbors in Auburndale don't want to see a massive warehouse built near their homes.

They're fighting a proposal that would zone a large plot of land, just south of I-4, as "light industrial."

Monday night, at a hearing, they voiced their concerns to City Commissioners on everything from safety to loss of property values. The meeting was so large, it had to be held at the Civic Center.

Ultimately, the Commission voted unanimously to move forward with the proposed zoning change. They'll now consider an ordinance amending the city's zoning map.

It's not often that you hear an air horn or a backup alarm at a City Commission meeting. But, the speakers had a point to make: "Light industrial zoning does not belong across the street from residential homes," said Sven Polz.

Sharrett Land, LLC, which owns a big plot of land south of Interstate-4 on C. Fred Jones Boulevard, is asking the city to zone about 100 acres as "light industrial" and another 47 acres as "open use agricultural." In the past, developers have eyed that property for warehouses as big as 1.3 million square feet.

"There is required to be a 35-foot landscape buffer on C. Fred Jones that would include a wall, a berm, a buffer," explained Community Development Director Amy Palmer.

But since the 90's, people who live nearby have not welcomed such a large and industrial new neighbor.

"It's going to produce a lot of tractor trailer traffic," said Burke Thompson. "The sounds coming from that warehouse would be 24-7."

"Really, it's about health concerns we have," said Travis Houlihan. "The fumes from diesel fumes and particles and just the unknown health impacts we may have from this."

For several hours, people voiced concerns on everything from noise to safety hazards to decreasing home values and presented a petition with 660 signatures against it.

"Warehouses are not the present need for Auburndale," Janifer Ellis.

Speakers said they want to see grocery stores, restaurants and hotels, which, they say are few and far between.

"If our city vision is warehouses warehouses and more warehouses, then this might be appropriate," said Houlihan.

Robert Stambaugh, the attorney for Sharrett Land, LLC assured speakers that, at this point, there is no specific proposed use for that land.

"Assuming this will only be used for warehouse purposes is speculative at this point," Stambaugh said. "There are no proposed improvements, buildings or otherwise under consideration tonight."

"City commissioners really need to look at the will of the people, not just one person," Burke Thompson said.

If the ordinance amending the city's zoning map is approved on first reading, it'll be presented for a final reading on March 20.

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