6,000-home development will double population of 'small town' Lake Wales

Lake Wales is getting bigger – much bigger. The population is expected to double because of a new development project.

The Winter Haven Corporation is planning to build 6,100 homes just off U.S. 27 and Thompson Nursery Road. The project will also include retail space and nearly 800 acres of greenspace.

"All of the things a person would need to live and work and play would be incorporated in this project," said Mark Bennett, who heads development services for the city.

Construction is expected to begin in the next year and a half or so.

6,100 new homes are planned for undeveloped land.

All the changes could be a double-edged sword.

"The next five to 10 years are going to be rather challenging with growing pains," said David Black, deputy chief of the Lake Wales Police Department.

Black says the police department is already planning to hire more officers to deal with an increase in calls for service and increased traffic.

Schools will have to come up with more classroom space.

But there are upsides as well.

"More residents means more customers for our existing businesses, and more opportunity for new businesses to come to our city," said Bennett.

Most people who live in Lake Wales say one of the best things the city has to offer is that small-town friendly atmosphere.

"It is real nice place to grow up and raise your family," long-time resident Mike Morrow said.

With so many newcomers on the way, Morrow and others hope that hometown vibe is something the city can retain.