Got growth? St. Cloud prepares to add 2,020 acres into city limits

A concept site plan, above, shows the property known as Center Lake. It’s part of the 2,020 acres of land the St. Cloud City Council is preparing to annex into city limits. It includes a new school and fire station.

A new major development with about 4,000 residential units may soon become a part of St. Cloud city limits.

Last week, the St. Cloud City Council voted 4-1 to annex 2,020 acres of land into city limits after denying the same request a year earlier.

However, this was the first of three public hearings that must happen before the annexation becomes final.

Property known as Center Lake Ranch has been approved as a Development of Regional Impact in Osceola County since 2008. It’s a similar land-use designation as pre-planned communities like Harmony and Kindred. The property is eligible for annexation because it lies adjacent to St. Cloud city limits and within the joint planning agreement between the city and Osceola County.

The land, located in the Narcoossee Overlay district, has approved entitlements for more than 4,000 mixed-use units including apartments and homes, 170,000 square feet of retail use and 70,000 square feet of office space.

A kindergarten to eighth grade school, fire station and a reclaim water pumping facility requested by the city’s utility department are also planned for the new development.

Kathy Hattaway of Poulos & Bennett - acting as legal representation for the current land owner Jimmy Caruso – said about 1,100 of 2,020 acres of the former-ranch land would remain natural open space, with seven miles of trails and two major parks.

Steven McDonald, chief economist for the company GAI Consultants, provided fiscal impact analysis of the annexation to City Council members.

McDonald said his report took renovations of current city-owned facilities into consideration as well as expansion of city services like water.  

He estimated new homes in Center Lake will have an average market value of $325,000 and $240,000 taxable property values.

“That’s about three times the value of the average home in St. Cloud right now,” said McDonald, who provided similar financial analysis to the city before it annexed property for Tohoqua last year. “It’s almost impossible not to come up with a positive fiscal impact for this project.”

But residents like David Misner had doubts about McDonald’s property value outlook.

“He points out in his own report that a lot of the financial data is overstated, overly optimistic,” said Misner.  “I think his report is overly optimistic about 2017 and 2018 data. The over-evaluation of homes to be sold makes a big impact on the infrastructure the city has to plan.”

Resident Hughlett Crumpler spoke about the city’s limited supply of affordable ground water, and suggested that McDonald’s method of financial analysis may not account for actual major future outlays.

“The assumptions are not good,” she said. “Real numbers should be attached to the real needs we’re going to have – not some model of the past.”

Other residents raised concerns about the 1,000 multifamily apartment units planned in Center Lake.

Hattaway noted that St. Cloud’s mixed-use standards set a minimum density of five dwelling units per acre, and apartment units would need to be included to make that possible.

Hattaway said she hoped the council would still consider having a mix of housing types and not eliminate apartment complex units from the plan.

St. Cloud Planning and Zoning Director Andre Anderson said it is up to the council if they want to allow apartments only over commercial areas as part of zoning.

Nearby residents in the Starline Estates area asked for a six-foot buffer wall to be built between the existing community and the edge of the Center Lake development.

Council members gave staff direction to explore materials and costs for the wall.

The council ultimately voted 4-1 to annex the Center Lake property. A final reading is scheduled for April 11.

Council member Linette Matheny voted a “tentative” yes, adding that she wants to review the final resolution with changes made to reflect input from residents and the board before making a final decision.

Councilman Chuck Cooper voted against the measure.