The Town of Lakeland’s public hearing and decision on a proposed 244-unit apartment complex at the Lake Miriam Mall originally scheduled for March 21 will likely be postponed to April 4.

The Lakeland City commission, in its consideration of Friday’s agenda, is expected to approve the request of Atlanta’s preferred apartment communities to postpone the hearing and vote on the strongly opposed proposal until early April. .

Lakeland Transportation and Development Review Officer Chuck Barmby told the city’s planning and zoning board on Tuesday that the developer had requested the continuation and that it was to be “discussed” by the commissioners on Friday.

Barmby told LkldNow afterwards that the developer was requesting the delay because the project’s traffic engineer, Michael Raysor of Wesley Chapel-based Raysor Transportation Consulting, “has a scheduling conflict” and will not be available. March 21th.

With traffic being the main concern raised by opponents of the project, all eyes and ears will be on Raysor at the public hearing, which is likely to attract a large number of opponents.

“Absolutely,” Brambly said. “He’s going to be key to the whole conversation.”

During their brief March 7 discussion of the proposal, commissioners appeared to be looking for ways to deny the project for reasons other than traffic issues in the context of state law that prohibits them from doing so.

Failing that, they want to make sure Raysor is there to explain how the proposal is a “downgrade” that reduces future road impacts by swapping 40,000 square feet of retail space for a 244-unit apartment complex.

“The overriding issue is that this development is generating less traffic than what is already allowed,” Barmby told the commissioners.

It’s a tough sell to area residents who don’t see future traffic benefits from the project when, they say, current traffic at the intersection of Lake Miriam Drive with South Florida Avenue is already untenable.

Preferred Apartment Communities is seeking to change commercial to multi-family zoning for a 12-acre portion of Publix-owned Lake Miriam Mall. Its site plan proposes four three-story and two four-story buildings offering studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments on a plot in the 1993 Publix planned unit development for the Lake Miriam Shopping Center. .

This 1993 plan authorized up to 180,000 square feet of commercial space. It has been amended several times, including the addition in 2002 of 39,979 square feet of retail space in the area where apartments are now planned.

In 2018, a 34,000 square foot LA fitness center was approved but never built for the plot. Raysor estimated with the fitness center that the mall would generate 3,224 car trips per day, including 276 during the afternoon peak.

From the 2018 study, Raysor predicts that a 244-unit apartment complex would generate 1,328 daily trips and 104 peak afternoon trips.

According to the analysis, exchanging the 40,000 square feet of commercial development for apartments would generate 800 fewer external trips per day, including 72 fewer trips during afternoon traffic peaks.

Since submitting its proposal, the developer has amended its site plan to add a second exit from the complex to Lake Miriam Square Mall and to South Florida Avenue.

The developer has also added a sidewalk walkway in the part of the complex closest to Lakeland Highlands Middle School.

On February 15, the city’s planning and zoning board approved its rezoning and site plan in a 3-2 vote.