Sinkhole Develops In Winter Haven Publix Parking Lot

Winter Haven officials and shoppers look over the sink hole that developed in the parking lot in front of a Publix Thursday. (Calvin Knight/ The Ledger)

Winter Haven officials and shoppers look over the sink hole that developed in the parking lot in front of a Publix Thursday. (Calvin Knight/ The Ledger)

Written by: Miles Parks and Cody Dulaney

WINTER HAVEN | Clare Barroso stared at the spot where at 5:45 a.m. she had parked her gold Jeep.

“All my life,” she said, gently touching the yellow police tape, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

What was once a section of a large parking lot was now a pond of black concrete that seemed to be slowly rippling from the center of the earth.

Barroso moved her car before all that though, when the sinkhole at 6031 Cypress Gardens Blvd. was showing itself only as lumps in the lot. Barroso is an employee at Kmart in the shopping center known as Winter Haven Square, which is across the street from Legoland.

A still-expanding sinkhole closed three shops at the plaza Thursday, and was estimated at 70 feet wide and 15 feet deep in the afternoon

“I was scared to even go move (the car),” Barroso said pointing across the lot. “I moved it way over there.”

The rest of this article can be found here as it appeared on page B1 of The Ledger.

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Winter Haven Legal Fees Skyrocket

The old fertilizer plant site had been scheduled to be part of The Landings redevelopment in Winter Haven before plans fell apart. (Pierre DuCharme/ The Ledger)

The old fertilizer plant site had been scheduled to be part of The Landings redevelopment in Winter Haven before plans fell apart. (Pierre DuCharme/ The Ledger)

WINTER HAVEN | The city’s legal bills for the failed Landings development have exceeded original expectations and now eclipse $600,000, according to records obtained by The Ledger.

As of the week of May 15, the city’s total bill for legal fees related to a lawsuit over The Landings was $609,478, city records show.

A small fraction of that amount is being reimbursed by the city’s insurance policy. A larger percentage of future bills will be covered, said Donna Sheehan, a city spokeswoman.

Just over a year ago, when the city was pondering whether to settle the lawsuit, estimates of potential legal fees were $300,000 to $350,000.

The Landings was a mixed-use development proposed for the city-owned Chain of Lakes Complex. After the first phase of the planned project, which included adding three restaurants on Cypress Gardens Boulevard, things fell apart.

The City Commission cancelled its contract with financier Taylor Pursell, citing his failure to close on one-third of an acre and submit a list of covenants, conditions and restrictions by a May 5, 2012, deadline.

In his lawsuit against the city, Pursell alleged the city’s attorney, John Murphy, verbally agreed to extend that deadline when Pursell signed an agreement that allowed a college baseball tournament to be played at the Chain of Lakes Complex before Pursell began the next phase of the development.

Murphy has said he made no such verbal agreement.

The rest of this article can be found here as it appeared on page A1 in The Ledger.

Polk Aviation Alliance President Jamie Beckett Resigns

Jamie Beckett (The Ledger)

Jamie Beckett (The Ledger)

WINTER HAVEN | Jamie Beckett, the city of Winter Haven’s former “airport commissioner,” has resigned as CEO and president of the Polk Aviation Alliance, an organization he started.

His resignation letter, sent via email to the alliance board of directors Sunday evening, cited an inability to bring board members to work together and eliminate selfishness.

“At a recent meeting that included three board members other than myself, I was profoundly disappointed and quite embarrassed to find our member organizations and board members not only made no attempt to work collaboratively to support one another, they displayed a disquieting level of ego-centric turf protection,” Beckett wrote in the letter, “to the detriment of the process at hand and the players at the table.”

The rest of this article can be found here as it appeared on page B1 of The Ledger.

Jessie’s Lounge Could Redefine Polk Music Scene

Jessie Skubna, left, and Robbie Loftus, co-owners of Jessie's Lounge, are hoping to gain approval to develop a lot next to their business for a live-music venue. (Paul Crate/ The Ledger)

Jessie Skubna, left, and Robbie Loftus, co-owners of Jessie’s Lounge, are hoping to gain approval to develop a lot next to their business for a live-music venue. (Paul Crate/ The Ledger)

WINTER HAVEN | It’s enough to make Polk music-lovers salivate.

You can almost see it now. A breezy autumn night, the kind that defines Florida in late October.

Craft beer is flowing from taps inside the lounge, bass strings buzz and hum, and some 500 boys and girls trade dance moves and giggles in the grass.

The vignette might seem more California than Winter Haven, but the recent proposal of a large outdoor concert venue could redefine the Polk County live music scene.

THE PROPOSAL

It’s still months away from becoming a reality but the process has begun. Jessie Skubna, owner of Jessie’s Lounge at 118 Third St. SW, requested approval from the city to expand the 3,900-square-foot bar to include outdoor seating in the back of the building and to include a stage for live music on the vacant lot next to the bar to the south.

Skubna and her longtime boyfriend and co-owner, Robbie Loftus, said the proposed outside venue would be able to hold up to 500 people. The fire department does not set occupancy maximums on outside venues.

Skubna and Loftus do not own the vacant lot, and would lease the property for now.

The expanded patio in the back of the bar would hold 40 seats.

The city responded March 26 with a document that was to go before the Planning Commission for approval April 1. The document said that city staff is in favor of allowing the expansion but only if the bar and its owners follow certain conditions.

The rest of this article can be found here as it appeared on page A1 of The Ledger.