Wait, what’s a special use permit? Understanding development terms in Lakeland, Florida

Become a development terminology expert faster than you can say “Special use permit for a mixed-use zone.”


Remember when Catapult 3.0 was still in the development stages?

Photo via Catapult Lakeland

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If you want to be a development detective but find yourself turned around by the terminology in various city releases and news reports, never fear.

Here are some definitions of common terms paired with ongoing projects and examples you might recognize in Swan City.

A rendering of a new residential and retail development in Lakeland, FL

The Oak Street development could look like this.

Rendering by The Lunz Group courtesy of The Onicx Group


Projects that provide more than one purpose in the community, like a building with apartments on top and retail shops on the bottom, are referred to as mixed or multi-use. Expect to see combinations of housing, retail, parking, commercial, and industrial components.

Example: The upcoming Oak Street development will likely have seven stories of residential, retail, and parking space.

A painted rendering of a plaza at night with a fountain in the center of a large walkway surrounded by four-story buildings

This is one possible rendering of the Downtown West Gateway.

Conceptual renderings provided by The Lunz Group and The Apiary


Changing an area of land from the city’s designated use is known as rezoning. Examples of rezoning requests might be developers looking to build a high-rise in a neighborhood with a certain building height restriction, or open a business in an area marked residential.

Example: The 17-acre site of The Ledger was rezoned to make way for the new Downtown West Gateway development, featuring retail, residential, parking, and office space, plus pedestrian and bike paths.

A blue ombre mural on a white chapel building.

The Chapel was proposed for a former funeral home chapel.

Photo by LALtoday

Special Use Permit

Also known as a conditional use permit, this is granted to provide relief from regulations when land is being used in a manner not normally compatible with the zoning. It is only granted when the intended site use is deemed appropriate and compatible with the surrounding area.

Example: The city recently denied a conditional use permit for The Chapel, a proposed event space and bar that would have gone into the vacant chapel space at 417 N. Massachusetts Ave. City commissioners cited incompatibility as their reason for denial.

TYOM Lakeland Header

Lakeland’s midtown area is one supported by the CRA.

Photo via Straughn Trout Architects

Enterprise Zones

Enterprise zones are areas of the city where building a site earns you incentives, like a break on real estate taxes or money back from costs of relocating, machinery and equipment, or construction permits. The goal is to promote economic development in under-utilized areas, so only certain commercial and industrial users qualify.

Example: The Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency works to improve certain community areas including Midtown (think: The Yard on Mass and The Well), Dixieland, and downtown.

Single-family home

A freestanding building that shares no walls with other homes or structures is considered a single-family home, which is a type of zoning district in the city.

Example: If you live in a south Lakeland neighborhood, your area is most likely zoned differently than downtown apartments. You can look up your address online to learn more about how your area is zoned.

Multi-family home

One building that contains multiple housing units is considered multi-family housing, which is another type of zoning district.

Example: You can find the land designations — including Lakeland areas zoned for multi-family housing — on this map.

Principal Use

The primary activity or function of a site. A site’s principal use must be aligned with the zoning ordinances of the land it’s on.

Example: Living in a home within a residential zone is an allowable principal use.

Accessory Use

An activity or function of a site labeled subordinate or incidental.

Example: The garage or shed on your home property might be labeled an accessory use.

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