Property owners seeking inclusion in a zoning district that allows for higher-density development were dealt a blow Monday, as the City Commission narrowly denied a request to expand the district's approved boundaries.
The Rosemary Residential Overlay District, or R-ROD, would allow for residential developments of 75 units per acre within its boundaries. Currently, developments in the area have a limit of 25 units per acre; under the R-ROD, the overall average density would still remain capped at 25 units per acre.
The R-ROD, approved by the commission last month, is still awaiting a state approval process before it can take effect. In the meantime, nearby property owners are requesting that they be incorporated into the overlay district.
At Monday’s City Commission meeting, staff asked commissioners for direction regarding those appeals. The city has received three requests to expand the R-ROD to include land west of Cocoanut Avenue, directly adjacent to the current western boundary of the district.
Vice Mayor Susan Chapman said she had heard concerns from the city’s Urban Design Studio regarding price speculation in the R-ROD. The original overlay district proposal, submitted by developer Rosalyne Holdings, LLC, was approved so that a specific 450-unit housing project from that group could be developed, Chapman said. When it came to the expanded area, she said, there was no such concrete project.
“If you increase density, you increase value of the property and essentially bring in speculation,” Chapman said. “None of these pieces have any planned project that we can look at.”
Brenda Patten, a land-use attorney representing the owners of the property at 599 Cocoanut Avenue, said that the 6.2 acres on which the Rosalyne Holdings apartment complex would be constructed was just a small portion of the R-ROD. Any concerns regarding speculation would equally apply to the vast majority of the properties already in the district, she said.
“The remaining 64 acres of land are property owners who don't have plans and who will try to take advantage of density in the R-ROD,” Patten said. “Most of the owners in the (current boundaries) stand in the very same shoes as owners in the proposed expansion area.”
Despite those appeals, the commission was not swayed, voting 3-2 to direct staff not to pursue an expansion of the R-ROD. Commissioners Paul Caragiulo and Suzanne Atwell voted against the motion, arguing that the expansion was a reasonable request.
“I don't think this is asking for very much,” Caragiulo said. “Frankly, some of the explanations I've just heard defy what people who actually develop things and build things are saying.”
Property owners interested in being added to the R-ROD may still apply directly for a comprehensive plan amendment that would expand the district’s boundaries, but the city indicated it is not interested in facilitating any additional density increases in the area at this time.
“I think the reason we agreed to the residential overlay district in Rosemary is that we had this one rental project,” Chapman said.
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