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East County Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 4 years ago

How Will We Grow? 'Good Ideas'

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Manatee County planning officials are evaluating how development occurs in the community and how to best ensure growth pays for the infrastructure improvements — water, sewer and other services — that come along with it.

Zoning and Planning official John Osborne presented his findings from a two-year “How Will We Grow” study at a Manatee County Commission workshop Jan. 15.

County officials now are inviting the public to weigh in on options for future growth. This article is the fourth and final installment in a series taking a close-up look at potential alternatives and best practices for growth.

MANATEE COUNTY — What started as quest to better control costs and manage growth in Manatee County has, in many ways, become an audit of the county’s planning systems.

Zoning and Planning official John Osborne, who has spent two years working on findings in “How Will We Grow,” a growth-management strategy, said the review process revealed many changes Manatee County officials could consider, regardless of whether they adopt a specific alternative for growth.

For example, the county adopts a new five-year capital improvement plan every year, but should it plan farther in advance for expenses? Should it make longer-range plans for parks and transit? Should it create a master plan for parks?

“This is sort of where the report went from being a new plan to almost being an audit,” Osborne said.

When considering economic development, for example, Manatee County should make efforts to improve its ranking in “best places” listings. Doing so, Osborne said, will help the county recruit high-paying industries, among other benefits.

Additionally, coordinating more with other governmental agencies, such as the Manatee County School Board and local fire districts, could save taxpayers money, while utilizing the county’s existing infrastructure. The county could potentially partner with the State College of Florida or the Manatee County School District to have joint-use libraries for the public and for schools. Or, the county could use its mapping programs to help other agencies find sites for future construction projects, Osborne said.

Manatee County officials will host six general workshops for the public on “How Will We Grow” in the coming months. Information also is being posted to the concept’s Facebook page, so residents can view presentations and information and provide feedback there.

The Urban Land Institute will visit Manatee County March 18 through March 22, at which time it will review the county’s “How Will We Grow?” findings. It will release its own report to the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners March 26.

Manatee County planning officials have identified “good ideas” for future development planning, regardless of which alternative is chosen in the future.

Those improvements include:

Capital Improvements Programming
• Develop master list of current and future capital improvements projects through 2035, updated annually;
• Capital Improvements Plan should reflect the community’s priorities;
• Capital Improvements Plan and other infrastructure investments should consider/analyze land-use changes that may provide greater return on investment.

Economic Development
• Provide up-to-date information to publishers of data so Manatee makes “best places” ranking;
• Indicators of “best places” and other best communities generally is associated with: intellectual capital and innovation; city gateway/global connection of place; technical readiness; health, safety and security; transportation and infrastructure; sustainability and the natural environment; demographics and livability; economic clout; ease of doing business; and cost of business and living;
• Infrastructure mapping: Identify where excess capacities in wastewater, potable water and traffic infrastructure exist and identify “sweet spots” for development;
• Concurrency: Revise level of service standards for urban areas;
• PDEZ expansion to existing industrial and urban redevelopment areas;
• Greenways and trails, urban parks, etc.;
• Explore “brownfield” designation for large area(s) of Southwest County area to capitalize on incentives;
• Mapping of properties with opportunity for taller buildings and ability to see water.

• Coordinate with School Board and private school providers on future school locations;
• Explore advantages for county in terms of reduced infrastructure needs associated with smaller community/local schools. Explore financial partnership opportunities with School Board;
• Look at existing lands owned by School Board and consider surrounding areas for higher residential densities.

• Consider dedicated source of funding for transit;
• Consider dedicated source of funding for stormwater utility;
• Explore district-based impact fees;
• Explore mobility fees.

Government Services
• Explore consolidation opportunities for specific services with other agencies: human resources, information technology and contracts and purchasing;
• Conduct a GIS-based site suitability analysis to help local agencies identify best sites for potential projects;
• Communicate more with other agencies (School Board, fire districts, etc.) on future land purchases. Analyze existing inventories first;
• Consider opportunities to collaborate with other agencies on a county annex in East County;
• Explore the possibility with the State College of Florida and Manatee County to consider a joint-use library to serve the college and community;
• Explore the possibility with the School Board and Manatee County to consider joint-use libraries to serve the community and schools.

Land Development & Redevelopment
• Allow a greater variety of development types nearer to growing residential areas
• Pedestrian-oriented designs
• Mix land uses at activity centers
• Decrease size of blocks and add to inventory of future collector streets in developing areas
• Allow wider variety of housing options in closer proximity to services
• Identify areas of increased densities
• Conversion of “grayfields,” under-utilized or vacant older strip commercial centers, to include uses such as profession or medical office, restaurants or multi-family housing
• Greater alignment with cities to ensure potential areas of annexation better reflect urban development trends

Parks & Recreation
• Parks master plan is key for appropriate parks development;
• Parks development should take into consideration community goals;
• Parks development should be consistent with target economic development activities and cultural and demographic trends;
• Parks development should be consistent with improving community ratings in “Best Places.”

Public Safety
• Analyze moving of first and EMS services first, before building additional stations.

• Amend Comprehensive Plan Future Thoroughfare Maps to be generally consistent with the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Long Range Transportation Plan;
• Recognize relationship between moderate levels of traffic congestion and economic vitality;
• Allow reduced levels of service on certain facilities or under certain circumstances’
• Introduce other performance standards, such as minimizing vehicle miles traveled, between key activity centers;
• Focus density bonuses and incentives for transit-oriented design within one-third mile from transit stops;
• Explore competitive contracting to operate portion or all of the transit and paratransit services.

• Take stronger stance with utility system as catalyst for growth planning and as growth-management tool;
• Consider use of urban service area strategy to better control extensions of utilities;
• Provide incentives for development to use existing infrastructure;
• Consider allowing interim wastewater treatment plants in select areas on case-by-case basis.
— How Will We Grow presentation

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