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Properties seek inclusion in Rosemary overlay

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  • | 5:00 a.m. February 13, 2014
  • Sarasota
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The group trying to establish new regulations to allow higher-density projects in the Rosemary District has encountered a potential obstacle — the idea may be too popular.

For some people, at least, the Rosemary Residential Overlay District is an enticing opportunity. As long as the district’s overall average housing density is at 25 units per acre, individual developments within the area would be allowed to develop up to 75 units per acre.

As a result, property owners bordering the overlay district want to expand the proposed boundaries: 10th Street to the north, Fruitville Road to the south, Orange Avenue to the east and Cocoanut Avenue to the west.

This may be a problem for Rosalyne Holdings LLC, the developer proposing the overlay district. The concept would allow the group to develop about 450 apartments on 6.2 acres along Cocoanut Avenue. Bill Merrill, a land-use attorney representing Rosalyne Holdings, said the group was interested in building as soon as possible, but any changes to the overlay district proposal could cause a delay.

Merrill said a large group of people who wanted to be included had properties with a different land-use designation than the properties in the proposed overlay district. He said many people with property in the downtown core were interested in being added, but soon backed off when they realized they would have to also comply with the district’s five-story height limit.

Two other properties with the proper land-use designation have contacted Rosalyne Holdings about being added to the district, Merrill said — The Players Theatre at 838 N. Tamiami Trail, and the Jefferson Center apartments at 930 N. Tamiami Trail. Merrill said the group would gladly expand its proposed map if it were directed to do so, but there are currently no plans to incorporate any other properties.

“Our map is kind of already set,” Merrill said. “If we’re told to add them by the city, we will.”

Karin Murphy, the director of the city’s Urban Design Studio, has cautioned against the expansion of the overlay district. She supports the concept, but says the district should be narrowly tailored to facilitate the completion of the Rosalyne Holdings project.

That’s because, she said, the Rosalyne Holdings project is in keeping with the new urbanist principles that will govern the city’s forthcoming form-based code. Other properties may not offer a desirable housing type, or be located at a point that could easily link up with public transportation, she said. In the future, Murphy said, she’d like to see a more detailed citywide provision for increased density that was tied to a development’s site plans.

Additionally, Murphy said, some properties may seek inclusion despite having no intention of using the increased density offered in the district. Instead, they’ll benefit from the increased value of a property that would allow a purchaser to build a denser development. If prices increased in an underdeveloped district, the negative effects could be significant.

“Our fear, if it inflates the property values too much, is that we’ll have those vacant teeth for another 10 years,” Murphy said.

The Rosemary Residential Overlay District still has to go through a series of public hearings and get approval from the city and state, with a projected completion date no earlier than September. That date could be pushed back if neighboring properties successfully petition the City Commission to expand the boundaries.

Still, Merrill is focusing on the positive ramifications for the overlay district proposal.

“Obviously, it’s getting a very good reception,” Merrill said.

Contact David Conway at [email protected]



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