In November, the city began the process of introducing citizens to the findings of its mobility study and the changes that could be made due to that report. In the process of implementing those changes, some residents worry their voices could be lost in the shuffle.
The city provided an overview of the changes recommended in the study at January’s meeting of the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations. One change was well received: traffic impact fees from new developments would go toward general transportation improvements, not just roadway upgrades.
The other was more heavily scrutinized. The plan would create three mobility districts, each with its own standard level of traffic generated by new developments. Projects below those levels would no longer have to carry out a full traffic study, though they would still pay impact fees.
Concerns arose from land designated as transit-oriented corridors. Three districts, extending north and south along U.S. 41 and east on Fruitville Road, are designed to encourage mixed-use developments.
Kate Lowman, president of the Laurel Park Neighborhood Association, asked how the city would manage traffic in residential areas next to the corridors.
“There should be consideration given to the fact that they are adjacent to a neighborhood, and that should be part of the planning,” Lowman said.
City Engineer Alex DavisShaw said projects above the acceptable traffic levels would still have to produce a full concurrency study, allowing residents to use that information if they object to the size of a nearby development. The goal, she said, was to allow projects that would be approved either way to move more quickly.
Additionally, allowing the use of impact fees for a variety of transportation improvements means residents are more likely to directly benefit from adjacent developments. Allowing for pedestrian or transit improvements mean crosswalks or bus stops could be added, DavisShaw said. The current system would only permit things such as the widening of roadways.
“We have more flexibility,” DavisShaw said.
DavisShaw said Sarasota’s residential roads were mostly well above the level of service standard set the city must meet. Still, she said, if traffic gets out of hand in a residential area due to new developments, the changes outlined in the mobility study would allow the city to implement traffic-calming measures via impact fees.
Lowman said she did not have a firm opinion on the changes outlined in the mobility study. Largely, she said, her objections spoke to a bigger philosophical difference she had with the city’s approach to managing development.
“The comments I made had less to do with the subject matter of concurrency than with the question of the public having input in the kind of city we’re building over time,” Lowman said.
Contact David Conway at [email protected]