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Commission nixes overlay expansion

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  • | 4:00 a.m. July 10, 2014
Photo by David Conway Commissioners said they approved the original Rosemary Residential Overlay District because of a proposed apartment project on vacant land along Cocoanut Avenue.
Photo by David Conway Commissioners said they approved the original Rosemary Residential Overlay District because of a proposed apartment project on vacant land along Cocoanut Avenue.
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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 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, which the commission approved last month, is still awaiting a state approval process before it can take effect. In the meantime, nearby property owners are requesting 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 move forward, Chapman said. When it came to the expanded area, she said, there was no such concrete development that demanded immediate action.

“If you increase density, you increase value of the property and essentially bring in speculation,” Chapman said. “None of these pieces has any planned project that we can look at.”

Karin Murphy, director of the Urban Design Studio, is spearheading the city’s forthcoming form-based code. Murphy has expressed some trepidation about the R-ROD, saying that across-the-board density increases weren’t necessarily desirable. She said the Rosalyne Holdings proposal was a project worth pursing, but that other parties may seek to benefit from increasing property values rather than actually developing something.

“We are concerned it will have a speculative effect, driving the property values up and possibly leaving some missing teeth,” Murphy said. “We’d like to get a really nice project incorporated, but we’re being very thoughtful about what that long-term effect might be.”

Brenda Patten, a land-use attorney representing the owners of the property at 599 Cocoanut Ave., said the 6.2 acres on which the Rosalyn 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 the appeals, the commission was not swayed. In a 3-2 vote, commissioners directed staff not to pursue an expansion of the R-ROD. Commissioners Paul Caragiulo and Suzanne Atwell voted against the motion, arguing the expansion was a reasonable request.

Caragiulo said his interpretation of the Urban Design Studio’s input was different from Chapman’s and that his belief was that increasing the size of the district could be beneficial for the area in question.

“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 — a process Patten has already begun for her clients. From the city’s perspective, however, it is not interested in facilitating any additional density increases in the area at this time.

“We either want quality, planned-out development, or we just want to approve this,” Commissioner Shannon Snyder said.

Contact David Conway at [email protected]



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