Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Private-Public Partnerships for Open Space

Here's an idea that is catching on around the country - requiring developers to chip in for parks and open space. In Sarasota developers extract every cubic inch of volume possible from the space above their land holdings. The residents and visitors are excluded from viewing through this space - so why not add to the "public-private parnership" concept by requiring a little more from the private part of the equation?

From NYC comes this article :

In an ideal world, government would bear the full responsibility of providing and maintaining parks. But in today's real world of unfunded federal mandates and local-level anti-tax pressure, a patchwork quilt of public-private partnerships has grown up. If developers are making money building housing for new residents, it seems reasonable to ask them to provide some new parkland, too.

Many communities around the country require developers to donate land or pay in-lieu fees to help governments acquire parkland. Known as "developer exactions" or "developer impact fees," the concept is generally thought of as suburban – setting aside parcels for playing fields or stream-valley trails among the new tract houses. But it's also the law in Atlanta, Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles and in very densely populated Chicago, Miami and Long Beach, California.

Miami charges developers $157 for every 1,000 square feet of downtown residential construction and $104 for every 1,000 square feet of downtown commercial construction. The money must be spent in the general vicinity of the new building, it must be spent within six years, and it can only be spent for capital purposes (buying land or constructing a park facility), not ongoing maintenance.

Chicago's Open Space Impact Fee is similar, though somewhat steeper -- about $313 for a small apartment and up to $1,253 for a large one. Affordable (below-market) housing units are assessed a flat fee of $100. The city has seven years to spend the money or it must return it to the developer. In case of larger planned developments, the city prefers to receive not money but a comparable gift of land.

While Sarasota has lots of open space by the beaches, open space near downtown is limited (although Payne Park is a great open space with high expectations). Open space in the neighborhoods is also limited.

A recent editorial in the SHT indicates that Sarasota should somehow find a way to save the historical buildings (on a permanent site) that need to be removed due to a proposed development. Our question is why is this only a responsibility for residents - there is a group of volunteers that is spending a great amount of time and energy trying to fund the moving and preservation of these buildings. Nearly all residents agree this is a good thing to do. Yet the city cannot find funding and the developer apparently has no requirement to help.

Sarasota can do better than this. Many other cities are stepping up and requiring the "private" entity in the "public- private" partnership to do more than just build parking places with tax dollars on land given to the private partner by the public.

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