Thursday, September 22, 2005

Response to Commissioner Shelin

Response to Commissioner Shelin’s comments:

During the downtown re-zoning process, the Planning Staff noted (from the discussion matrix):

Recognizing that there are distinctive areas within downtown (e.g., Burns Court/Herald Square and Rosemary District) where new development must be particularly sensitive to its surroundings, consider creation new zoning districts or using overlay districts to establish standards and/or incentives to enhance compatibility and the preservation of historic resources.

Mindful that the community has gone through a long and thoughtful process, which is intended to change the character of this area, no change to the proposed zoning map is recommended.[indicating Down Town Edge is clearly preferred].

Commissioner Shelin has stated:

The City Commission, as I've said, has an obligation to take into account the views and needs of all its constituencies and the property owners in Burns Court have made their views known through many months of public hearings. They have asked for continuing the use of C-CBD which we can't do because of the adoption of the downtown master plan and code. They've asked for Downtown Bayfront which is clearly inconsistent with the new code, Duany's transect theory, and our desire to downzone the area.

But, they have vested interests in Burns Court and their own properties just as property owners in Laurel Park, Gillespie Park and elsewhere in the city. And we have an obligation to be responsive to them. We have struck a balance, in my view, between the desires of the neighborhoods adjacent to and outside Burns Court and those of Burns Court.

We would remind Commissioner Shelin that the entire downtown was "down zoned". That was the point in the entire process. Under the old code, downtown property owners (CCBD zoning) could expect 18 story buildings. Under the new Master Plan and Downtown Core zoning, the limit is 10 stories. Nobody suffered unduly. This was the desire of the community.

The plan clearly states that building heights (zoning allowance) should be reduced as one moves further from the downtown core. This is the transect model for zoning.

Given this, we do not understand, nor agree with, Commissioner Shelin’s arguments for giving the Burns Square property owners the up-zoning, or zoning bonus, that was clearly not agreed to in the citizen and Planning staff approved Master Plan and zoning recommendations. This is not a question of striking a balance between neighborhoods. This is a question of giving in to a small group of property owners instead of listening to the entire community and listening to our staff. It is not a case where one small group disagrees with staff and argues their position. This is a case where the entire community agrees with staff and a small group of property owners has succeeded in getting their way.

Clear options are available to assure the desirable, unique characteristics of the Burns Square area remain, while respecting the property owner values. Changing the zoning to Downtown Core is not one of these options. No balance was struck. Clearly the process was violated and the imbalance that was created is very disappointing.


Burns Square Property Owners Assoc. said...

I have great appreciation for people in our community, such as the ones that write for the Save our Sarasota blog, who are passionate about issues that involve us all. I consider myself a passionate person active in our community as well.

This year I worked with my fellow property owners to preserve my historical property rights in both Laurel Park and Burns Square. We were successful in maintaining the current RMF-9 zoning of Laurel Park without being up-zoned to DTN. We were down-zoned in Burns Square from CCBD (18 stories) to DTC (10 stories).

Burns Square was not "up-zoned" or given a "zoning bonus". I am not sure what constitutes a "small group of property owners" but I would think that 20 owners representing over 300,000 square feet of property anything but small. While the property owners in Burns Square felt there were sound and logical reasons the DTE zoning was inappropriate for the CCBD properties, we also had our legal rights protected under the Bert Harris Act. It is undisputed that Burns Square CCBD property owners, under the DTE zoning, were asked to share a disproportionate burden in the rezoning of the city. It is also undisputed that Burns Square was not studied to any extent.

The City of Sarasota Master Plan 2020 states:
"Care will be taken to respect property rights while at the same time requiring building designs which meet critical public needs such as providing pedestrian friendly street frontages on "A" Streets."
"The process of redevelopment should be made predictable, as much as possible, so that it consumes less of the public discussion and so that the investment of the private sector serves as the engine to build out the intentions of this plan."
"Developers have certain vested rights according to the existing codes and these rights, while not withdrawn, must be strictly enforced and shorn of bonuses."
"What is currently positive about Downtown Sarasota and its adjacent neighborhoods was assessed through visual observation, then confirmed through analysis and in conversation with residents. Nevertheless, the perceived reality of the city involves not only the existing buildings, but the hypothetical buildings allowed by the existing code which are vested now as property rights."
"There are several elements of the proposed code that should be brought to public attention. The first is the density which will be based on both the existing building fabric and the entitlements already provided by the current code. However, the bonus provisions that create unexpected problems are eliminated. Thus, there will be additional tall buildings were they are currently allowed, but they will not be unexpectedly larger as a result of complex formulas."
"The entitlements of property owners cannot be easily rescinded."

Something noteworthy is happening because of the property owners in Burns Square who want to preserve the wonderful things about the area while we grow. We will be conducting a charrette with planner Ramon Trias who was recommended by Andreas Duany in November to create a vision for the area. We will be encouraging people to participate in this unprecedented process with us and the Save our Sarasota group is invited. I am open for discussion anytime because I think our goals are similar.

Sarasota Secret Society Blogger said...

Seems that the "squeeky wheel" theory still works.

Anonymous said...


How does one build a ten story (140"+) building in the heart of the Burns Square area and remain sensitive and contextural to the neighborhood? The properties are all too small to accomodate buildings of this size without looking out of scale with its surroundings.

Burns Square Property Owners Assoc. said...

The goal of the Property Owners Association in Burns Square is to create a vision hopefully with a lot of outside input. We cannot "control" other people but we can work together and hopefully the end results will be better than if each property owner worked independently. Our plan has been in the works for over a year and a lot of time, thought and money has been given by the owners to get to the place we are today. The charrette process we are conducting has nothing to do with the zoning, in fact we had to cancel our charrette date in September because of the zoning challenges we faced.

I do not get the "squeaky wheel" comment, can you explain?

Burns Square Property Owners Assoc. said...

DEAR "How does one build a ten story (140"+) building in the heart of the Burns Square area and remain sensitive and contextural to the neighborhood? The properties are all too small to accomodate buildings of this size without looking out of scale with its surroundings. 10:32 AM "

I choose not to keep commenting on misconceptions and misunderstandings on this blog and if SOS want to have meaningful dialogue in personal we are willing.

Anonymous said...

The question remains. The City Commission agreed to allow Burns Square to be DTC zoning, and DTC allows for buidings of this height. What is interesting about Ms. Kowal's comments is that she seems to suggest that Burns Square will be "policing" itself with its new planning study, although she seems to allow that not all property owners will follow. Want to bet we will see one of these monsters in front of City Staff before long?

SOS1 said...

Denise - just to clear the air a little, comments are posted by anyone - the comment feature is open to any interested reader. I do not know the identity of anyone who comments, unless they identify themselves to everyone.They are likely not by SOS members, although they could be. I am not aware of any comment by a SOS member.

This is the first comment I have made on this blog (of course I write the postings). The comment section is for everyone else.

Your comments are welcome. A good discussion of issues is helpful for the community.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I understand Ms.Kowal's comment about misunderstandings and misconceptions. If 11:38 is correct; DTC zoning allows for buildings of this scale. Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

You are missing the fact that now they (and others) want 200 units per acre, and for the City to build a parking garage to further help them out. So it appears that they have moved from unfairly burdened to.....

Anonymous said...

Ms. Kowal:

The point of the letter to Commissioner Shelin was not to debate 5, 10 or 18 stories, but was a comment on the process of rezoning the Burns Court/Herald Square area.

For the citizens who had been following this process, the understanding was that your neighborhood had hired a consultant to study the Burns Court/Herald Square area and you would come back to the Commission with recommendations and there would be public discussion and full and open decision-making process followed.

This whole process was circumvented by a quick, surprise vote initiated by Commissioner Shelin. We had anticipated so much better from him.

Burns Square Property Owners Assoc. said...

Janice: I appreciate your comment and all the others as well and I suggested meeting in person because I feel it would better serve the subject and interested parties. Perhaps I’d be invited to a future SOS meeting? We might find out we have much more that we agree on than people think.

I will try to address some items that have been written.

ManasotaMan – The Burns Square property owners have been working on our area for years. There is nothing that we are doing that was prompted by outsiders input although outside input is very welcome because I feel you never know were a great idea is going to come from and if you limit your audience, you limit your choices.

10:32 – We currently have one 140’+ under construction so I guess we will see what it is like when it is done.

11:38 – The Burns Square property owners are mobilizing themselves in creating a vision for our area, which is not “policing.” I am very thankful I have a group of owners willing to do so regardless of differences in opinions.

10:57 – Yes it is true DTC allows the possibility of a ten-story structure. This does not mean that is the only outcome. Nor does it mean that is the intention of all the property owners. Please understand this discussion is not just about the Burns Court small one story structures but also a larger area surrounding it.

7:47 – I share the desire for higher density along with all property owners in downtown DTC and DTE so properties can build smaller units that are closer to affordable than large units, or at least more diverse. I also agree with the Master Plan 2020 and Duany’s concepts regarding city-parking structures. Developers have to pay for parking so this is not a gift from the city. Parking for customers of commercial businesses is another need, which is supplied by the city. We were zoned DTC therefore in my opinion "unfairly burdened" is no longer accurate with the passing of that vote.

2:27 – If you followed what happened you would remember the commission zoned Burns Square DTE at first reading instead of holding us out as we requested. At second reading three commissioners felt that fixing the inequity, which all five commissioners had clearly recognized at first reading, was a better option than making the property owners fight to restore their rights later. As far as process goes, all sides were heard, including city staff, who argued the opposing view. It doesn’t mean the process failed because not everyone got his way that of course is inevitable.

I look forward to working toward mutual goals in the future. Respectfully, Denise Kowal

Anonymous said...

Page II-1.6 of the master plan states that parking purchase progams should be limited to those buildings which are Five stories or less. So, since the buildings within your area are now eligible for 10 stories they should provide their own parking.

By the way density does not guarantee affordability, and it too should be an incentive, not a giveaway.

Burns Square Property Owners Assoc. said...

2:34 - I agree with the statements you spoke of in the Master Plan regarding parking. I attended a lot of the charrette meetings with Duany and remember the parking charrette very well. There is another part in the Master Plan that I think explains Andreas Duany's views or concepts on parking and it goes... "The Master Plan envisions a society that is in transition between an automobile-based and a pedestrian urbanism. Thus, while the number of parking spaces will continue to be determined as in the present code, there will not be a requirement that they be provided in adjacency to the building they serve. In fact, it is advantageous for the vitality of the streets and shops that people walk between their parking places and their habitual destinations. In addition, the dispersal of parking allows the existing smaller lots, that cannot typically accommodate parking to be developed individually. This will maintain the attractive small-scale quality of a traditional American downtown, rather than forcing the agglomeration of smaller lots into large developable ones. The required parking will be purchased from municipally-provided parking lots. Parking in the future must become a public utility, no less than electricity or streets."

Regarding the density what I said was, "I share the desire for higher density along with all property owners in downtown DTC and DTE so properties can build smaller units that are closer to affordable than large units, or at least more diverse." I agree that we cannot guaranteed affordability, the market seems to set that. I guess I would ask you, why should density be an incentive in DTC? I personally do not see an advantage of one 3500 square foot condominium that would be fairly expensive to a developer building instead three 1100 square foot condominiums that would be proportionately more reasonable and an opportunity for more people.

By the way, why am I the only person willing to sign my name, is no one else willing to sign their thoughts so that we can have personal conversations outside this site as well. I also do not see many things as win/loose or black/white, I see there are challenges on everyone's part regardless of outcomes. There are many things that do not happen the way "I" think they should happen, that does not mean I think my opinion is right or wrong, it just is.

Anonymous said...

As to density, why should the City taxpayers bear the cost of the increase in density i.e. infrastructure, while the developer reaps the reward (increased return per unit)? The developers always bring this request up under the guise of more affordable units but they will never guarantee that they will stay affordable.

I am not against density but it should not be a blanket give away to anyone. The City should use it in conjunction with mass transit hubs, or other goals and objectives thus the use of the term incentive.

As to the parking, you reference general concepts of parking theory identified in the master plan while I have listed the specific strategy of utilizing the concept for those buildings limited to 5 stories or less. Again this works as an incentive to implement the plan. If you have a lot that could not build to 10 stories without the City providing the parking, and increasing the density X 4, perhaps it should have been zoned DTE.

It is important to note that the plan was not designed to be built overnight and the proper time for development would be when enough lots are aggregated to be capable of developing without the City solving all your problems.

Burns Square Property Owners Assoc. said...

2:30 - You write as though people who decide to develop their property expect the city to solve all the challenges that arise out of a development, I have said nothing of the sort and I do not find that the case with developments that are underway in Burns Square. Burns Square has challenges and the property owners are putting up their money, time and energy to conduct a charrette to work on those issues together. I hardly think that is expecting others to fix our problems but a cooperation to find out what we have we can work with. Funny, I thought that was a good thing, citizens working together to better their area.

I am not sure but I have heard that density in condominiums create less stress on infrastructure than homes do. You will need to check this with the engineering departments. I still do not see your point about density and how restricting it will help our downtown. I do think there should be standards as to what is livable, minimum size, windows, etc.

I disagree with your statement about the parking as stated in the Master Plan. The whole Master Plan is a beginning and the reality is what the city staff is putting together which may or may not be the exact same. I just attended the final stage of the parking study a few weeks ago, the city has a plan and you can get a copy.

We also seem to be having two different conversations, one about the property owners in Burns Square protecting property rights and the other about developers. These are two totally different issues, just because citizens protected their property rights in Burns Square does not imply they are going to immediately build something. In fact I think the opposite is true.

You will never convince me that we as a community are going to get somewhere looking at our deficits instead of our assets.

Would be nice if you identified yourself.