The approval of portions of the density bonus comp plan was an example of failed communication by our city leadership to achieve consensus prior to charging ahead with a poorly thought out solution.
Nixing the School Ave. area was good. It leaves time to assess what is compatible with the nearby neighborhood and avoids the possibility of putting Down Town Core smack up against single family residential zoning.
Including the Park East, Rosemary and Central Cocoanut areas was probably OK since the surrounding neighborhoods were OK with it and the effect on infrastructure will probably be minimal.
But including the Bayfront and the rest of downtown in the density bonus without any concept of the consequences and costs to residents is wrong.
Commissioner Atkins has it right. We need to stop giving the downtown luxury condo developers bonuses and start working on housing for all of Sarasota - with an emphasis on those residents of our community that need it the most, those that make less than $35,000 or $17.50 per hour. This is where nearly every employer indicated their greatest need was.
The developers got what they wanted: the ability to build more units with no added cost - they are kept whole as the proposal was designed to keep their 20% expected profit margin. Meanwhile the community as a whole suffers; we pay for added infrastructure, we pay for road improvements that result from the inevitable traffic increase, we pay for added parking needs, we pay for needed upgrades to sewer systems and storm water mitigation. In short, we end up in the hole.
Whatever happened to the idea that those benefitting from development, pay for development? How did this suddenly change to "lets keep the developers whole and let the residents pay"? Aren't we paying enough already by keeping the TIF funds downtown, continuing to subsidize profitable developers by giving away public property and paying twice for parking?
The comments from Commissioners Servian (I voted for this in order to keep the community engaged) and Shelin ( I saw no suggestions from those opposed) were gratuitous at best and wrong at worst. Apparently it is politically correct to throw salt on wounds when you again cater to special interests.
The Herald Tribune's comments about this include: "While the Editorial Board supports the concept of using extra density to incentivize affordable housing, we believe that the strategy should be used only where it yields a fair return of work-force housing; where infrastructure can handle it; where it's convenient to jobs, schools and transportation; and where it respects the character of neighborhoods." These were among the many comments made by those citizens that suggested establishing a city wide strategy for increasing our attainable housing supply as opposed to the density bonus for most expensive part of downtown.
What was a serious and open discussion by citizens of our community ended up with a negative vote, the commissioners said no to those of us that offered suggestions, no to those that offered reasons to slow down, no to those that asked for better explanations about the effect of this change. A group of interested, committed and involved residents spent much time and effort trying to make this proposal better and the commissioners said NO.
Just a deeper hole.