Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Say NO to School Ave

The proposed School Ave land use change from Multi Family Medium Density to Downtown Urban Mixed Use has ignited a heated discussion within the community. The developer's (Ron Burks) proposal asks for the most dense and intense zoning to accompany the land use change. As an inducement to the city commissioners who will decide whether to grant this change, he has offered a significant number of affordable housing units.

The proposal would establish the most dense and highest land use next to the least dense land use. This is the crux of the issue - is the most dense and intense land use compatible with the least dense and intense land use - should these uses abut each other?

All planning principles would say no, these uses should not abut each other. Instead there should be a transition of density and intensity. Our codes and comp plan call for and provide for this transition.

Yet in this case, the developer has offered significant inducements (some call it “playing the affordable housing card”) in an attempt to get 3 commissioners to support his proposal.

The community has divided with the developer/business/real estate groups pressuring the commissioners to accept the plan, saying Sarasota needs this “solution” to our affordable housing problems. The neighborhoods and residents oppose the proposal, saying we do not want such high density abutting single family residential areas and if this can happen (developer offers inducement not based on codes or comp plan requirements) here it can happen in any area of the city. Further, why have a comp plan or zoning codes if they can easily be changed?

Simmering in the background are issues of procedure. Planning staff, a city attorney and a city manager issued a memo indicating the developer had missed significant dates for filing required plans thus putting the city in a position where it would violate city codes if it approved the proposal. The developer's attorney then indicated that under his interpretation of the rules he was OK. Thus a legal battle over technicalities.

The developer has determined that his affordable housing units would be available:

1. 40% to Sarasota Memorial Hospital employees
2. 15% to Sarasota County Fire Department employees
3. 15% to City of Sarasota Police Department employees
4. 15% to teachers employed by the Sarasota County School Board
5. 15% to other (non Police Department) City of Sarasota employees

This raises issues of why this particular selection of careers and percentages. This reserves the units for those working for government, typically people who have good salaries and excellent benefit packages, something that a non-government health or teaching career person may not have. What happens when the person in the family no longer works for the government (i.e., a job change) in one of these positions, does the family get booted out?

Since no specific discussion has been released or discussed/debated how does this particular plan meet city or county affordable housing objectives?

While the developer has indicated that the units would be priced between $100,000 and $200,000, no specific information has been publicized concerning the affordable units, such as size and pricing and numbers within each range. No information has been released concerning taxes, insurance and condo fees. To meet the city and state definition of affordable or attainable, the housing cost must not exceed 30% of the family income. Additionally, the Sarasota tax assessor has stated that the units would be appraised at market value which could well exceed selling price. What happens if the units as built are difficult to sell, because of size or ongoing costs?

The developer is working on a Memorandum of Understanding with Habitat for Humanity to manage and take over the affordable housing portion of the proposal. Apparently the developer would give land and a building shell to Habitat which would then “administer” the program. As of this writing, nothing has been released as to whether an agreement has been reached or signed. Would this MOU be considered a "contract" such that the commissioners and public would feel comfortable in going forward?

Since the concept has been to keep the units affordable in the future by limiting the resale to no more than 10% annualized gain, will this formula assure perpetual affordability? 10% is higher than historical gains and would result in a doubling of price in 7 years - a rate much higher than wages and salaries are increasing.

Because of all the unanswered questions, the failure to follow the process and because of the incompatibility with low density single family land uses next to the proposal, the abutting neighborhoods, nearby neighborhoods and the Coalition of City Neighborhood Associations are all opposed to this proposal. Save Our Sarasota also opposes the project for these same reasons.

We recommend that the commission deny the current proposal and ask the developer to work with the neighborhood to find a reasonable compromise that is compatible. The developer should also publish all the information concerning affordable housing aspects of this proposal so the citizens can evaluate the benefit to the public. Then the community can move forward together.

The commission will hold a hearing on this proposal Thursday September 14 at 6PM.


Anonymous said...

I just read your lengthy post, and it is clear you lack any knowledge of basic planning principles, nor the ability to sort fact from fiction. First of all, everyone knows that the property being considered along School Ave. has a considerable buffer between it and the neighborhood behind it. Second, multi-family zoning is better compatible adjancent to single-family zoning, than the current industrial uses which have been plaguing the area for decades. Further, one could argue that single-family uses on the east of School Ave could be looked at as incompatible with the park improvements across the street to the west. Especially considering that Payne Park has planned amenities which are intended to attract intense public use, some of which is commercial in nature and could operate late into the evening hours. There are more problems with your blathering, but I doubt it would be worth spending more time. Save Your Sarasota isn't exactly known for it's open-minded consideration of contrary opinions. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Fact from fiction?
Let's start with your 'considerable buffer'. We're talking dozens of feet to adjacent properties (as a friend of nearby homeowner, I've seen the measurements). Hardly considerable.
The 'industrial uses' of which you speak? I've lived nearby for 8 years. Not much 'industry' has been going on there, and no more is going to happen there. It's just not economical or practical.
Single family uses aren't compatible? Having townhomes or homes next to a park isn't compatible? Ludicrous assertion at the least. A park doesn't need high-rises towering over it to be user-friendly.
Payne Park has planned 'commercial uses'? Huh? Like what? A bar in the middle? Not in the plans shown to the public.
The problems lie with the plan to put high-rises on the location, with the process of review it's gone through and with the traffic it would cause in nearby neighborhoods. Where are the hundreds of residents going to drive? South HAS to be through neighborhoods when School Ave is closed. East will likely go down Ringling through another neighborhood. That's a problem the city and developer ignore.
It's obvious where YOUR 'open-mindedness' is focused...and that's far from the truth of the matter.

Anonymous said...

Spoken like a true idiot. If the land is not econimcal for light industry, how do you think it will work for single family? You people either can't be honest, or are just ignorant. Using words like "high rise" is a testament to that ignorance. What is proposed is not a high rise by any definition. As far as commercial uses, bars are not the only ones available - but rest assured that many many events will be held there which will be serving plenty of Beer and Wine! I guess you have also overlooked the pay for use skateboard park and planned concession and support buildings, what about the planned music performances, arts and craft shows, etc? Besides, I did not suggest that there would be an incompatibility, I was trying to show how ignorant people could make the same disjointed arguments when comparing commercial (not passive) parks adjacent to "quite" single family neighborhoods. Further, I personally have walked that area many times and to attempt to minimize that buffer as "dozens of feet" is a poor attempt of spinning the truth. There are many examples of highest commercial uses abutting SF neighborhoods with less buffer than that. Just refer to any urban too suburban transect, and you will see the logic. Of course you have already made up your mind through your emotional blinders. I hope your whole neighborhood gets what it deserves.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10:16 am. The ugliness of your post and your free-floating anger tell me everything I need to know about you. You are the new Sarasota, and I want to get as far away as possible.

Anonymous said...

Anger and hatred must cloud the mind from rationality, truth and common sense. Methinks the bitter one has some involvement with the project maybe?

Where to start?
Maybe with the American Heritage Dictionary?
high-rise (hrz) adj.

Indicating or being a multistoried building equipped with elevators: a high-rise apartment building.
Of, relating to, or marked by multistoried buildings: a high-rise fire; a high-rise district.

Gee, sounds like what is planned just a little?

How about with dozens of feet. Less than ten dozen. Less than 100 feet from this property to the back property of many homes. That's a fact.

How about defining light industry. Light industry would imply INDUSTRY. That's defined (Webster's this time) as 'manufacture of small or lightweight particles'. More broadly considered it could involve other labor-intensive business practices outside of the white-collar world. It's not economical in that location because of the costs of labor in town, limited parking, limited access for trucking, and a number of other factors. And nearby neighborhoods aren't demanding single-family homes, that's just developer spin, merely uses that are more compatible than hundreds of units towering over their homes and flowing through their streets.

Your bitterness, and poor spelling, reflect an attitude that dismays most long-time Sarasotans. It's all about making big money and never about considering what the implications might be on others.

I have a feeling, at the end of the day, that our neighborhood will 'get what it deserves'. Less influence from people like you.