October 26, 2009
TO: Mayor and City Commissioners – City of Winter Park
RE: Recommendations Regarding P&Z, Comprehensive Plan, and Land Development Code
The Planning and Zoning Commission has continued to impose significant increased restrictions for commercial and multi-unit residential properties within Winter Park in both the current approved Comprehensive Plan and proposed land development codes. Important elements of both the Comprehensive Plan and proposed land development codes are effectively designed to preclude, not incent redevelopment in our commercial and multi-unit residential zoned areas. As a result of many shortcomings, I have recommended that the City Commission constitute a new group of citizens to serve on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
While many property owners are harmed by both the Comprehensive Plan and proposed land development code, my concern is not to secure rights for these owners. My concern is that both the Comprehensive Plan and the proposed land development code are so restrictive as to deny the City of Winter Park opportunities for redevelopment that can improve our quality of life, add to the diversity of our character and community, and control the financial burden on residential property owners. It should be clear to all observers that the Comprehensive Plan and proposed land development code make Winter Park non-competitive and sends a clear signal to those who would consider investing to look elsewhere. This current strategy is dangerously short sighted. [UPDATE February 15, 2010: Some of these dangers were realized when the Winter Park City Attorney on February 8, 2010 confirmed that the Comprehensive Plan has down zoned a substantial number of properties and that at least one property owner has a valid and substantial claim against the city for a regulatory taking under Florida law. In short, the City will get sued for big bucks if it doesn’t find a way to change the Comprehensive Plan very soon. (See: Cooper’s Comprehensive Incompetence.)]
It is not sufficient to simply create rules for what some people don’t want. We need a complete sense of Winter Park’s role as a unique and special residential community at the literal center of the 30th largest Metropolitan Area in the country. The current Comprehensive Plan and proposed land development code include some poignant language to this effect but the substance ignores the implications of this essential context. The only future to be inferred from the substantive rules in the Comprehensive Plan and proposed land development code is one of declining property values, a lesser regional competitive position for Winter Park residential and commercial property uses, higher relative taxes and fees to be borne by our residential community, and increasing challenges to our ability to finance the quality of life that marks Winter Park’s attractiveness and value.
With this said, I provide some examples of specific concerns below. Following these examples, I offer recommendations that a new Planning and Zoning Commission may consider.
I provided specific concerns regarding the Comprehensive Plan and related issues in November 2008 that is available here: http://www.winterparkperspective.org/2008/11/11/we-get-what-we-deserve/.
After reviewing the proposed land development code I have many questions I believe need to be addressed, a few of which are detailed below.
Reference – Virtually all sections: What is the justification for and expected consequences of proposed changes in restrictions on: minimum lot sizes and dimensions, floor area ratios, setbacks, impervious coverage, minimum ground area per dwelling unit, maximum dwelling units per acres, heights, and parking requirements as applied in each land use Section and Planning Area of the Comprehensive Plan and proposed land development code?
Reference – Development Standards – Virtually all sections: What is the justification for and expected consequences of granting the City Commission arbitrary and unilateral authority to limit achievable floor area in virtually all cases?
What is the justification for each nonconforming use as defined? What is the justification for and expected consequences of forcing nonconforming uses out of business?
(6) When a nonconforming use of land or structure or land and structure or structure and premises in combination is discontinued or abandoned for two (2) six consecutive months or for 18 months during any three year period (except when governmental action impedes access to the premises), the land or structure or land and structure or structure and premises in combination shall not thereafter be used except in conformity with the regulations of the district in which it is located. If a nonconforming use is discontinued or abandoned on a portion of the land or structure for two (2) consecutive months, that portion of the land or structure shall not thereafter be used except in conformity with the regulations of the district in which it is located. Land or structures shall not be deemed to be active and in continued nonconforming usage solely from the existence of a city or state license or business certificate permitting such a use or business, but such use or business must be actively undertaken, staffed and in operation for such use or business to be deemed in active continued nonconforming usage.
What is the justification for and expected consequences of the following proposed changes in parking requirements and has input been sought or received from any such existing institutions?
(b) 7. Convalescent, nursing, assisted living and other institutions: One parking space for each five three patient beds, plus one parking space for each staff or visiting doctor (average) on the day shift.
Hospitals: One parking space for each three patient beds (excluding bassinets), plus one parking space for each two employees, contract personnel, volunteers, etc. including part-time employees, expected on the most active work shift.
Library: One parking space for each 375 square feet of gross floor space in the building.
Restaurants, nightclubs, taverns or lounges: One parking space for each 50 square feet of floor space for patron use on the premises or one space for every four three seats, whichever is greater.
Schools (senior high, colleges, universities): One parking space for each teacher, administrator, and employee, plus one parking space for every four (two) students, plus sufficient off-street space for safe and convenient loading and unloading of students, plus one parking space for each ten seats in the school or college auditorium, provided, however, if the school or college has a gymnasium and has provided off-street parking for that gymnasium, such spaces may be credited toward meeting the requirements for off-street parking for the auditorium located on the same campus.
Theaters, auditoriums, funeral homes, and places of assembly with fixed seats: One parking space for each six four seats, plus additional parking spaces equal in number to the number of employees.
Recommendations for a newly constituted Planning and Zoning Commission.
- For each land use type we need a tabular comparison of density and intensity regulations comparing prior regulations with those included in the current approved Comprehensive Plan and current proposed land development code. Such comparison should at a minimum include; minimum lot sizes and dimensions, floor area ratios, setbacks, impervious coverage, minimum ground area per dwelling unit, maximum dwelling units per acres, heights, and parking requirements. Where the current approved Comprehensive Plan and current proposed land development code vary from prior regulations a narrative justifying each change should be included. (While most pre-existing codes have been effectively tested and modified accordingly over years of experience, mitigating the need for a “zero based” approach, it may be appropriate to provide a zero based rational for pre-existing code in some cases.)
- Prepare a detailed list of each proposed nonconforming use by specific property by land use Section.
- Mail the tabular comparison of proposed changes with narrative, and detailed list of nonconforming uses, to each affected property owner with an invitation to participate in public meetings. The meetings would be established for the purpose of communicating the implications of proposed changes and to seek and document input from property owners on steps the city can take to enhance the value of their property.
- Hire a professional planner and a land use attorney to consult on all Comprehensive Plan and land development code considerations.
- Remove all specific intensity and density criteria included in the Land Use Element of the current Comprehensive Plan not specifically required by DCA. Such criteria to be removed are to include but not be limited to: minimum lot sizes and dimensions, floor area ratios, setbacks, impervious coverage, minimum ground area per dwelling unit, maximum dwelling units per acres, heights, and parking requirements. Where DCA requires such intensity and density criteria use those limits in place prior to the approval of the current Comprehensive Plan.
- Remove all super majority voting requirements from the Comprehensive Plan and submit the duly revised Land Use Element to the City Commission for approval at the earliest possible date.
- Lead the completion of the form based code project for non-residential properties with the objective of defining model uses and forms for each non-single family zoning Section and Planning Area based on input from all constituencies; to be guided by a professional planner and a land use attorney.
- Lead a public process to define specific objectives for each zoning Section within each Planning Area that justifies each of the following: desired uses, intensity and density, intended impact on character, diversity, and community, infrastructure, and financial costs and benefits; to be guided by a professional planner and a land use attorney.
- Lead a public process that puts the current reality in each zoning Section and Planning Area in context with the objectives defined above for the purpose of documenting the process that gets us from point A to point B.
- Based on the above work, modify the Comprehensive Plan accordingly, and recommend land development code specifically designed to achieve the defined objectives.