Civic Core, redevelopment gains traction
With city Planning director James Jordan laying out a number of options for the commercial redevelopment workshop, City Council members listened intently along with a large gathering of the public. The group later heard a report on the Land Survey of the Civic Core area.
Both reports were well received by the public and council members, who made their points to move forward for refinement and representation to council.
Jordan focused on five main points of the Land Development Code for possible ordinance amendment – permitted uses; non-conforming uses and structures; onsite parking; interconnectivity; and setbacks.
Jordan laid out four options that can be taken on permitted uses, including retaining the current list of permitted uses either prohibiting all other uses or replacing the prohibitive language stated in the Comprehensive Land Use Plan of 1985. Expansion of the permitted uses list with either prohibition of all others or replacing the prohibitive language.
Mayor Kevin Ruane and much of the council seemed to support Option 4: Expansion of the permitted uses list while replacing language prohibiting all other uses.
“I’d like to know how we can expand the list, by how many and how often we should review the list,” said Ruane. “My main thought is similar business, similar use, similar intensity, similar neighborhood? I’d like to create an environment that would help to utilize the current business space we have and to streamline the process.”
Council used three examples of a ballet class, a micro-brewery and a marine repair business, all of which are not on the list. Council consented there is little difference between a ballet class and a yoga class given Ruane’s similar business, use, intensity, neighborhood argument. While the micro-brewery gave the members pause, the marine repair business, properly located, is akin to auto repairs.
Councilman Mick Denham cautioned his colleagues to be wary of unintended consequences of making changes.
On setbacks and non-conforming uses and structures, the panel opted to retain the current regulations, since there are only seven properties currently on the non-conforming list. Those properties would be grandfathered with the standards applying to new development.
“I think we need to retain these regulations but be willing to review cases through variances,” said Denham. “I think we are all okay with grandfathering.”
On the parking issue, Ruane asked for more data since the vehicles of today are smaller than they were back in the 1970s when the standards were written. Council members went along with the idea to find out if the parking space dimensions can be reduced, thereby being able to park more cars in the same amount of room.
On interconnectivity among businesses, the panel deemed it appropriate to approach owners, some of which already have makeshift pathways to neighboring establishments and the shared use path, to encourage a more formal network of connection.
After a short break, architect consultant Henry Woodroffe took the microphone to present the results of the Land Survey for the Civic Core. This study centered on the city owned land along Dunlop Road that holds City Hall, the library, Big Arts, Historic Museum & Village and Public Works as well as green space and wetlands north of Periwinkle Way plus the city park and Community House south of Periwinkle.
Woodroffe presented five aerial photos and one chart outlining the current and projected developable land. He concluded that there are 25 acres north of Periwinkle Way that can be developed as the city sees fit. Other than Public Works being relocated, no specific building or entity, such as the Center 4 Life, was assigned a site in the plan.
“My job was to survey and see what’s available,” said Woodroffe. “I’m presenting you with a broad brush picture, but the land has great potential.”
“Might I remind council that this is a very first look at the site,” said City Manager Judith Zimomra. “Council will have to authorize us to proceed and look at the budget at the June 4 meeting.”
Council agreed with Ruane saying, “I get the feeling across this board that there is a consensus among us to give clear direction to move forward with this. I think everyone has some excitement for the project, so we need to come up with a master plan. The timing for this is good.”
“We can take this and try to fit all the pieces into it, and I think we can,” added Vice Mayor Doug Congress.
Public input was wholly positive. Speakers called the project “a marvelous product,” and “endorsement to move forward,” and “applaud the initiative and vision.”
Big Arts is on board the Civic Core train as well as Sanibel Community Association. SCA representative Richard Johnson said the board is excited to be part of the project.
“We are happy with our location, but we need to upgrade and renovate the (historic) building to adequately meet their needs,” said Johnson.
Asked by Denham if SCA’s board was willing to consider moving to the north side of Periwinkle, Johnson responded, “The board is prepared to discuss anything.”