No Action Yet on Density Plan. Public Workshop Set

By Mike Lednovich

The city’s Planning Advisory Board took no action Wednesday on proposed revisions to the Land Development Code (LDC) that would allow property owners to more easily subdivide their parcels. PAB members voiced concerns that such revisions would negatively increase residential density in the city.

The PAB set a public workshop for Feb. 28 to further delve into the impact of rewriting the LDC.

The city commission has tasked the PAB to review city staff recommendations on revising sections of the LDC. The revisions were first raised by Vice Mayor David Sturges, who said the LDC limits are unclear and restrict the property rights of parcel owners.

Commissioner Darron Ayscue has submitted a plan that saves property owners from having to obtain a variance from the Board of Adjustment to subdivide their parcel, Ayscue’s plan would permit landowners to go directly to the County Property Appraiser to subdivide their parcel. There would be no public notice of such actions.

“The number of properties that could be, would be affected, I haven’t a clue. I’d like to know what that number is,” declared PAB member Pete Stevenson.

He got a snippet of an answer 90 minutes later when resident Jack Imber did the math on 10 city parcels used as examples by Planning and Conservation Director Kelly Gibson. Under the proposed rules revisions, those parcels where 10 homes are located how could be subdivided to allow a total of 32 new homes to be built.

“I’d like to see something put in (to these revisions) to where we have no unintended consequences,” Stevenson added. “That’s where the Board of Adjustment comes in. Should the Board of Adjustment remain a part of this process?”

Board member Richard Doster sought answers to the question “is the city overbuilt or not?”

Doster said he has talked with numerous people, and “there is not an answer. I can’t find anybody who can say yes it is overbuilt or no it is not overbuilt. So before we add more buildings and before we stress the infrastructure more, I would like to know is it overbuilt or not. If it’s overbuilt, let’s not keep building more buildings. Let’s find other creative ways to enhance the island, let’s not wreck the place.”

PAB Chair Victoria Robas said the crucial statistic is how many parcels would be affected by the change in the city by LDC revisions.

“What was alarming (of the examples) was how easy it is to spin off more and more lots. Is this a mouse or a lion? If it’s a mouse, maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about it. For today and tomorrow and for that five years (in the future), I think it’s important at this juncture to understand how many parcels could be affected.”

Robas took particular note of the city’s historic downtown, where many single family homes have been demolished and replaced by townhouses.

The city is currently part of an appeal of a court ruling on the Tringali property on Third Street. A court previously sided with neighbors who filed a lawsuit and said, “The result of the commission’s vote is that 8 parcels were combined into one lot and approved for building a multi-family structure. That action, per the Land Development Code, must be approved by the Board of Adjustment. Deference is not warranted where there is no plausible explanation for the city’s erroneous interpretation.”

PAB member Mark Bennett said the LDC proposal is “planning for more building when our job (the PAB’s) is to create a planning environment that works for the city as it exists and moving forward.”

Bennett supported keeping the Board of Adjustment involved in the decision making regarding subdividing lots.

“What’s wrong with a variance? The whole purpose of the variance process is, it allows the owners of the property to submit their case to the changing in the neighborhood the way they want to change it and now we have a public hearing for that,” he said.

Another issue regarding proposed changes would be the elimination of public notice of property owners’ application for subdividing the parcel. The public would only become aware of new building plans when a building permit application was submitted.

Although she agreed with the revised staff revisions presented to the PAB, Planning Director Gibson was adamant that a public notice policy be included in the new language.

“I think it’s really important that we incorporate an earlier (public) notice provision,” Gibson said. “I am ethically bound to advocate for greater public notice.”

During public comment on the issue, Imber told the PAB, “There’s nothing wrong with the current Land Development Code. The developers want to develop, and they don’t like (the current) process. They don’t want to go to the Board of Adjustment. They want to change the terminology and make it easier to increase density.”

13 Comments
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anna
Trusted Member
anna(@anna)
1 month ago

Of course we are overbuilt already!!! All you have to do is look at our infrastructure…which is clearly not supporting all of the people, bikes, and vehicles on our roads! Traffic backed up through 2 red lights? Unheard of, in the past. That”s just on the island….never mind how far it backs up from the bridge off the island!!! Also, there’s no affordable housing, jammed packed stores, and it can take up to 4 months to get in to see a doctor! We are overbuilt now!!!

Concerned-Citizen
Trusted Member
Concerned-Citizen(@concerned-citizen)
1 month ago
Reply to  anna

It’s much more than allowing than overdevelopment. Maybe we should regulate the number of tourists. All these cars are not local. The TDC continues to spend an obscene amount of money promoting the Island.

rocknrobin12@gmail.com
Noble Member
[email protected](@rocknrobin12gmail-com)
1 month ago

Again….look who started this change. If this isn’t self serving then what is. A home builder also vice mayor commissioner, votes to change rules so no noise can be made to overbuild on the island. Voting can’t happen soon enough to vote this man out!

NatureBoy
Active Member
NatureBoy(@natureboy)
1 month ago

Vice Mayor David Sturges feigned concern for parcel owners is actually concern for himself and his cronies who are in the business of buying every parcel they can get their greedy hands on.

Last edited 1 month ago by NatureBoy
NatureBoy
Active Member
NatureBoy(@natureboy)
1 month ago

The developers on the commission have no concern for the consequences of their actions. It is clear their only reason for serving on the commission is to benefit themselves financially. Change is inevitable and new homes will always be built. However, the full blown assault on every square inch of land with no regard for improving infrastructure for the benefit of all residents is nothing but a selfish money grab by the commissioners-developers

Bob
Noble Member
Bob(@bob)
1 month ago

Hang on a sec…… we had purposely and at great expense, combined 25 foot lots into 50 foot lots to protect our adjacent lots to our home from being used as tiny lots.

Now, with this proposal, all that can be reversed? And our adjacent lots of our home in the Historic District can be changed back to 25 foot lots?

If that is the proposal, then I don’t like it much.

Albert Pike
Active Member
Albert Pike(@albert-pike)
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob

You don’t have to split them back up but wouldn’t you like to have the right to should your situation change in the future? I will never understand anyone wanting to give up property rights.

Ernie Davis
Active Member
Ernie Davis(@epd3)
1 month ago

Victoria Robas’ correctly requests a report of the number of properties that would be affected so that we can objectively assess the amount of change we would invite. It would also be helpful to review the reasons why our current code was adopted. Is it working? Does it need to be tweaked? Or do we want to replace the old goals different set? What are they? Let’s not go in a different direction without a lot of community input.

Second, what other development changes are happening around us, and what new ones are contemplated? These could have a snowball effect.

rocknrobin12@gmail.com
Noble Member
[email protected](@rocknrobin12gmail-com)
1 month ago
Reply to  Ernie Davis

There won’t be community input if this goes through.

Mark Tomes
Active Member
Mark Tomes(@mtomes)
1 month ago

Sturges is disingenuous in claiming the regs are unclear. At least Ayscue is transparent in his development-at-any-cost recommendations. The real problem is a lack of imagination, vision, and compassion by the conservative commissioners. Higher density housing in appropriate areas on the island that is truly affordable to workers here, coupled with a robust public transportation system, would be good for business, alleviate traffic, and help people who need it most. I would pay higher taxes for such a scenario.

Albert Pike
Active Member
Albert Pike(@albert-pike)
1 month ago

So if I understand this correctly, the argument is to force property owners to attempt to gain a variance to use their property in many situations. And said variance is voted on by the Board of Adjustment which is comprised of non elected appointees…? And if the board is comprised of mostly “anti improvement” members then most variance requests will be denied? Sounds like the making for legal action against the City whose track record of lawsuit victories is something like 0-29. Yay, more taxes.

MyFernandina
Active Member
MyFernandina(@myfernandina)
1 month ago

The real question is whether the contested portion of the LDC is enforceable.
It seems that enough “variances” have been unilaterally granted in the past
that any attempt to enforce now would be subject to a lawsuit–
witness Tringali–challenging the fairness and validity of the provision.

Robert
Member
Robert(@rsherrettainternational-investors-com)
1 month ago

Just one question: How would this change benefit the present citizens and homeowners of F.B.?