August 4, 2015 11:40 a.m.
In response to questions coming up in community discussions and on social media, Community Development Director Adrienne Burke with the City of Fernandina Beach has summed up the questions she is hearing and provided responses.
Q: I heard that the City is talking about buildings up to 55 feet high and density up to 30 units per acre on 8th Street. Is this true?
A: It is true that has been discussed at several different public meetings of the Land Development Code and Economic Development working group that met from March 2014-March 2015. It has also been discussed at recent meetings of the Planning Advisory Board (PAB) 8th Street Subcommittee.
However, at the meeting on July 14th, staff and the PAB Subcommittee members agreed that a scaled-back proposal would likely be a better fit and be more understandable in scale for the community. After our last 8th Street Planning Advisory Board Subcommittee meeting on July 30th, the group and staff agreed that the zoning we are discussing for the 8th Street area (what we are calling MU-2, and doesn’t exist yet) could have a maximum of 18 units per acre. This level of density is similar to what the downtown Centre Street area looks like right now.
It was the consensus of the group to allow this for this area only as an “overlay” zone; any other part of town that may be interested in seeking MU-2 zoning would have a limit of 10 units per acre. That is the highest existing density we have in Fernandina (R-3 and OT-1/OT-2 zones currently have it).
The maximum height proposed right now would be 45’ high, which is the current maximum height on 8th Street. We are not proposing anything higher at this time.
The group is still interested in possibly in the future looking at some density and height bonuses for the area, but that is not on the table moving forward right now. This is all very much discussion only; nothing has been moved forward to the full Planning Advisory Board. We hope to have some public workshops on the 8th Street work in the fall. And all meetings are currently open to the public and I am doing my best to keep the website up to date that has all the background – www.fbfl.us/LDCED.
The next meeting of the PAB 8th Street Subcommittee is August 12 at 3pm at City Hall.
Q: Is it possible that the concrete plant on S. 8th Street will be operational again?
A: The concrete plant on 8th Street is located in the County and is for sale. We had their property representative come to one of our Land Development Code and Economic Development meetings on 8th Street, and he indicated that use is no longer viable on that site. However, the property owners would be the best source for any definitive answers.
Q: Isn’t there a proposed change to how the City regulates wetlands and is this bad for wetlands preservation?
A: The proposed change is related to how we assess density calculations on wetlands. We currently exclude wetlands from density calculations and this change would not exclude them (for purposes of calculations only).
So if someone has 1 acre and ½ the acre is wetlands, we would not calculate that wetland area now. With the proposed change, we could count that land area, and apply the resulting density to the upland portion of the property only. All wetland buffers would still be required to be in place, and all other zoning regulations would apply. The underlying density (allowable dwelling units per acre in the designated zoning district) is NOT increasing. Please note that density has a specific meaning in planning, not just a general concept of “density” per the dictionary – something I explained in detail here if you are interested: http://fernandinaobserver.org/2015/04/18/density-and-zoning-and-parking-oh-my/.
We as staff are very aware of the importance of wetland preservation to the community, and it is our belief that this strikes a balance between wetland conservation and private property rights. (Something that is hard to do, but the position we must evaluate things from as planners.) And not one developer approached us asking us for this change. It is something staff identified on our own and recommended as a way to protect wetlands and give people options on their property without having to ask to fill in wetlands.
Q: Isn’t there a development going in off of Citrona Drive by the Greenway and what are the wetland impacts?
A: The Planning Advisory Board will hear an application at the August 12 meeting (5pm at City Hall) for a future land use and zoning change with a planned unit development overlay on approximately 7.5 acres off of Citrona Drive and Hickory Street. The proposal is for detached single-family homes. Materials related to the application are available for review in the Community Development Office right now, and will be online no later than Wednesday, August 5 as part of the PAB agenda.
The property that is being proposed for development does have wetlands, and the applicant is requesting that the wetlands area be rezoned Conservation, which means it will remain preserved. Wetland buffers will apply. Their site plan is based on our current regulations which do not include calculation of density using the wetland portion.
Q: How would this proposed density definition change affect Crane Island and any property off Clinch Drive?
A: Crane Island is in the County and has a determination of rights for a certain amount of density already; the County Planning and Economic Opportunity Office is the best contact. The property along Clinch Drive is in the County as well, so would be subject to County density calculations.
The question may arise about property along Egans Creek, which is in the City. North of Atlantic Avenue, this property is zoned R-1, which is our lowest residential density at 4 units per acre. R-1 also only allows single-family detached homes, so even with potential additional density, there could not be duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, or multi-family.
Q: It seems like new houses are being built in older neighborhoods with hardly any setbacks. Are they getting special exemptions and if not, what is going on?
A: New infill development is subject to the zoning standards of that zoning district. Infill development generally means building new structures in older, established areas. Actually, most of the older neighborhoods, especially around downtown, have setbacks that don’t meet current code or are very close to the street and/or neighbors. We do have an allowance for an administrative approval to change front yard setbacks to meet the average of front yard setbacks on the same side of the block. It is called “context sensitive review.” This helps greatly where our current front yard setbacks are much more than the existing development and makes things more consistent. And depending on the zoning, yes, some properties are at zero lot line – for example, in C-3 zoning, there are no setbacks for front, rear or side yards.
Please let me know if you have additional questions or concerns at [email protected]. Land use and zoning can be complicated, so I am happy to try to explain further if anyone wishes to reach out.
Adrienne Burke has been with the Fernandina Beach Community Development Department for almost seven years. Prior to her current position as Community Development Director, she served as a planner. She is a licensed attorney under the Florida Bar, and focused on environmental and land use law in law school. She also has her master’s degree in historic preservation and urban planning.