VERO BEACH — Vice Mayor Craig Fletcher stated he now supports a three-story building limit on either side of Ocean Drive and Cardinal Drive in the central beach area after hearing from property owners there Thursday.
The number of stories these buildings can have has been the most controversial part of a proposed Ocean Drive/Cardinal Drive Overlay District now being considered by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board. The overlay district is basically an additional layer of zoning for the area that generally stretches along Ocean Drive from the south side of Flamevine Lane to Banyan Road.
The majority of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, which meet Thursday on the plan, have been in favor of allowing three-story buildings on each side of the streets. This is generally what is granted now under the current requirements for the area.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting a number of people spoke in favor of having staggered heights for the buildings as envisioned in the city’s 2005 Vision Plan and the 2007 Beachland Boulevard Master Plan. The master plan called for new buildings to be restricted to two stories on the west side of Ocean Drive and Cardinal Drive and maintaining the three-story limit on the east side of these roads.
Proponents of the staggered limits have indicated such restrictions would help maintain the small-town feel of the area, not block out light, and would prevent a canyon-like effect of having rows of building all the same height.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Dick Winger made a motion that would have the planning board follow the city’s vision and master plan in regard to the staggered building heights. His motion failed 3-2 with Councilman Jay Kramer voting for it and Fletcher, Mayor Pilar Turner and Councilwoman Tracy Carroll voting no.
Fletcher, at that time, stated even though he did not want to interfere with the planning board’s right to think about all options, he was in favor of the Vision Plan’s proposal to grant three-story buildings only on the west side of Ocean Drive.
Thursday, however, Fletcher stated he was abandoning that idea and was in favor of staying with three-story buildings on both sides of the two streets.
Several property owners and their representatives who appeared at Thursday’s meeting voiced opposition to restricting building heights to two stories. They stated the imposition of the limits would take away their property rights and result in less tax revenue for the city. They did not think allowing three-story buildings would hurt the small-town atmosphere of the area or block sunlight there.
Joe Beasock, who with Alex MacWilliam III owns some buildings in the area, stated putting two-story restrictions on some pieces of properties in the district and not others was like spot zoning.
Beasock estimated that the restrictions could mean perhaps 100 fewer units would be built and the potential loss of millions in tax dollars.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.
Commercial broker Derek Arden, who stated he represented the owners of 11 properties in the district, stated they were opposed to further restrictions beyond the three-story limit.
“They do not want to see any further restrictions on building heights,” Arden said.
He also expressed concern about restricting the third floor to residential or hotel guest use, but Planning and Development Director Tim McGarry stated such restrictions would only apply if the building owner were to get development incentives.
Brian Carman, executive director of the Indian River Neighborhood Association, urged the planning board to follow the Vision Plan in regard to staggered building heights. Some of the planning and zoning board members, however, stated there was not really that much discussion about staggered building heights during the Vision Plan process.
Board member John Shupe indicated that he thought the Vision Plan contained suggested guidelines and not hard-and-fast rules.
“I do not think about it to be a bible,” stated Shupe.
The board is scheduled to have another workshop on the proposed overlay plan on June 21 and could hold a public hearing on it July 5. It may be presented to the City Council for initial consideration at its July 14 meeting.
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Submited at Thursday, June 14th, 2012 at 8:00 pm on Uncategorized by jessica
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