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Posted on January 8, 2017
On December 14, 2016 the City Commission voted 3-2 to move forward with a 32 acre development off of Ridge Road despite concerns by residents and a recommendation for denial by the City’s Planning Commission.
City Commissioners Nancy Miller, Scott Maddox and Gill Ziffer supported the development and Mayor Andrew Gillum and City Commissioner Curtis Richardson voted no.
In voting against the development, Richardson and Gillum cited concerns offered by residents and stated the high density proposal, which includes multi-family dwellings, is inconsistent with the surrounding neighborhood.
In addition, Mayor Gillum made the point that the property owner knew when the property was purchased in 2008 that zoning allowed for 8 units per acre.
Commissioner Miller pushed back on the critique of multi-family developments.
“I cannot accept on its face that this is going to be a bad thing because it is multi-family. I mean look at the Gaines Street there is a lot of multi-family….Gaines Street has become the most expensive dollar per square foot property in Tallahassee”, said Miller.
The proposed project for the 31.68 acres located on the south side of Ridge Road seeks to change from the Single Family Detached, Attached, and Two-Family Residential (R-3) zoning district to the Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning district that will allow a maximum density of 14 dwelling units per acre for residential uses, multi family dwellings up to four stories and community facilities.
The current zoning allows for 8 units per acre and does not allow multi-family dwellings, community facilities or daycare centers. The current R-3 zoning limits the maximum height to three stories.
On November 15, 2016 the Planning Commission recommended denial (4-0) of the application citing concerns with the proposed density and the lack of a requirement for a mix of residential uses. Specifically, the Planning Commission asked the applicant to commit to a maximum number or percentage of single, duplex, and multi-family units and the applicant declined.
The Planning Commission expressed that, as proposed, the applicant could potentially develop the property with only multi-family housing. The findings were that the maximum allowable density of 18 units per acre, totaling 570 units, if built entirely as multi-family units, could adversely affect adjoining neighborhoods based on the testimony received at the public hearing. (The developer, before the City Commission meeting, changed the proposal to 14 units per acre.)
Residents in the area voiced concerns at the Planning Commission meeting about crime due to the multi-family residential use. They also discussed their concerns with the proposed density and intensity of the PUD.
In addition residents in the area showed up to the City Commission meeting to speak against the proposed development.
Brenda Hawkins, president of the 117 member Silver Ridge Estates Home Owners Association, told the City Commissioners the development would have “negative impacts on existing single family homes” in the area.
Karen Huckabee, president of the 80 member Wilson Green HOA, also spoke against the project.
Kieth Griffin told the City Commissioners that the project will not help “usher in a spirit of home ownership” in the area where subdivisions have a density of approximately 6.04 units per acre and comprises a total of 200 dwelling units.
The City staff, which included Commissioner Miller’s husband – John Buss, urged support for the development despite the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
A review of video of the City Commission meeting after the vote shows the obvious tension between the two factions on the Commission.
Commissioner Richardson was clearly frustrated that the Commission could ignore the Planning Commission’s recommendation and the pleas of the residents in the surrounding neighborhood.