February 5, 2018
City of Sarasota Commission
1565 1st Street, Room 101
Sarasota, Florida 34236
Dear Mayor Freeland Eddie, Vice Mayor Alpert, Commissioners Ahern-Koch, Brody and Shaw:
The Downtown Sarasota Condominium Association (DSCA) surveyed its members in June 2017 concerning the impact of land development and construction in our Downtown neighborhood. Based on the concerns expressed by respondents to the survey, and by our Zoning Committee, the DSCA recommends the following to address those concerns:
- Setbacks should be required: A number of respondents, especially those who live in the community on S. Palm Avenue are opposed to building to the lot line. They argue that doing so is incompatible with their beautiful neighborhood; poses a danger to adjoining properties and passersby during construction and would ultimately create, what in affect would be, a concrete wall along the south side of S. Palm Avenue. This issue needs to be addressed now before more lot line to lot line construction is approved. Therefore, DSCA recommends the City Commission adopt, without delay, the attached Zoning Text Amendment, which restores the setback requirement to what it was before the community was rezoned. We also recommend that setback requirements be incorporated in the new Form Based Code for other city neighborhoods.
- Compatibility with the Neighborhood: In a matter related to setbacks, respondents to the DSCA survey felt that city staff needs to understand that the current residents are also important to the success of the City, not just new development. The size & dominance of buildings should not be out of proportion to neighboring buildings. The health of a city is in its walkability for residents and visitors alike. Trees along sidewalks and green spaces are necessary. Therefore, DSCA recommends that the City Commission direct that as part of the site plan approval process that city staff make an affirmative finding that the plan is COMPATIBLE with the surrounding neighborhood to include setbacks, streetscape and other criteria found in Section IV-506(4) of the Zoning Code.
- Public Input: Several respondents to the DSCA survey wrote that they were unaware of the opportunity for them to make their views known during the development approval process, or if they were aware they didn’t think the opportunities for citizens to be heard was adequate. Therefore, DSCA recommends that the new Form Based Zoning Code apply the existing Laurel Park Overlay Process to the Downtown Transect Zones (DTC, DTB, DTE, DTN). That process provides for a community workshop following a developer notifying the city of an intent to build followed by a second workshop after the developer submits a building permit or administrative site plan application to the city. Affected residents would then have 20 working days to appeal the city staff’s decision to the Planning Board and then to appeal the Planning Board’s decision to the City Commission. To lessen the burden on city staff, DSCA suggests this process only be initiated when at least 5 residents request a community work-shop.
These recommendations were finalized after consulting Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown, City Attorney Robert Fournier, City Planning Director Steve Cover, Karin Murphy from the Urban Design Studio and other members of the City staff. DSCA believes they reasonably and prudently address the concerns of downtown Sarasota residents.
The DSCA Zoning Committee would welcome the opportunity to meet with each Commissioner to discuss, and answer questions regarding, the recommendations set forth in this letter. The committee chair will contact each commissioner to arrange an appointment.
DSCA BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Patrick J. Gannon, President
City Manager Tom Barwin
Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown
City Attorney Robert Fournier
City Planning Director Steve Cover