Owners of property in each of Sarasota’s three Downtown Zoning Districts are receiving notices of a February 28, 2011 public workshop concerning amendments to Sarasota’s Downtown Master Plan. Properties within the Urban Neighborhood, Urban Edge, Downtown Core, and Downtown Bayfront land use classifications are zoned Downtown Neighborhood, Downtown Edge and Downtown Core, respectively. A mixed-use urban zoning code implements the comprehensive land use plan developed for the City by noted planning firm Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. The Comprehensive Plan contains certain fundamental elements of the “smart code,” which encourages land uses appropriate for the urban area and guarantees permitting for code-compliant projects.
City staff has recommended changes to the Comprehensive Plan that will allow the City to eliminate (a) the expedited review of permits, even if projects follow city codes; and (b) administrative or legislative “adjustments” to the development standards for projects in certain zones in the downtown area. In recommending the changes to the City Commission, City staff cited requests to discourage projects in multiple areas of Sarasota’s downtown as a reason to make the changes across all land use classifications. A downtown discouragement zone cited by one commissioner and by City staff would extend 500′ beyond the RSM-9 zoning district (Laurel Park) and into the downtown (see this proposed zone on the attached map). The City has only officially identified the first area intended to be subject to new restrictions. The proposed changes will mean additional fees, public meetings and red tape for projects in the affected areas. The City is also in the process of developing new subjective criteria to be applied to projects by its political review boards in all zoning districts. Property owners in all downtown zoning districts are urged to become familiar with the proposed amendments and to evaluate the impact that inclusion in a discouragement zone could have on their investment-back expectations and property rights.
If you have any questions about these regulations, contact Casey Colburn, LEED AP, at 941-925-2970, or via email at ccolburn kirkpinkerton.com.