Development tweaks win unanimous Planning Board approval
With the schedule running a bit ahead of what the developer envisioned earlier this year, the Payne Park Village plan for School Avenue is headed to the Sarasota City Commission on May 15 — the final hurdle it needs to clear.
On April 12, the city’s Planning Board members gave unanimous approval to a modified proposal for 135 detached and attached single-family homes on about 8.7 acres. The views of residents who addressed the board that evening contrasted sharply with those voiced more than a decade ago, when a much more intense development was being considered for the same site.
“This has been a long and arduous process,” Myron Nickel told the board members on April 12. “The property has been derelict for so long. … I’m glad to see what David Weekley [Homes] has come up with.”
Pat Koledgy added that representatives of David Weekley Homes had held workshops with residents of the adjacent Alta Vista neighborhood, “ and they have shown that they are interested in the people around them.”
Although she no longer lives nearby, Koledgy told the board, “At long last — 10 years — and it looks like we’re getting something good.”
It was about a decade ago when Ronald Burks, who manages the firm that owns the property — Quincy Real Estate Holdings — drew the ire of Alta Vista Neighborhood Association members by unveiling a plan for tall condominium towers on the property now slated for Payne Park Village and the vacant land to the north of it. Burks finally pared down his proposal, but Alta Vista residents remained wary of even the scaled-down version, neighborhood association members said.
David Weekley Homes’ proposal focuses on the former home of the Scotty’s hardware store, which stood at 325 S. School Ave.
During the April 12 Planning Board meeting, Joel Freedman of Freedman Consulting & Development in Sarasota, explained that the 2009 site plan that won city approval “was a rather intense plan, actually, and it involved quite a large amount of development”: a series of three- and four-story buildings, including 238 multi-family homes, 55,000 square feet of office space and 19,300 square feet of retail units. That was the vision for what was deemed Parcel 1, he pointed out.
On the property just to the north — Parcel 2 — the city authorized two options, Freedman continued: a 100-room hotel with a 4,000-square-foot restaurant or 62,000 square feet of office space. The focus of the Planning Board hearing, he added, was to revise the site plan for the 8.7-acre parcel to the south, which David Weekley Homes is under contract to purchase from Quincy.
The site plans are valid until April 27, 2020, Freedman pointed out. Therefore, he said, if the project does not get underway by that time, the development agreement expires.
The focus of the hearing
The issue for the Planning Board that night was a request for a modification of the site plan that would omit the commercial elements of the Parcel 1 proposal. Lucia Panica, the city’s chief planner, told the Planning Board that staff recommended approval of that change.
Freedman presented the board members a rendering showing the types of units proposed. Along School Avenue, four-story homes are planned; in the interior, the units will be two and three stories tall; and the remaining buildings will be three stories.
The units will range from 1,200 to 2,600 square feet, he added. “Each … has a two-car garage,” and some on-street parallel parking spaces will be provided for guests.
The staff report prepared in advance of the meeting says a minimum of 10 feet and a maximum of 18 feet along School Avenue will be dedicated to the public parallel parking spaces. “The applicant will be responsible for the entire cost of design and construction … to be done concurrently with the issuance of the site construction permit for Parcel 1,” the report notes.
One new condition, Freedman continued, involves the opportunity to connect the proposed Ringling Shopping Center development with School Avenue through Payne Park Village. To that end, Freedman said, David Weekley Homes had agreed to provide an easement on the northern boundary of its property.
The Ringling Shopping Center land is to the east, across the railroad tracks.
An 8-foot sidewalk will be built along School Avenue, he continued. In response to a board member’s question, Freedman said that while a 6-foot sidewalk is required under the city’s code, staff had asked whether the developer would construct a wider one. “We agreed to do it.”
Additionally, two grand oaks on the property will be preserved, Freedman noted, along with a cell tower.
“It’s a major reduction of intensity,” he pointed out. The traffic study originally undertaken for Burks’ plan in 2009 did not even have to be revised, he said.
The goal is to break ground and make a model available by the first of 2018, Freedman told the board. “And, hopefully, they’ll have great reception and sales.”
After a Jan. 4 city Development Review Committee meeting, Martin Frame, the land acquisition manager for David Weekley Homes, told The Sarasota News Leader he would like to have that first model home open by the summer of 2018.
During the public comments period of the April 12 meeting, Sarasota resident Patricia Varley told the board that homeless people have been living in the area where Payne Park Village is planned. Just two weeks earlier, she noted, fires broke out. “The land really needs to be looked after,” she said, adding that she favored the David Weekley proposal.
Another speaker, Linda Kitch, noted that she had “one quibble with the project”: one of the planned driveways would require traffic to exit Payne Park Village on a blind curve. “Other than that, everything is great.”
Freedman indicated that the developer was willing to adjust the design to remedy the potential problems with the driveway.
“I get phone calls from different people every couple of weeks,” Freedman told the board, with other residents voicing support for the project. Former Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirscher, who lives in the Alta Vista neighborhood, had facilitated meetings with the neighbors, Freedman added. “It’s just been a very, very positive experience.”
With no further comments from the Planning Board, member Eileen Normile made the motion to approve the David Weekley Homes proposal, and it passed unanimously.