On February 12, 2014, the City Commission adopted ordinance 2014-3839, which increased the height limit from 60 feet to 85 feet for the area fronting the west side of Alton Road between Arthur Godfrey Road and West 34th Street (Talmudic University site). There was companion future land use map and zoning map amendment to expand the RM-2 area, as the Talmudic University had acquired surplus land from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT).
This amendment was intended to facilitate the development of a vacant area on the Talmudic University site, as well as to fund improvements to the site. On March 4, 2014, the Design Review Board (DRB) approved the development of an 8-story, 72-unit, residential building; this project was never constructed.
In 2015, a private application was filed by the current proposer, to increase the maximum allowable height on the site from the current 8 stories / 85 feet to 15 stories / 150 feet. The Planning Board did not recommend in favor of this height increase and the administration recommended denial when the proposal came before the City Commission. The applicant subsequently withdrew the application and did not move forward.
The current owner of the subject property, “M 4000 Alton Owner LLC c/o M-4000 Alton MGR, LLC” is in the process of acquiring an additional 0.406 acres of surplus land from FDOT. In order to accommodate this additional property and combine it with the existing site, the proposer is seeking the following land use amendments, which are attached:
1. A re-zoning of the current surplus FDOT parcel from GU to RM-2. The specific corresponding zoning map change is from GU, “Government Use” to RM-2, “Residential Multifamily, Medium Intensity”.
2. A companion Future Land Use Map (FLUM) amendment to change the future land use designation of the parcel from the current Public Facilities: Government Use (PF) category to the Residential Multifamily Medium Intensity (RM-2) category.
3. An LDR amendment to establish the “Julia Tuttle Causeway District,” which would incorporate specific development regulations for the area abutting the west side of Alton Road and the south side of 41st Street/Interstate 195.
The following is a summary of the proposed development regulations in the draft LDR ordinance:
1. Increase the maximum building height from 85 feet to 290 feet.
2. Structures exceeding 85 feet in height will have a minimum setback of 190 feet from Alton Road.
3. Establish rear and side setbacks of 0 feet.
4. Reduce the minimum unit size from 550 SF to 450 SF.
5. Reduce the average unit size from 800 SF to 700 SF.
6. Allow for up to a 3,000 SF accessory restaurant use, open to the public, with no additional loading or parking requirements.
7. Provide that the residential liner requirement for floors containing parking only apply only to the frontage facing Alton Road.
The large setback from Alton Road is intended to reduce the impact of a taller building on the single-family residential area to the east. Due to the expanded setback, a large open space would be created on the east side of the site, which is expected to be approximately one (1) acre. Additionally, the proposed reduction in average and maximum unit size requirements will allow for more flexibility in unit types; this, in turn, will allow, potentially, for more attainable housing.
Staff does have concerns with the proposed increase in height; specifically, the following is noted:
• The existing height limit of 8 stories / 85 feet is consistent with the current and potential future built context of the higher density areas next to and adjacent to the Talmudic University site. These include the CD-3 Commercial Corridor along 41st Street. Additionally, by way of context, the existing Talmudic University building on the subject site is 72 feet tall.
• Allowing a higher height for the proposed site could set a precedent for future efforts to increase maximum building heights, particularly along 41st Street. In this regard, the aggregation of lots in the CD-3 district could result in higher FAR maximums (2.25 v. 2.75), thus making a height increase proposal more attractive in order to accommodate higher FAR.
• Along the west side of the City, from the northern boundary of Sunset Harbor all the way to the northern end of North Bay Road, there exists a defined scale of smaller buildings. The only exception to this is the Mt. Sinai campus; however, even the larger buildings on the Mt. Sinai campus are not as tall as the proposal herein. The proposal to almost quadruple the height limit on the subject site would result in a significant departure from the established scale of the area.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the administration has reviewed the overall proposal within the larger context of creating a one-acre area of open space; such open space area could provide significant public benefits. If a determination is made that the proposed height increase is warranted, the open space, public park, would be a significant public benefit for the City’s residents.
The administration would recommend that the open space area proposed contain significant resiliency elements that provide tangible options for managing, retaining and treating stormwater. Attached is a scope of specific elements that should be considered for the open space area, including water management elements. Such a public benefits scope could be incorporated into the proposed plan, either as part of a covenant or as part of the proposed ordinance to ensure that improvements are made.