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Tallahassee Comp Plan Update


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Just thought I'd like to pass along this E-mail I recieved this morning. This is your chance for your voices to be heard about the future of this community.

Dear Folks;

If you really want to affect how this town is going to be to live in, then get involved in the review of the Comp Plan.

If you want to really change the way this community consumes energy then get involved in the review of the Comp Plan.

Those that participate get to set the agenda. Those that participate in public forums get heard and if enough of us do so, we get heard just about as much as those who lobby behind closed office doors!

The Comp Plan is OUR Constitution. Defend it, amend it, but don't let it get hijacked.

Come and help revise the Comp Plan so that location of facilities, land use densities, building standards, roads and school locations are focused on decreasing energy consumption per capita.

The EAR workshops are:

Monday, November 7th, 6 to 9 pm, Astoria Park, 2465 Atlas Road

Monday, November 14th, 6 to 9 pm, Oak Ridge Elementary School, 4530 Shelfer Road

and a repeat of the Northeast meeting is tentatively scheduled for:

Monday, November 28th at W.T. Moore Elementary School, Dempsey Mayo Road.

The following is my personal take on the issues.

If we don't work at it now, this city and county are going to go down the same path of growth that the sprawling cities of today followed - and are now struggling to reverse. Its nearly impossible to retro-fit and much much cheaper to build it well in the first place. For Leon and Tallahassee the main selling point for economic growth is life-style. We need to avoid making the same decisions now that sprawling cities did in the 70s, 80s and 90s. We should be building the city of the 21st century, not repeat the mistakes that cities made in the 20th century.

PLEASE PAY ATTENTION ! If you don't the Comp Plan could easily end up with policies that actually increase our rate of energy consumption (more gasoline consumed to travel greater distance between home, work and schools), increase our rate of land consumption (more urban sprawl, more large lot development), increase the amount of pollutants dumped into our lakes, springs and aquifer (inadequate septic systems and storm water treatment), increase flooding and the cost of mitigation (increases in impervious without a net gain in development density), and increase our existing socio-economic segregation (greater stratification of housing types and school populations).

The first workshop held at Chiles High School was a disaster as far as public participation. Only 8, count 'em EIGHT people showed up. There were 8 facilitators also (I'm one of those) - so a grand total of 16 folks worked at the Comp Plan review issues list for the evening. However, the 16 of us had a very good meeting, working through lots of issues, throwing ideas on the table, etc. I could have wished for more education on the issue from the staff (I still don't know what SB360 contains...)

We decided that the MOST important issue was building a community around controlling energy consumption gluttony. Successfully doing this, giving people the choice in how to live, work and play in the County, intersects with just about every aspect of the Comp Plan. The topics the Planning Dept provided for the last workshop that are directly connected with the QUALITY OF LIFE in our community - and if we don't speak up about how to direct these issues, our interests will NOT be taken into account.

List of issues suggested by Planning with my own comments about them which by no means reflect what Planning is thinking about them!

1. School concurrency : control the location, type and amount of development to assure that existing schools are adequately used and new schools are provided as necessary, get rid of the educational infrastructure deficit we have built up over the years by ignoring the impact of development on schools. Also, I prefer building more smaller schools for all grade levels instead of huge complexes where kids get "lost".

2. Transportation concurrency : in my opinion - set a policy that lowers the miles traveled per person in a car and increases miles traveled per person in all other modes (public transport, bike, foot). Frankly, any development that actually lowers miles traveled per vehicle has something good going for it!

3. Downtown/Urban Core/ Urban Form : increases in percent impervious but get more of the impervious under roof tops and less in asphalt, get a higher percentage of square footage of building per additional square foot of impervious, create design standards (including green space and building looks) that save us from building an asphalt jungle.

4. Infrastructure Planning : coordination of utilities and future land use : SEWER drives development. Control sewer and urban sprawl can be controlled. WARNING: There is an amendment to the Comp Plan in this current cycle (under review right now) that would allow sewer to be provided outside the Urban Services Area. I think this particular amendment needs to be nixed, but the problems it is supposed to be addressing are real, won't go away and need to be dealt with.

5. Surface and Groundwater Management in the Wakulla Springshed : control current and future pollution below the Cody scarp by using modern septic systems, concentrating development for ease of control of septic systems and storm water and really limit urban sprawl. Upgrade septic treatments throughout. If it costs too much, then may be the springshed will be protected by just plain less growth.

6. Adoption of an Urban Services Boundary : And you thought we already had one! Apparently the State government has created a much more rigourous definition of an USB and it strikes me that this community may be too timid to actually apply serious standards to our existing boundary because it may mean that the urban services area is actually TOO BIG!! This issue has some technical components to it (DCA review standards, etc) that will make it easy to mess up our current understanding of the raison d'etre of our existing USB, but I don't think we should let this happen. I think we should apply the new USB standards to our existing USB and see what falls out. Do not fear real analysis and rational interpretation!

7. Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) : this is a complicated issue of jurisdiction (EPA, DEP, City and County) and definitions. But basically, it is a tool to measure the amount of pollution in our storm water run off and if we use it right, in BOTH the City and County, we may finally take on the responsibility of NOT adding to the already existing problem of lake and stream pollution. What legacy do you want to leave to your children ? Take personal and community responsibility right now!

8. Residential Lot Availability : There is a lot of land already zoned for residential development. In fact, if the existing vacant land were developed under existing practices the actual number of dwelling units (all housing types) would, very conservatively, be over 70,000. (this includes accounting for environmental constraints, infrastructure use of land, etc. and is an under estimate since it does not factor in multifamily well, nor changes in zoning that have taken place which increase density allowances). 50,000 of these are within the existing Urban Services Area (City and County land included). The price of this land may not be favorable to a decent profit by residential developers, but there sure is plenty vacant land available. See #6 and #4 above and #10 below.

9. Intergovernmental Coordination : this covers lots of issues, in my opinion, particularly storm water management, road construction, sewer and septic management and school locations.

10. Affordable Housing : housing prices are still rising and I bet will continue to do so. The price rise is in part due to land prices, but much more due to speculation - prices in surrounding areas (the coast), price of construction (materials and insurance), and the still low mortgage rates. In my opinion, affordable housing should be scattered throughout the community. It should not be "ghetto-ized" to one part of town. This cannot be accomplished without some real changes to our land planning - changes in zoning densities, housing types exclusions, etc. I think this issue should also include changes in building codes to make actually living in the house one can barely afford to buy, economically possible. This means lowering the energy costs per square foot with better insulation, windows, solar hot water, etc. These provisions would probably increase the capital cost of a house, but could greatly decrease the cost of living in it. And I think the latter is the real definition of "affordable" housing. Also, the alternative of living in Gadsen, Jefferson or Wakulla to get an "affordable home" and then community on $3+ / gallon gasoline is NOT a net affordable solution. An affordable home includes its location to work, schools, facilities, etc.

11. Hazard Mitigation : I'm not so sure what is meant by this - dealing with hurricanes (building codes), forest fires (limit urban sprawl), flooding (building codes and land use regulation), tornados (what the heck can you do about that in an area where basements are nonexistent!).

12. Education Quadrant : this is planning lingo for the university area of town: FSU, FAMU and TCC. Maybe handling development and infrastructure in this area will be one of the keys to the Southern Strategy, maybe a way to help existing residential communities and students coexist? I don't know much about the issues in this item - so come to an EAR town meeting and teach me!!

13. Off-site Mitigation for Conservation and Preservation Features : does this mean get rid of all the green space in new development ! Lets make sure it doesn't! and lets make sure that the cost of mitigation is commensurate with the cost of the loss of the green space. I see this as one of the keys to getting higher density and intensity of development down town but NOT by creating an asphalt jungle. See #3 and #12 above.

14. Transfers of Development Rights (TDRs) : our community doesn't need this because we still have lots of land to build on inside the urban services area and land that can be relatively easily redeveloped in the urban core is sufficient for our growth in the next decades. This issue should be saved for when we are actually running out of space.

15. Transportation Master Plan : I thought we already had one, but apparently this is a different planning tool. The building and widening of roads does NOT get rid of congestion. Just look at the traffic problems in any city of 500,000 or more. Lets not make the same mistakes that Jacksonville, Atlanta and other congested sprawling cities did. This means limiting urban sprawl and building a livable urban area. See #2 above for starters. I also think the key to public transportation (buses in TLH) is being ON TIME. Even if buses run infrequently as long as they run ON TIME then one can reliably schedule for them. If they are both infrequent and eradic in arrival time, then the system will not work.

16. Evaluate urban fringe future land use map category : Planning has a comp plan amendment already in the process to allow sewer extensions in the UF. I think this is a big mistake as it destroys the entire intent of the urban services boundary, provides incentives for residential and commercial sprawl by allowing premature development in the UF, and makes this area impossible to use for future redevelopment when the city really does need to expand. I do think there are incredibly serious environmental issues with the proliferation of septic tanks. But lets deal with septic tank technology and regulation first and not blow a hole in the land planning policy. And lets deal with the problems in Woodville separately and try and get a real rural community built there - a higher density "town" surrounded by real rural land (not a strip sprawl following the sewer extension along Woodville highway). UF is a bad future land use category. Don't make any more of it, just let it fade away, but don't turn on the facet for its development at urban sprawl densities (which is what it basically is!!)

17. Energy Policy : Here's the one that subsumes almost every thing above. Where, how far apart, at what density, with what infrastructure and construction standards we build and develop largely control the amount of energy we consume per capita. If you care about the coal plant : PRO OR CON, you should care about how to lower the per capita energy consumption. Our capacity as a community to lower energy consumption is DIRECTLY related to land development. Participate in making our community a 21st century community - join the paradigm shift!

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I'll be honest and say I didn't read every single word above but the passage on the downtown was of special interest to me.

3. Downtown/Urban Core/ Urban Form : increases in percent impervious but get more of the impervious under roof tops and less in asphalt, get a higher percentage of square footage of building per additional square foot of impervious, create design standards (including green space and building looks) that save us from building an asphalt jungle.

Sounds like extra density, using more airspace, modification to the FAR standards, some regulation of setbacks, and a chance for us to address the Building Height Limits Downtown.

If so I want to show up and be heard. I think as it is written right now, at least the actual building height limits map, is too conservative, with 150ft being the max allowed under zoning before any variance. If we're serious about using more of our airspace in this city, we need to increase this number.

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Since one of the meetings is at the school a block away from my home, I will try to show up (Nov 7th one).

My personal interests are Affordable housing, Transportation (public, pedestrian, etc), Innovation park, and various environmental issues, though I will probably have an opinion on almost all of the topics. XD

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alright... i made it through. Fantastical stream of Educated thought... Love it.

Schools. Is DT in need?

transportation. Does the universities and dt's proximity make a rail mass transit option more apealling despite the lack of total population.

DT Density. A priority in the presservation of Tallahassee. Lets do it right. I think the DT area needs everythign you speak of. I dont want to see too much more midrise development. But i like haveing a healthy market without alot of vacancys too. Our highrises will look great wearing green kilts at thier bases!

Wakulla county needs to limit growth untill they know the impact. All else is irresponsible.

fringe development is a lame attempt at affordable houseing indeed. Affordable housing seemingly should be at a 1:1 ratio to these condos in DT. Do it nice, and it will sell. Smart safe investment in my opinion.

And once people live DT, we need to provide smart routes for the inevitable excursions from their below ground parking.

Fun things to think about at 2am

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DaiDreamer: I was out all yesterday and totally forgot about the meeting. Did you go? If so, could you tell us what happened? :blush:

NO! NO! NO! I had typed up a big write up about the meeting and IE decided that the backspace button was also the "go to previous page button and I lost it all!!!! :angry:

I will type it up again when I'm not pissed off....

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