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FL plan to include 13,000 new units downtown

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From the Sun-Sentinel: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/sou...-home-headlines

There's a web-poll the goes along with this. The unfortunate results:

Bad idea - 63.5%

Good idea - 29.9%

Don't know - 6.6%

Lauderdale commission backs plan for 13,000 more units downtown

By Brittany Wallman

Staff Writer

Posted July 27 2004

FORT LAUDERDALE -- City commissioners threw support Monday behind a growth explosion that would allow more residential development downtown, the equivalent of 40 to 50 additional condo buildings.

A majority of commissioners agreed in a special meeting Monday to begin the yearlong, city-county-state approval process that would allow 13,000 more residential units -- houses, condos, apartments -- to be built in the urban core. Those 13,000 units would add between 19,500 and 26,000 residents to the downtown, according to city Planning Director Bruce Chatterton.

At 300 units per condo tower, that would amount to 43 new high-rises downtown.

Officials agreed that the downtown is only at half or a third of its development potential for housing and that it won't be fully functional as the "live, work, play" environment advertised until more people live there.

"Let's take control of our destiny," said Vice Mayor Dean Trantalis, agreeing to push the application forward.

Only Mayor Jim Naugle disagreed, saying the application should be stalled a year while commissioners put the proper laws in place, such as a possible new impact fee for more parks, and while South Florida transit officials work on getting passenger traffic back on the downtown FEC rail lines.

He held up a newspaper ad for condos in Aventura that said, "Who needs Las Olas? You can keep the crowded streets, the noise, the congestion."

The approval came in a joint meeting Monday between the City Commission and the Downtown Development Authority. The authority requested the meeting, hoping to talk the city into applying for 9,907 more residential units. It got more than it had hoped for.

Most officials agreed that even though about a dozen high-rises are under construction downtown, the urban heart of the city is still in its infancy and can't operate efficiently, with mass transit, affordable housing and sufficient parks and other services, until and unless there are more people living there.

The authority already is moving ahead to build light rail transit downtown but figured at least another 10,000 units or more were needed to make it successful. The board had sent letters over the weekend urging attendance at the pivotal joint meeting, and the room was packed with at least 50 people, many of them downtown property owners.

The Downtown Development Authority, a developer-packed board appointed by commissioners but with taxing power over commercial property downtown, governs a 749-acre urban chunk generally from Southeast Seventh Street to Northeast Sixth Street, and from Federal Highway west to Southwest Fourth Avenue.

The downtown operates under a maximum housing limit, currently 8,543 units, under the city's land use plan. But because the housing cap has been all but reached south of Broward Boulevard downtown, redevelopment there has come to a halt. North of Broward Boulevard, there are still units available.

But commissioners said they're looking long-term and don't want to go through the lengthy bureaucratic approval process more than once.

"I say this all the time," said Commissioner Carlton Moore, urging his colleagues to go for as many units as the state will allow, "either we're going to run with the rabbits or bark with the dogs. Either we're going to be the urban center or not."

The deal is far from done. The vote sends the application for discussion at the city's Development Review Committee meeting on Aug. 3, then to the Planning and Zoning Board on Aug. 18. The proposal comes back before city commissioners at their Sept. 8 meeting. Then it heads to the Broward County Planning Council on Sept. 15.

Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson tried to head off the e-mails, letters or calls she feared she'd get from people who might misunderstand what happened Monday.

"We're moving forward in a process that may or may not succeed," said Hutchinson, who vowed that the proper laws would be in place before the units would be released a year from now. Even then, development projects aren't sure to be approved.

She and others on the commission agreed there are things they'd like to see with the next wave of development, including lower prices.

Betty Hays summed it up when she said she's a college professor who earns a good wage. But, she said, "there's no way I could afford to live in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Where are the workers going to live?"

Commissioners said they'll wait for a recommendation from the Downtown Development Authority on how to fashion an ordinance to achieve affordable housing before deciding whether to pay for a major study.

Development is a touchy issue in the city, and commissioners know what kind of reaction they might face.

The authority's report Monday, based only on the 9,907 units, figured the added people would generate 22,587 more car trips a day downtown.

Commissioners last week were tangled in a debate about overdevelopment as they debated whether to swap land on the beach with the Hyde Park Market site downtown so the Las Olas property could become a park.

The plan failed, but a new proposal floated by former Commissioner Tim Smith would have the city swapping Huizenga Plaza park, on Las Olas at Andrews Avenue, with the Hyde Market site.

At that meeting, emotions about perceived overdevelopment flared, causing beach resident Judy Scher to say, "If you bend over in Fort Lauderdale, they build something [on your back]."

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I hope this really passes. I'm suprised to see so many people vote against developing new housing in the city. Its either this, moving to Palm Beach County or draining the Everglades.

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i hope it passes too, but the problem with Ft. Lauderdale is Ft. Lauderdalians. The place has to be the epicenter of nimbyism in Florida.

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More than likely a lesser plan will be reached to settle the "shock" of the nimbys, and in another decade when all these units are built and developers still want more it will go further..

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Even if it passes, it's not like 13,000 people will move there immediately. I think that by the time downtown reaches critical mass, they will already have the infrastructure built, including light rail. I can't wait for that, along with the FEC corridor. I hope they build a station in Boca and Delray, so I can actually go to Ft. Laud without driving. Tri-Rail isn't as convenient for Ft. Lauderdale as it is for Miami.

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