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bobliocatt

Voters OK strict height restrictions in Jax Beach

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Voters overwhelmingly approved a restriction on building heights in Jacksonville Beach. At the same time voters rejected a watered-down version of the height restrictions proposed by a committee formed by the Jacksonville Beach City Council.

Seventy-six percent of Jacksonville Beach voters approved a referendum imposing a permanent, no-exceptions 35-foot height restriction on all new construction. By a 63-37 percent margin the voters rejected a second referendum dealing with the height restrictions that included a series of exceptions.

A citizen's group formed earlier this year was pushing the no-exceptions referendum. Beaches Watch was formed in opposition to a plan to build five 80-foot high condominiums on the Intracoastal Waterway. The group then gathered enough signatures to get the no-exceptions limit on the ballot. Beaches Watch chair Sandy Golding said the group expected its initiative to pass, based on polling done over the summer.

"One of the big issues was overdevelopment and the height of high-rises," said Golding. "The poll indicated around 75 percent were concerned about the high rises and overdevelopment."

The initiative exempted planned developments that have already been permitted. Since 2002 26 high-rise residential buildings have been approved for construction or considered for approval in Jacksonville Beach, compared to a total of 14 built in the previous three decades.

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That is very good news for Jacksonville Beach. I think that it really does need to keep its small town charm. Although they should have some condos, too many will swallow up the oceanfront.

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The architect in me doesn't like it, because I think it will lead to bad design, but majority rules, so God bless them. It will be interesting to see, if lawsuits are filed by the people who will lose millions of dollars on their investments. I guess only time will tell.

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I liked your idea earlier of creating an small area where more dense residential structures could be built. The idea of a downtown in Jacksonville Beach really struck me and I think that it would have really helped develop Jacksonville Beach. It is a shame that it was not proposed. The main reason that I am not in favor of a mass of condos in Jacksonville Beach is that I don't want to see my home area turn into Mrytle or Miami Beach. Ohterwise, I love development where it would be beneficial.

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I understand how you feel and agree with you. For example, I really hated seeing most of the new condo towers placing the backs of their parking garages along First Street.

However, I think the knee jerk reaction to force a 35ft height limit on the entire city was not needed and a bit too much.

Now future thoughtful projects like The Metropolitan & that office complex on the corner of Beach and 3rd, can't built either, thus limiting the potential of Jax Beach's CBD.

1st-street-office.jpg

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No, it and several other mid-rise and high-rise projects quickly recieved their building permits and have already began construction. probably due to the height restriction vote.

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I am in favor of limited condos, but in specific area. I think they voted for that because they did not want to see more condos built up all the way along Jax Beach. It was a desperate measure that Jax Beach citizens felt that they needed to take. To be honest, I was in favor of the place where the Metropolitan and the building at Beach & 3rd were being built as would anybody. Great location that would boost the area of downtown Jax Beach. No residents really want another 5 Aquilas though. :ph34r:

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One aspect of this referendum approval that hasn't been discussed here, is the effect on the rest of Jax.

The supply of oceanfront land that can support high-density development is now virtually eliminated. Therefore, the demand for other waterfront areas in Jax will increase. In particular, the east side of the Intracoastal, and all St. John's waterfront areas, including downtown.

Undoubtedly, this will increase the likelyhood that LandMar will proceed with taking over the Shipyards property. Speaking of which, does anyone remember when their due-diligence period is up?

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All-around it is a bonus. You are right Vicupstate, downtown will really benefit as more people will move there and make the possible projects almost a neccessity. It will be neat to see how the city responds.

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I don't see downtown really benefitting from this at all. We've done a lot of oceanfront developments in the past, including the Beach Terraces condo tower, now under construction in Jax Beach. From my work experience, urban riverfront and oceanfront lifestyles are completely different and attract different types of markets. Downtown will continue to boom, because many newcomers seek the urban lifestyle that's been neglected, until recently in this metro area.

The overall unit size and square footage price per unit also tend to be a little larger and higher on the beach, as well. Although many complained about the increase in density, most of the planned Jax Beach condo projects only had around 20 "large" units and were in the 5 - 12 story range. That's a big difference from the 40-50 story towers, with hundreds of units, lining the ocean in South Florida. The largest planned beach project, by far, is the 15 story/91 unit Costa Verano, which is already under construction. I believe they, like many others, may have sped up their permitting process to beat the Nov. 2 vote.

The only difference you'll see in Jax Beach is an increase in density, traffic congestion and a plethora of 35ft high box like buildings with flat roofs and smaller units (thus a larger number) to cram in the necessary units to make the developer's profit numbers work.

We've done a couple of projects, in other height restricted communities, like St. Augustine Beach and farther down in Flager County. When we can't get a variance to exceed the 35ft height restriction, most times we are forced to spread the building's mass on as much land as possible, because the developer needs a certain number of units to make his numbers work. Most likely you'll also see more land, west of 1st street, become surface parking lots, because the all of the valuable ocean front land will be needed for each development's units, pool, & amenity center.

I really do wish the residents of Jax Beach the best of luck, because I believe most really have no clue of how the negative side of having such a low height restriction on land so costly. Unfortunately, regardless of a project's height, the "small town feel" many would like to keep will continue to leave as more single family homes are destroyed for new townhouse and condo projects. As I've stated several times before, on this topic, they still need to address their current architectural and zoning requirements, if they're truely concerned about preserving the community's character and quality of life.

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I know that you are in the development business but do you feel that some of the demand will move to downtown and other areas if the beaches doesn't allow for lage condos. I think that demand for downtown living will increase. It could go either way.

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I know that you are in the development business but do you feel that some of the demand will move to downtown and other areas if the beaches doesn't allow for lage condos. I think that demand for downtown living will increase. It could go either way.

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Unfortunately no. I don't think it will change much, beacuse riverfront and oceanfront lifestyles are completely different. Many of the beach condo buyers aren't interested in living in a more urban oriented area. Others like the sunrises and look of the ocean and beach. While others like the rivers, because of things like boat access. After being here a year, it amazes me how many people live in beach areas that don't even travel into the city and vise-versa. Its really like two completely different worlds.

However, its a fact that all types of waterfront living in Florida is hot right now. So, imo, the main thing that will change is that future Jax Beach residential developments will become more horizontal instead of vertical. The threat of shadows will go away, but the small beach front town appeal, public access, etc. may go away as well without addressing zoning and architectural issues.

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I hope that the city will address those issues personally. In the northern beaches, zoning only allows for certain structures, mostly single-family dwellings. I think that once Jax Beach realizes what could happen, the issue will be addressed.

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Judge won't grant permit to developer

Planning board will hold new hearing

By Caren Burmeister

Shorelines staff writer

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- A judge refused to grant a developer a permit for an oceanfront condo Monday, choosing instead to let the Planning Commission do its job and hold a new public hearing in the case.

However, Circuit Judge Jack Schemer said he could readdress developer Chris Hionides' lawsuit over the proposed Atlantis Condo in the 700 block of First Street North over related legal issues.

One of those issues that came up Monday involves Hionides' charge that the Planning Commission's inaction prevented him from getting a building permit before Nov. 2, when voters overwhelmingly approved a citywide 35-foot building height cap that took effect immediately. High-rise projects can't move forward unless they had a building permit by that deadline.

The other issue involves Hionides' charge that the Planning Commission violated that state's public meetings law by discussing the case just before its Oct. 25 meeting.

The Planning Commission denied Hionides' application for a conditional use permit on April 26, saying the proposed condo and dozens of others like it would overburden traffic, schools, hospitals and other services.

Hionides appealed and in late September, Schemer ruled in Hionides' favor, ordering the Planning Commission to rehear the case or grant the permit.

Hionides' attorney, Paul Harden, subsequently asked Schemer to grant Hionides' permit outright, saying the Planning Commission couldn't give him a fair hearing.

Harden charges that he overheard the Planning Commission discussing the case just before the Oct. 25 meeting, violating the state's Sunshine Law. Under that law, it's improper for two or more board members to discuss a matter coming before them. Any decision or action deriving from an improper meeting is considered null and void.

In addition, Harden said the Planning Commission had been "piddling around for seven months." He was referring to the commission's initial decision to deny Hionides' permit, then not holding a rehearing on Oct. 25 following Schemer's court order and now not scheduling a public hearing until January.

The commission didn't hold a rehearing on Oct. 25, asking instead for a full public hearing in which new evidence could be presented. That public hearing is scheduled for the second Monday in January because the commission doesn't meet during December.

Harden said the delays are "literally costing him [Hionides] millions of dollars."

Attorney William Graessle, who is representing the Jacksonville Beach Planning Commission, characterized Harden's accusations as "one of the most outrageous arguments" he's ever heard.

Graessle said the Planning Commission was not "dragging its feet" and vehemently denied that the commission held a "secret meeting," as Harden said.

But Harden is undaunted. He charged that the Planning Commission may have violated the public meetings law a second time by meeting privately Nov. 10 with Graessle to discuss legal strategies and resolutions in the case.

There is an exemption in the public meetings law that allows private meetings between public board members and their attorneys, but those private meetings are limited to settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to litigation expenditures.

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Height limit stops projects; some may go to court

By Caren Burmeister

Shorelines staff writer

JACKSONVILLE BEACH -- Since voters overwhelmingly approved a citywide 35-foot building height cap, proposals for several high-rise oceanfront condos hang in limbo, including one at the First Street Grille and expansion plans for the historic Casa Marina Hotel.

Developers and their engineers and architects hustled to correct and resubmit their project plans by Nov. 2, when voters approved the building height cap by a 76-percent to 24-percent margin. Once approved, the height measure took effect immediately.

As a result, 20 condo applications made it and eight didn't.

The height amendment states that developers with construction permits for high-rise buildings are exempt from the height cap. Otherwise, the developer or property owner will have to ask a judge to determine if they have vested rights in the property, a complicated process that baffles even land-use attorneys.

Developers of three oceanfront condos, the Captiana, Serena Point and Ocean 9 Villas, received construction permits one or two days before the election. Another developer proclaims his success with a sign at the vacant property site that exclaims "officially permitted building" in big red letters.

In October alone, the Planning Department issued 13 condo permits with a total construction value of about $124 million. That represents a conservative estimate of the costs to construct those condos, said City Planning Director Steve Lindorff. Before the condo rush, the Planning Department typically handled one condo plan every few months or so.

The Planning Department is no longer accepting building permit applications for structures taller than 35 feet, Lindorff said. However, planning staff are still accepting site plans for review.

While filing plans close to the Nov. 2 election, or afterward, developers have been recording their intentions for their property and may be building a case for vested property rights.

Lindorff said the plans "show how far into the process they got and how much money they spent to get there."

The common legal definition of vested property rights refers to the rights of a landowner who relied, at the time of purchase, on the government's word about the land's present and possible future status. If the status changes, diminishing the land's future potential, the owner could claim the government arbitrarily deprived them of their vested property rights.

A judge considers many factors in making the decision, such as when the property was purchased, what the zoning and land regulations were at the time and the owners' intent for the land when he bought it.

Some developers and real estate investors have also filed a lawsuit asking a judge to invalidate the height amendment, saying it violates the city charter and the City Council's legislative power.

One project that didn't meet the Nov. 2 building permit deadline was developer Chris Hionides' proposal for a five-story addition to the Casa Marina Hotel at 12 Sixth Ave. N.

Hionides filed the expansion plans for the vacant lot between the historic hotel and the new fishing pier parking lot on Oct. 29. Those plans include a 138-seat banquet and conference room on the second and third floors and guest rooms on the top two floors. The new building would connect to the hotel with a covered courtyard. Those plans are still in development plan review.

Time also ran out for Hionides' Atlantis Condo in the 700 block of First Street North, just north of the Casa Marina.

The Planning Commission denied Hionides' conditional use permit in April over concerns about the impact his proposed condo and dozens of others would have on roads, schools, hospitals and other services. He appealed the decision and a judge ruled in his favor, ordering the Planning Commission to hold another hearing or grant the permit. The Planning Commission has asked for another hearing, which could take place this month.

Another condo that didn't make it is the eight-story Acquilas III condo at the site of First Street Grille at 807 First St. N. Eagle Development got a conditional use permit in April to use the commercially-zoned property for a condo. But the company didn't file development plans with the city until Oct. 11.

Stephen K. Underwood, comptroller of Eagle Development, which is also building the Acquilas I and II condos on First Street North, declined to comment on the permit or whether the company would ask a judge to determine if it has vested property rights.

"We respect the citizens' choice on that decision," Underwood said.

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I had a feeling law suits were going to come, from developers who didn't recieve their building permits by Nov. 2. Personally, I think many of them have pretty good cases, considering how much money they stand to lose, if their projects can't be developed as originally planned. The results should be interesting to see.

BTW, I'm shocked 20 projects recieved their building permits before Nov. 2. Depending on their location, the condo wall along 1st Street will rise regardless of the restriction.

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I'm suprised that every project out there was not permitted prior to November 2.Why wait,knowing that the height referendum looming,would you not fasttrack your development through the permitting phase.

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