Estero Moves Quickly on Land Use Planning
Under the leadership of Councilman Howard Levitan the Estero Village Council has taken eight major actions to establish its land use planning and approval process in less than two months.
Contract with Village Center and Healthcare Village Planners
On April 17th, just 30 days after taking office, the Village Council approved a contract with the planning firms of Bill Spikowski and Seth Harry, to continue the community planning initiative that the ECCL, ECPP and EDRC started over two years ago. This initiative has evaluated market trends and various methods to sustain Estero’s enviable quality of life and competitiveness during the period when the remaining vacant tracts are being developed.
The planning effort authorized by this contract will consist of the following:
- Create a clear and robust regulatory framework that accommodates and encourages new market preferences for compact, walkable, transit-ready mixed-use development authorized through the comprehensive plan and additions to the land development code.
- This program will be implemented in two steps. By mid-July it will provide the Village Council with interim amendments to the comprehensive plan and land development code that will provide the framework for the regulatory plan that will expand and refine the proposed mixed-use regulatory framework for adoption by April 2016, one year from the signing of the contract.
- The preliminary concept is to allow higher residential densities and a greater mix of uses in traditional mixed-use patterns (city blocks and a network of walkable streets).
- Prepare supporting standards such as block sizes, street connectivity, and building types for use in the new mixed-use code when needed to supplement existing adopted standards.
- Prepare an overlay map that could be used to identify the areas where new mixed-use planning standards would apply, such as the proposed Village Center and the Healthcare Village
- Prepare a second map that could be used to identify additional areas where the new standards might be available.
- Prepare conceptual regulating plans for areas where the new mixed-use standards would apply. The regulating plans would be created with input from affected landowners and the public.
- Participate in up to seven public meetings or public hearings to present the maps, policies and interim code changes.
- Receive direction from the Planning and Zoning Board and the Village Council after they receive input from the public and landowners.
- Draft interim comprehensive plan policies that summarize in general terms how the new framework would be implemented and applied.
- Prepare a technical memorandum that includes the new maps and policies and supporting material to serve as data and analysis for the state review process for the interim comprehensive plan amendments.
- Review the relevant sections of the County land development regulations inherited by the Village to identify any provisions that may conflict with or hinder preliminary implementation of walkable mixed-use development while the new regulatory framework is being completed and adopted.
- Draft any needed interim land development code changes and put them into ordinance format for review by legal counsel for the Village.
Contract with Special Land Use Counsel
On April 17th, 30 days from their first meeting, the Village Council hired Nancy Stroud of the Lewis, Stroud and Deutsch law firm to provide the Village with legal service related to the implementation of the planning initiative described above and to serve the Village as Special Counsel on other land use matters.
Ms. Stroud has a master’s degree in regional planning in addition to her law degree, both from the University of North Carolina. She graduated cum laude from Indiana University, where she was Phi Beta Kappa. Ms Stroud has been an attorney since 1978. She is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
Prior to opening her own firm, she led the local government land use department of a Fort Lauderdale firm that provided representation as municipal attorneys for eighteen municipalities in the south Florida region.
Ms. Stroud has special expertise in growth management, community development and constitutional issues related to zoning and planning. She regularly represents local governments as special counsel for land use issues, including special projects such as writing land development regulations, reviewing large development proposals, and comprehensive planning. She is well experienced in quasi-judicial hearing procedures and regularly represents elected bodies and planning boards, or local government staff, in quasi-judicial proceedings.
Ms. Stroud will assist the Village’s planning consultants by reviewing each of their work products
with regard to potential legal issues such as vested rights, property rights, and legal defensibility. In addition Ms. Stroud will attend all public workshops to gain insight into public concerns related to legal issues and to address any emerging legal issues.
Ms. Stroud will also consult with Council regarding the code amendment process, the state review and adoption process and other legal planning procedures.
As the Village’s Special Counsel on land use matters Ms Stroud will represent the Village Council at quasi-judicial hearings, assist Village staff at quasi-judicial hearings when she is not representing the Village Council, drafting needed ordinances, resolutions, and development orders, prepare legal research and memoranda on specific land use topics, attend and participate in public workshops, hearings and meetings and review and analyze development proposals for legal issues in coordination with Village staff/consultants.
Invoke Zoning in Progress for the Area Encompassed By the Village Center and the Healthcare Village
On April 17th the Village Council adopted a resolution invoking “zoning in progress” for the Village Center area and on April 24th they adopted “zoning in progress” for the Healthcare Village area.
Under “zoning in progress” any application for development approval for property located in the Village Center or Healthcare Village shall be reviewed to determine if it complies with the principles of compact, walkable, transit supportive, mixed use development, with an emphasis on employment, housing, recreational and civic uses and the community’s comprehensive plan.
The final approval of any such development application may be temporarily stayed until the adoption of land development regulations that implement the principles of the Harry-Spikowski Report. The plan for these areas is expected to be completed about April 2016, one year after it was authorized by the Village Council.
Establish a Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) and a Design Review Board (DRB)
On April 17th the Village Council approved an ordinance creating a Planning and Zoning Board (PZB) and a Design Review Board (DRB) for the Village. This legislation established the size, composition and qualifications that will be required for members of each body.
The provisions of the ordinance were based upon research performed by the ECCL over the last year and the comparable experience the community has had over the last 12 years with the County advisory roles performed by the Estero Community Planning Panel (ECPP) and the Estero Design Review Committee (EDRC).
The early adoption of this ordinance was facilitated by the ECCL hiring Nancy Stroud to prepare a draft ordinance for the Village after the Village had been approved by the voters of Estero but before the Council was formed and able to contract for this work.
Interview over 40 candidates for the PZB and DRB
After considerable publicity about the Village’s plans for the creation of the PZB and the DRB and Village Council discussions about how to screen the applicants for these two boards over 40 persons, many with considerable land use board and other relevant experience, applied for these positions and were interviewed by the Village Council on April 10th and 17th.
Appoint the Members and Chairs of the PZB and DRB
At their next Village Council meeting the Council selected all 7 members of the Planning and Zoning Board and 6 of the 8 members authorized for the Design Review Board. They did not fill the remaining DRB seats inasmuch as no architects licensed to practice in Florida had applied as required by the statute establishing the Committee even though the existing appointments included two architects not currently licensed in Florida. The Village is still searching for architects licensed to practice in Florida. These architects do not have to live in Estero inasmuch as only four of the eight members of the DRB must be Estero residents and the existing appointees have fulfilled that requirement.
Hold PZB and DRB organizational meetings
On May 5th the PZB held its first meeting to learn about the sunshine law and to learn about the Florida legal requirements for Planning and Zoning. On the following day the DRB met to get organized and to be briefed on the sunshine law and the procedures they must follow under Florida law.
Approve Creation of a Development Services Director Position
At its May 8th Workshop the Village Council enthusiastically endorsed the suggestion that the Village contract with a qualified professional planner to assist the PZB and DRB in its planning, zoning and design review responsibilities and to coordinate with Lee County on permitting matters.
In addition the Council will study financing this responsibility by imposing application fees to help pay for the cost of reviewing the different kinds of development applications.