BRADENTON -- About 14.5 acres west of Bradenton City Hall, extending to 15th Street West between the Manatee River and Manatee Avenue West, property is being eyed by city officials and residents for a potential new overlay district.
The area commonly called Point Pleasant contains a lot of historic houses in a neighborhood Planning and Community Development Director Tim Polk calls a "classic traditional neighborhood when you look at the houses with various lot sizes with single and two-story single family homes. The biggest concern residents are having is about losing the neighborhood's character to future development."
Polk said developers could potentially come in and build three houses on a single large lot.
"In 2007, we looked at a potential overlay text amendment to our land use regulations, but it failed for a lack of support during a town hall meeting," said Polk. "The neighborhood has all six characteristics associated with form base codes and now the concern is that form base codes won't protect those characteristics."
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An overlay classification gives more freedom to a particular district. Polk cited the Village of the Arts and the Historic Ware's Creek areas as examples of what an overlay district can do to satisfy the city and the neighborhood to ensure those districts progress with redevelopment without losing historical or economic potential.
Polk said the process is just starting, but if the city council wants to proceed, much of the groundwork laid in 2007 would allow the city to expedite the plan. However, there is no hurry.
"It is prime for redevelopment and has a lot of potential infill projects," said City Clerk Carl Callahan. "We want to make sure those developments conform to what the neighborhood wants to see and that new development doesn't change the character of the area."
Callahan and Polk said many more meetings, workshops and town halls are in the future before any decision is made.
"The best approach is to move expeditiously through that process but make sure all the players are at the table, including neighbors and larger land owners," said Callahan. "We don't want just a few people driving this process."
Callahan said initial discussions about imposing a moratorium on building were shut down quickly by council members and residents.
"I think that would be a drastic process to take," said Callahan. "We want to move forward as quickly as possible, but we don't want to mess with people's rights."
Polk is putting together an ad hoc committee of residents similar to the committees for change in the Village of the Arts. Ward 3 Councilman Patrick Roff, who spearheaded the changes to the Historic Ware's Creek neighborhood, also is working with residents.
Roff was critical of how city staff is handling the issues with residents.
"I'm wide open on what we need to do, but how we get there is what is disturbing me," said Roff. "There is a well-organized group over there, and I'm concerned about staff moving into policymaking and saying things that aren't allowed to be said."
Callahan said staff is not circumventing the council and staff members have been reminded: "The actions of the council is an action of five."
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith said he doesn't necessarily support another overlay district.
"I'll say we can move quickly, but don't believe there should be an overlay district there, but don't have a problem with substantial change," said Smith. "This is our prime downtown walkable real estate and we do need to set some standards."
Smith said the problem with an overlay district is it can be too burdensome on the city every time a homeowner wants to make a simple change. He would rather see the city deal with the problems on a case-by-case basis.
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.