The Coastal Star

Delray Beach: Planners look to update downtown development rules

By Tim Pallesen

    The furor over Atlantic Crossing now has Delray Beach ready to tighten and improve its downtown development regulations.
    “We started on the heels of Atlantic Crossing, and we heard about height and density concerns,” Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council urban design director Anthea Gianniotes reported to city officials Aug. 18.
    Proposed changes will be discussed by city commissioners and residents in public hearings to be scheduled later this year.
    The push to toughen rules for new buildings in the downtown business district began when Atlantic Crossing developers requested 51 housing units per acre in the downtown’s largest development project two years ago.
    A previous city commission approved a conditional use to allow 40 units in December 2012. Downtown growth controls then became a key issue for winning candidates in the last two March city elections.
    Treasure Coast planners began interviewing city officials and residents in January under the direction of their urban design director, Dana Little, who then was hired as Delray’s planning and zoning director in June.
    “Delray has arrived,” Little said. “It doesn’t need to beg any more for downtown development. Now there’s something to be said for some restraint.”
    Most new downtown buildings would be limited to 30 units per acre in density and four stories in height under the Treasure Coast’s recommendations.
    The city still could grant density and height bonuses to developers for specific needs such as Class A office space. “That’s the most important issue — what do they have to do to obtain the bonuses,” said Robert Ganger, chairman of the Florida Coalition for Preservation.
    The new regulations would require developers to respond to what Gianniotes described as the public’s desire for wider sidewalks, more shade trees and better bicycle and pedestrian movement.
    “We’re extremely pleased with the new land development regulations,” said Jim Smith, chairman of Safety as Floridians Expect, which promotes alternatives to vehicle traffic. The proposed rules would require new residential developments to provide secure storage space for bicycles. Showers and changing rooms would be required for bicyclists in large downtown office and retail buildings.
    Coastal residents should be concerned that the proposals don’t require ground floors of new buildings to be built at higher elevations, Beach Property Owners Association vice president Andy Katz said.
    Little said concerns about flooding caused by rising water are better addressed by a four-county regional study group in southeast Florida.

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