By Bryan Boggiano
Amera Corporation’s proposed mixed-use City Village project failed to receive approval for several components by the city commission during its November 1 meeting.
The vote follows the contentious October 9 planning and zoning meeting, where board members discussed forwarding a positive or negative recommendation for various special exception approvals related to Amera Development’s proposed City Village.
After that, Amera held three outreach meetings with residents on October 11, 18 and 25.
The controversy revolves around 29 special exceptions to the city code Amera sought to develop City Village, a proposed mixed-use project located on the northwest corner of Sample Road and University Drive.
The project includes a 40,269-square-foot Whole Foods, over 400 apartment units, and various restaurant and retail uses.
Since the grocery store would be more than 40,000 square feet in a downtown mixed-use zone, it requires a conditional use. Various other components required a special exception approval.
Multiple exceptions city staff determined did not meet the criteria for a special exception, including four and 14, which are directly related to Whole Foods.
Ahead of the commission’s vote, they heard from almost 30 residents, who were unanimously against certain project components. They all live in Broken Woods or other neighborhoods near the proposed City Village.
Their concerns addressed privacy, barrier walls, traffic, pedestrians, pets, child safety, visibility, accessible living, roadway capacity for delivery trucks, delivery times, maintenance of a proposed pocket park, canal culverting, and noise.
“We cannot help feel[ing] that our fellowship with family and friends will be ruined,” said Lily Magli. “Nobody will want to be watched by a bunch of strangers.”
Residents and the commission alike criticized the Whole Foods-related exceptions, saying the company is not collaborating with the city or residents and is exerting too much influence on City Village.
“This is our project, and Whole Foods is dictating what we’re doing, and I have a serious problem with that,” said Vice Mayor Shawn Cerra.
Others accused Amera of using City Village as a profit-gaining motive, which Amera, their attorneys, and the commission vehemently denied, saying the 40-year residents are deeply concerned for the city and delivered successful projects such as The Walk.
“That’s not the vision. That’s not what we wanted. That’s not the intent,” said George Rahael, Amera CEO. “I have 25 years invested in this downtown; 25 years of emotion, of trying to make this happen, and trying to make it the way it should be done.”
The commission wrestled with the decision, saying that while residents had plenty of concerns, the vote on the exceptions was a tough but necessary one.
“If we don’t progress and innovate as a city, then we begin to lose,” said Commissioner Joshua Simmons.
Similarly, Mayor Scott Brook said, “We need entertainment. We need venues where we can gather, and more than we currently have.”
After going back and forth on various motions and tallying which ones they supported, Commissioner Joy Carter moved to reject numbers one, two, three, four, 14, 27, 28, and 29.
The motion included approving six, 16 through 20, and the other staff-recommended items.
It included more than 20 conditions, such as delivery restrictions from 7 p.m. through 7 a.m., a left-turn light on the corner of Sample Road and Coral Hills Drive, possible restrictions on the Broken Woods Drive entrance, traffic calming measures, privacy walls and screening on the property’s north side, and Amera working with staff on the site plan to maintain the existing driveway opening on University Drive.
On the special exceptions, Commissioner Joy Carter made the final motion to approve, which Commissioner Nancy Metayer Bowen seconded. It passed 4-1, with Cerra opposing.
For the conditional use, Bowen moved to approve, and Simmons seconded. It passed unanimously.
- Bryan has a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and earned his masters in geosciences from Florida International University, where he focused in atmospheric sciences. His interests include weather, entertainment, and municipal government.
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