By Bryan Boggiano
Residents and representatives from the developer Amera discussed the City Village project at Monday’s Planning and Zoning Board meeting, discussing project details and weighing their concerns.
The discussion comes after the board deferred the item at their September meeting.
The mixed-use project includes seven structures, including four apartment buildings and two parking garages. It also has a main street bisecting the property and a pedestrian through-way. Developers also discussed potentially creating a preserve or park.
To develop the project, Amera needs a conditional use and special exception approval for numerous aspects.
The conditional use approval allows a large-scale retail establishment greater than 40,000 feet in the downtown mixed-use area. The retailer in question is a grocer that would occupy 40,269 square feet.
At the meeting, Amera officials announced that the grocer will be Whole Foods.
The special exception application comes from 29 specific requests. Of those, staff determined 15 meet the criteria for a special exception.
A first-floor nonresidential building is restricted to 20 feet, but building six’s proposed height is 23 feet. Any non-ground floor height must be 12 feet, but Buildings Three, Four, and Five are all 13 feet.
Other items that met the criteria for special exceptions include bike lane width, through-lane width, and ground floor transparency.
For items not meeting the criteria, mid-rise buildings cannot exceed five stories unless the building and lot are located at least 250 feet from a single-family residence zone. Apartments A and D and Building Seven/Garage B fail this requirement at eight, eight, and six floors.
Surface parking is also proposed on Sample Road and University Drive, which is not permitted.
Other items that did not meet the criteria include building frontage on Coral Hills Drive and University Drive, street setbacks, and the fact that buildings exceed four stories directly adjacent to existing or planned family residential uses.
Staff suggested the board forward a positive recommendation to the city commission for special exception for the items that met the criteria. Additionally, Amera must meet 19 other conditions.
These include that the grocer must satisfy setback requirements, developers must minimize traffic impacts on Coral Hills Drive, and the owner must enter into a security agreement with the city.
Staff recommended the planning and zoning board forward a recommendation of denial to the city commission on the items that did not meet the criteria for a special exception.
Residents, however, recommended none of them.
Diane Wise said, “All I’m asking you is to care about the people who make this city. It’s like an asphalt jungle with these high rises. It’s not fair to the people here.”
Similarly, Lily Magli said, “Nobody will want to be watched by a bunch of strangers. This will wreck our active way of life. We will no longer feel safe in our home.”
Multiple residents and representatives of Amera got into a heated exchange, temporarily derailing the public hearing section of the meeting.
The verbal altercation started when resident Jonathan Korbe took the podium and grilled Amera on the project, singling out representatives and bashing them during his comments.
“No exemptions. Zero. Nada,” he said.
Board Chair Ian Schwartz warned Korbe he would remove him out if he continued attacking meeting attendees. Korbe apologized, but multiple arguments broke out between residents and developers in the audience.
The board largely sided with the residents’ concerns, saying developers should return to the drawing board on certain items and engage with residents further.
Ultimately, board members voted 4-1 to forward a favorable recommendation to the city commission on the 15 items that met special exception criteria.
On the 14 special exception items that do not meet the criteria, the board unanimously voted to forward a favorable denial recommendation to the commission.
For the conditional use approval of the grocery store, the board voted 4-1 in favor of forwarding a favorable recommendation to the commission.
The city commission will consider the conditional approval and special exception items in November.
- 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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