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Town Center North Overlay

Ironing Out the Wrinkles in the Town Center District

By Jeniffer Viscarra, Commissioner

(Friday, February 26, 2021) – As you may recall, in early 2019 the City discovered an inconsistency between its Comprehensive Plan and its Zoning Code, which caused great public outcry. To ensure that residents’ voices were properly taken into account, the Commission supported a significant and unprecedented effort in community outreach. During the last City Commission meeting, the Commission formally accepted the Town Center North Public Engagement Report. The report is the compilation of all stakeholder feedback we received over the past 14 months of outreach. The outcome is boiled down to four different strategies; Let it Be, Toss it Away, a Narrower Focus, and a New Vision, that the City and Commission will consider. Though the report recommends the “Narrower Focus” option, this is still an open discussion. The report, which is available at sibfl.net/towncenternorth, also provides a good summary of the events and errors over the years and the actions taken by the current Commission to correct and address the problems in the district.

Not surprisingly, the report indicates that the Town Center North Overlay is a complex issue. The City can address it in various ways. When the time comes, the City will choose its path by vote of the Commission. There may be those who will disagree with whatever decision is made, and that’s all right. There is room for different opinions as to what is best for our community, and I am always happy to listen to residents willing to share their perspectives. You are also welcome and encouraged to review the records yourself and talk to staff if you so desire.

Clearly, the City could and should have done better with the Town Center District. Going forward, I am confident we will. However, it takes time to iron out mistakes of this magnitude. There are legal hurdles and challenges to clear, including securing residents’ input in a time of a pandemic. The completion and adoption of the Town Center North Public Engagement Report is an important accomplishment. We are on our way, iron in hand, determined to smooth out whatever wrinkles remain.

As I cautioned in my last article, there is a lot of information and misinformation floating around. I encourage you to use all of your resources when forming your own independent opinion, including your very accessible City government.

Contact Commissioner Jeniffer Viscarra at jviscarra@sibfl.net or at 305.792.1750.