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Message from the City Manager: Update on Town Center North Overlay

By Christopher Russo, City Manager

(July 30, 2020) – We are moving forward in determining the future of the Town Center North Overlay (TCNO). However, due to delays from COVID-19, the City Commission is in the process of extending the moratorium through March 2021 to allow for ample time to complete the public outreach process and provide final recommendations to proceed. Our consultant team from Calvin, Giordano & Associates (CGA) has facilitated the outreach process, and on June 4, they presented their initial findings and recommendations to the City Commission.

The outreach process consisted of stakeholder meetings with residents, landowners, developers, and elected officials; gathering and analyzing information about present conditions; public outreach through pop-up activities, an open-house workshop and online survey; and synthesizing all the community input.

Throughout this outreach process it was important for us to educate the public about the TCNO before gaining feedback. The CGA team found that while there were strong opinions regarding the TCNO, many did not fully understand the complexity of the area. Education was a key component at each outreach activity. Staff explained the history and composition of the TCNO, which is three distinct areas, including the Collins commercial corridor, the midsection and the bayfront.

Typically, a “town center” is a central, walkable place that people can easily access for a variety of purposes: to shop, dine, work, exercise, enjoy a movie or concert, or just congregate as a community in a social public place. According to this description, the current Town Center District seems to be deficient, and our residents know this. The purpose of the public engagement is to determine what our citizens want to see there.

What did we learn?

Through a combination of face-to-face interactions and online engagement, we were able to gain a wealth of public input about the current view of the TCNO and its future. We reached over 500 points of direct public engagement, with several hundred more estimated from interaction with the website, social media posts, and emails.

We found that most participants would rather see a moderate skyline here, favoring the current districtwide mix of heights. Participants would like to see a better selection, both in quantity and quality, of shopping, dining and entertainment options. They prioritized broader quality of life issues such as walkability, connectivity, multimodality, pedestrian safety, green space, and infrastructure capacity over regulatory issues. Residents desire for the TCNO to remain unique when compared to development on the east side of Collins Avenue, placing importance on the need for a sense of retreat.

Possible Paths

The CGA team developed four possible paths for the City to take. The Commission must now prioritize what they want to achieve in terms of policy goals and how to achieve those goals with regulatory implementation.

Let it be

  • Keeps the TCNO in the Comprehensive Plan as is.
  • Involves adding density and intensity measures that are currently absent to comply with Florida law.
  • Requires amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code.

A New Vision

  • An overhaul of the current TCNO and would implement new land use designation.
  • Involves a depth of analyses to document the new district and re-designation of land.
  • Requires amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use Map, and Zoning Map and Code.

Toss it away

  • Eliminates the TCNO in the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use Map, leaving the existing underlying land use districts to guide future redevelopment
  • Requires amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use Map, and Zoning Map and Code.

A narrower focus

  • Subdivides the TCNO to reflect the distinct character subareas of the overall district.
  • Resizes the footprint so the overlay applies only to the present commercial or residential area.
  • Adjusts guidelines to promote a higher caliber of future redevelopment for this area.
  • Requires amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use Map, Zoning Map and Code.

Where do we go from here?

As we pursue the path of extending the moratorium for an additional six months, we will continue engaging with the community to receive your feedback. The City Commission will then deliberate at a formal public meeting and may select one of the four options to move forward with, ask for a variation of the paths or revisions, or provide direction to staff regarding other options. Once they provide feedback, staff will prepare the policy and regulatory amendments necessary to implement their decision.

This may seem like a long and arduous process, but it is necessary to gain public input before moving forward. In the weeks to come, we will announce additional opportunities for public engagement as well as the date for another virtual public workshop. I encourage you to learn more about the Town Center District, the public engagement project report, and the steps the City is taking to create a better future for Sunny Isles Beach by visiting sibfl.net/towncenternorth. I invite you to share your comments online or by calling 305.792.1740.