Growth debate continues with votes on Southside development – ​​Tallahassee Reports


City Commission split 3-2 on South Side Development

On April 12, the Leon County Commission and the City of Tallahassee Commission held a public hearing to consider the next step in addressing proposed changes to the Master Plan that would allow for three major housing developments in the southeast portion of Leon County.

The comprehensive plan serves as a model for future commercial and residential land uses, housing and conservation, and cultural and recreational facilities.

The amendments – requested by the developer – seek to modify the boundaries of the Urban Services Area (United States) and to modify zoning regulations.

The expansion of the United States allows urban services like water and sewer. Without US expansion, development could take place, but it would involve septic tanks and well water.

What transpired at the meeting highlights elected officials’ differing views on how to handle Leon County’s future growth.

The Leon County Commission voted 7-0 to move forward with the review of the projects. However, the Tallahassee City Commission voted 3-2, with City Commissioners Jack Porter and Jeremy Matlow voting to end the review of the projects.

Elected officials who voted to take the next steps for project approval highlighted the need for more housing options and the benefits of south side development.

The need for more housing units was supported by an analysis provided by Leon-Tallahassee County Professional Planning staff.

Those opposed to the developments cited urban sprawl and the cost of the developments to ratepayers. Additionally, Porter and Matlow preferred to focus more on urban infill.

Projects

At a joint workshop on March 22, elected officials heard about the proposal which could result in the development of approximately 460 acres on the south side of Leon County by DR Horton, a national builder.

Project maps are provided below.

DR Horton is based in Arlington, Texas, and operates in 44 of the top 50 homebuilding markets in the United States.

Changes requested by the developer include expanding the Urban Services Area (US) and changing zoning designations. The changes requested concern the three plots.

The April Road Designated Parcel is approximately 173 acres of land at the northeast corner of Old St. Augustine Road and April Road.

The Woodville Highway Parcel spans approximately 154 acres of land southeast of the intersection of Capital Circle and Woodville Highway.

And the Southwood Planation parcel is approximately 130 acres of land between Apalachee Parkway and Old St. Augustine Rd, east of Southwood Plantation.

Debate

The debate focused on several fundamental issues.

Is development necessary to meet housing demands in Leon County over the next 20 years?

Artie White, director of planning with the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Department, provided a detailed analysis of the developable lots currently available. The analysis showed that there was enough vacant land in the United States to accommodate approximately 21,000 to 24,000 homes.

These projections included housing units to be built in the Welaunee project and the recently approved English development off Paul Russel Road.

White told officials the overall plan provided 50% more developable land than needed to meet future demands. The objective of this policy is to ensure market flexibility and to take into account existing developable lots that may remain vacant.

Based on these factors and the fact that the 2045 projections estimate the need for approximately 24,000 housing units, staff have concluded that the proposed developments meet the requirements contained in the overall plan.

What are the alternatives to US expansion?

City Commissioner Jack Porter asked staff about the alternatives and sought feedback on the contribution of urban infill to meeting future housing demand.

Mr. White said either you build or you build. If you don’t build, you build expensive.

He noted that while urban infill is sometimes desirable, there are not enough infill opportunities to meet projected demand.

Additionally, White noted that urban infill projects can be challenging due to neighborhood concerns.

Does the City have the financial capacity to support development?

This is one of the most controversial topics related to new development: who pays for infrastructure.

Mr. White noted that the raison d’être of the United States is to provide urban services, which include electricity, water and central sewage. White said the services are funded by the developer and user fees.

Do the roads have sufficient capacity to absorb the traffic generated by the developments?

Commissioner Dozier expressed concern about the capacity of transportation infrastructure associated with the Southwood Planation development.

Officials voted for staff to report more information on this issue at the next public hearing.

Comments from elected officials

Officials who supported US expansion and project-related zoning changes noted the benefits of South Side development.

In addition, the current housing shortage influenced the discussion.

Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox said. “There’s no way we’re not growing…growth is going to happen…tough decisions have to be made…we have to do something.”

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey noted that in some communities housing has become so expensive that the workforce lives up to an hour away from their jobs.

Dailey said: “I don’t want to find myself in a situation where our staff travel longer than an hour.”

Commissioner Jack Porter, who focused her question on alternatives to US expansion, noted that “these are tough decisions.”

Porter also noted that elected officials, through bylaws, can direct where and how development is implemented.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, who participated in the meeting remotely, did not provide detailed comments. However, he provided a statement to Tallahassee Reports when asked about his no.

Matlow said: “Sprawling, piecemeal development is putting unnecessary pressure on our roads and neighborhoods. Killearn and many neighborhoods in the northeast will be negatively affected by the recent expansion of the 4,000 acre urban services area in Welaunee. It hasn’t even started yet, and now we’re talking about several more expansions. This type of development is expensive. It costs us more taxes and less services. We cannot arbitrarily extend our limits whenever requested without long-term planning to discuss how we will pay for it. »

The next public hearing on these projects will take place on June 14, 2022.

april road

Southwood

Woodville Highway

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