Protect the Beach Life is supporting the effort to defeat the May 2023 Jax Beach Charter Amendment to increase the height limit to 55′ for a new Public-Private Partnership (P3) mixed-use development on the current Latham Plaza parking lot.
Why Vote No?
- The City has not worked with residents to find an agreed-upon vision for our downtown.
- New development has already started activating downtown within the current 35′ height limit.
- Our neighboring beach cities have the same 35′ restriction and their downtowns are thriving. A 35′ building is breaking ground in Neptune Beach with an expected completion date of Fall 2024 that will have ground floor retail, office space, rooftop amenities, and parking.
- Parking requirements have stopped new businesses and development, not the height restriction.
- While supporters stress that it is only for one property, it was also stated by Council members that this is a test pilot to increase the height limit throughout the downtown.
No criteria have been presented for us to know what we would be approving if passed. “Mixed use” does not provide clarity on how a structure would function or look.Update: At the Council Briefing on Monday, May 8th, Council discussed the requirements for both a 35′ project and a 55′ project. There is no YouTube video of this briefing due to it being held in the training room at City Hall. The main takeaway is that there are no substantial differences between what the City is expecting to be done at either height, other than to “prove more flexibility” for any potential development partner. Other key points:
- Retail will be on the ground floor on the east and north sides of the building, regardless of height.
- There is a desire for the upper levels to be office space, residential, or a mix of the two, regardless of height.
- Parking will be located on the south and west sides (non-storefront). The desire is for it to blend in with the rest of the structure, and that parking will be equal to the current number of spaces in the lot, as well as provide for any additional spaces required by any businesses/residents in the structure. There is a hope that there will be additional parking on top of these requirements, regardless of the structure’s height.
- It was agreed that any rooftop use would not include a free-standing bar; restaurants with a bar would be allowed, regardless of height.
- If 55′ is approved:
- The upper levels would need to be ‘stepped back’ from the lower levels on the east and north sides of the structure. This allows for those on the ground level, when looking up, to not visually see the upper levels.
- The south side (facing Sneakers’ parking lot) would most likely be a solid 55″ wall.
- The 5th floor would only be allowed 50% of air-conditioned space, which would be located on the south side of the building to allow for the required step-backs.
Council members say that they have engaged residents in the strategic planning process.
Residents provided feedback when the City was engaged in strategic planning, but our elected officials seem to have stopped listening since then. They have taken our feedback, specifically our desire to have an active downtown, to justify a push to change the height limit in that area – which was never mentioned by the residents. Residents have spoken at Council meetings, but Council members are just not listening or addressing their concerns.
Council members said they held two workshops on the height amendment to receive input from residents and businesses.
There were two meetings, but they were not workshops. In each meeting, the Mayor spoke to the audience about why they should vote for the height limit. The presupposition was that the height limit needed to be increased to 55.’ Residents’ concerns were rebutted more than they were addressed. Moreover, the meeting felt more like a sales pitch than a workshop. There were no whiteboards, no development of ideas, and no input from the residents on what a potential height limit increase would be acceptable to them.
Council has been getting the input of residents for the revised Comprehensive Plan and update to the Land Development code.
There have been two workshops, neither of which was well attended. This may have been due to a lack of information, marketing, timing, etc. This may also be due to people just not knowing about the opportunity to shape the future of our community. Regardless, Protect the Beach Life will be letting residents know when these meetings are and explaining the importance of the topic. While Council has held public workshops, the information too often seems to stay in the workshop and does not move forward with regard to impacting policies.
How can I make sure I am informed of these meetings and workshops? How can I receive updates?
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How can I be involved?
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