Friday, July 17, 2009

Planned Growth for Pensacola

The following information was forwarded to me from a local planner and it shows the logic and advantage to having planned and purposeful growth. Our city is wrapping up or comprehensive CRA plan and recently passed a resolution supporting Mixed income/ Mixed use housing in our urban core and the surrounding areas within the city.

The City of Pensacola is perfect for a major redevelopment plan including both residential & commercial improvements due to the major areas being transformed in the next two years. The Vince Whibbs Community Maritime Park and the Relocation of the Waste Water Treatment plant create a renaissance of sorts for our city. We are awakening from an Industrial hangover, opening up our waterfront to our citizens and recreating our focus as a city on what we want to be in 20 years.

Alternative Development Standards are one possibility for our city to look at in our efforts toward green construction and sustainable development. Enjoy the following information and let me know your thoughts.

Alternative development standards (ADS) allow for more flexible requirements for road widths, building specifications, zoning uses and densities, and rainwater management that support smart growth objectives.Development standards are the regulations, requirements and by-laws by which developments must abide. Development standards are often antiquated, over-prescriptive and cost prohibitive.

Development patterns affect infrastructure and service costs, often resulting in pressure to increase taxes, find new revenue sources or cut services. Development can also have an undesirable impact on the environment and result in conflicts between community aspirations and traditional development. In response, many communities are exploring different ways that municipal infrastructure can be designed, constructed and maintained. Alternative land development patterns can result in buildings, streets, neighborhoods and entire communities that look and function much differently than in the past.
Alternative Development Standards (ADS), often called smart growth, complete communities and green development, are less expensive, less wasteful and more environmentally and socially sensitive than conventional practices.

Communities designed using ADS are:
· more compact
· have mixed-use zoning (e.g. residential mixed in with commercial)
· encourage a variety of housing types
· friendly to pedestrians, bicycles and transit
· less material- and labor-intensive for capital infrastructure and servicing.

Widespread use of ADS can:

· reduce dwelling unit costs by 25 to 40%
· protect ecosystems during infrastructure construction and maintenance
· increase community interaction through housing clusters and mixed-use zones
· reduce energy use by building transportation infrastructure for walking, cycling and transit · reduce per-capita production of greenhouse gases by 30 to 50%
· preserve natural habitats and ecosystems through native landscaping & design
· provide cost-savings to developers by relaxing parking requirements in developments
· improve local business by increasing local residential activity

How alternative development standards are used:
Projects based on ADS focus on the needs of residents and minimizing impact on regional and site-specific ecosystems.
Characteristics include:
· open space adjacent to clustered mixed-use neighborhoods
· a mixture of shops, attached homes and apartments above retail stores
· recreation and employment at a scale that encourages walking
· grid-pattern streets
· narrower road widths
· smaller lots

Development standards span a number of local government responsibilities. The following are some areas where the potential of ADS can be promoted:


Official Community & Neighborhood plans and zoning (clustering, lot coverage, lot size, minimum yards, performance standards, density bonusing and mixed-use)
Other bylaws and guidelines (tree protection, heritage conservation, etc.)
Covenants and development agreements
Approval process (speedier approvals for smart growth developments)
Programs (Tree Trust)
Financial and other incentives/barriers (development cost charges)
Engineering road right-of-way standards (narrower roads, traffic calming measures)
Pavement standards (permeable pavement)
Bike-way and pedestrian standards and materials
Parking standards (cash in lieu, relaxed standards, maximum requirements)
Rainwater standards (on-site handling, permeability, combining with parks and green spaces, Protecting environmentally sensitive areas
Construction standards (erosion control)
Waste water standards (community septic, solar aquatic systems, etc.)
Financial and other incentives/barriers
Parks and Green space
Open space dedication requirements
Stream stewardship standards
Conservation of natural features
Recreation, school and cultural facilities integration
Cluster development to preserve/create green space
Risk Management methods of reducing risk and liability for innovation
Senior government funding for demonstration projects

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dear Santa

Recently, a misguided Santa's helper brought his personal basket of coal to share with our City Council members in an effort to further his cause...Winterfest of Pensacola. While I can appreciate his passion, I was shocked at the careless use of Santa to bring his message before council and how it further complicates an already deep issue.

While council was amending the 1987 ordinance that limits the use of Plaza Ferdinand as a passive park, Winterfest was not the reason for doing so and is only one small issue along with many larger issues that surround the rewriting of this ordinance.

Southern cities traditionally have passive parks in their downtown's to create a sense of place, a special location, a park that highlights the history and beauty of that city. Charleston SC, Savannah GA, New Orleans LA, Mobile AL, this is just a few yet they represent some of the most beautiful southern cities...they are beautiful simply because of their parks.

Plaza Ferdinand is one park out of 96 that we as a city uphold to be the best we have to offer. It's limitations of passive use maintain it as the beauty it is, and allow us to take pride in the history of our city. To open the park to daily & active use would diminish the park and it's historical beauty.

Further, we have traditions and a code of conduct in many parts of our lives, we wear business clothes while working, uniforms while defending and protecting our community. We have a nice outfit for church. All places have a certain dress code and this code is what sets the tone. Council meets in chambers and creates a sense of place for our citizens...imagine just meeting in the street, unorganized and haphazard...not upholding ourselves to the best we can be.

Holding Plaza Ferdinand above the norm, perfecting it's beauty and keeping one "jewel of our city" as passive park for all to enjoy is not only tradition, it is essential in maintaining a visual confirmation of how special our city is.

Winterfest began with an idea in 2001 not a location. Plaza Ferdinand has worked well until now and we need to explore other options. I noticed while reading their website that the Polar Express is featured in the tour. Our Plaza DeLuna, with it's circle, is perfect for the North Pole just as in the movie. We have plenty of free parking and perfect access for buses, there is a new concession with public bathrooms, and the choir has an amphitheatre to perform in.

Change is sometimes hard to accept, yet we need to imagine the possibilities when change presents itself. Plaza Ferdinand can still be decorated by the DIB for Christmas, we can stroll through it on our way to Plaza DeLuna and enjoy all the beauty that it has to offer.