July 14, 2021
The City Commission recently adopted the compatibility ordinance. Carrie Litherland, ATN’s chairperson, presented an ATN letter of appreciation to the mayor and commissioners for their support for the ordinance.
March 18, 2021
ATN is very pleased with the ordinance. ATN will endorse the ordinance at the Planning Commission hearing and urge the City Commission to adopt the ordinance.
In early 2019, ATN approached with City regarding concerns about the compatibility of new non-residential and multi-family development built adjacent to and across the street from existing low density residential neighborhoods. The following summary of the City’s response is provided below. It is taken from the March 2, 2021 Planning Commission agenda item.
[In response to neighborhood concerns] staff surveyed 14 cities in July 2019 to document the tools used in their zoning codes to guide the form of commercial and multi-family development adjacent to residential…. Our goal was to ensure that we learn from the experience of other cities….
In late 2020 and early 2021, staff conducted extensive stakeholder outreach meetings. Neighborhood stakeholders included the Alliance of Tallahassee Neighborhoods, the Council of Neighborhood Associations, the Capital Area Neighborhood Network, the Frenchtown Citizen Advisory Council, and a group of leaders from Southside neighborhoods. Business stakeholders included the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce, the Capital City Chamber of Commerce, the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the local chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
The [result of this process was a] draft ordinance [that] provides 35 new development standards that are focused on improving compatibility of a new project adjacent or across the street from established residential neighborhoods. A few examples of the new development standards are…
• Size and lighting of signs on local streets.
• Enhanced buffers required for buildings greater than 2 stories.
• Height step back required for buildings greater than 2 stories.
• Enhanced buffers if site grading lowers elevation of commercial site.
• More landscaping for accessory uses that cannot meet 200 foot setback.
• Enhanced setbacks and/or landscape buffers for drive through facilities.
• Photometric plans required to confirm light levels at property lines.
• Multi-family design standards improve architectural variety.
• Multi-family height step back for buildings greater than 2 stories.
The meetings with the stakeholder groups resulted in a general consensus on 34 of the 35 standards. The single standard that does not have consensus is a requirement for a good neighbor meeting for multi-family projects (a building with four or more dwelling units) that are adjacent to established residential neighborhoods. The standard requires a multi-family developer to meet with neighbors prior to filing a site plan application.
The City has recently had several multi-family projects that presented unique challenges. Several neighborhood stakeholder groups requested good neighbor meetings in the hope of establishing better communication between multi-family developers and neighbors at an earlier, more formative stage of the proposed project. Neighborhood stakeholders note that the advantages of a good neighbor meeting are that it loops residents into the conversation prior to a site plan submittal, allows neighborhood concerns to be addressed and incorporated into the project design through early communication, and gives neighbors an opportunity to be more aware, more involved, and better able to be engaged. On the other hand, business stakeholders note that the disadvantages of a good neighbor meeting are that it adds 40 days to the review process, increases costs, reduces the availability of affordable housing, and would be redundant given that site plans already require public notice…. Given that there was no concurrence on this issue, the proposed ordinance does not include the requirement.
The City Commission will hold a public hearing on the ordinance in June.