The 4,800-acre Welaunee Arch is an opportunity to address community interests in a forward-thinking way. The scale of the property is substantial. If the Arch property was laid over intown Tallahassee, it would reach from Florida State University to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, and from Frenchtown to Betton Hills (see attached map). Second, there’s an opportunity to create a model community, literally from the ground up. Third, learning lessons from the past, the Welaunee Arch should be fiscally sound, minimizing the use of public dollars to subsidize development. ATN and KIR support a Comprehensive Plan amendment that incorporates those opportunities. Our review of the proposed amendment was based on two criteria.
1. The amendment’s consistency with the vision for the Welaunee Arch.
The proposed amendment must contain clear and measurable objectives. According to the Comprehensive Plan, the Welaunee Arch should protect natural resources; develop as a mixed use community supportive of transit, walking, and cycling; provide housing for a range of income levels; be predominately self-supporting; and provide needed community services, including schools, libraries, police and fire stations, parks, and open space. Objectives that address these community interests serve as the basis for implementing policy standards and strategies.
2. The amendment’s usefulness to provide direction for City Commission decisions on development proposals.
These proposals will come before the City Commission as a form of rezoning called Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). Rezonings are quasi-judicial proceedings, meaning that PUD reviews are based solely on the application of existing rules and requirements. Each PUD must demonstrate consistency with the Welaunee Arch Plan as adopted into the Comprehensive Plan (as well compliance with relevant City codes and policies). If the Comprehensive Plan implementing policies are vague or inadequate, the City Commission will have difficulty justifying conditions of approval. If policies do not address community interests of importance to the City, the Commission will not have the legal basis for adding approval conditions to address them.
For the proposed amendment to meaningfully guide development of the Welaunee Arch, it is imperative that it:
- Address all significant community interests to establish the basis for standards in the proposed amendment and provide guidance for review of development proposals.
- Establish standards sufficient to achieve the stated objectives.
These requirements are evaluated below.
1. Address all significant community interests to establish the basis for standards in the proposed amendment and provide guidance for review of development proposals.
If the proposed amendment does not specifically address community interests, the applicant will only be required to meet code standards in effect at the time. This is problematic. First, codes may be inadequate, or nonexistent, for certain community interests. Second, existing codes apply citywide and, as such, are more generic in nature. The proposed amendment should take advantage of the opportunity to address the unique characteristics and opportunities of the Welaunee Arch. Third, codes can change over time. Development patterns would be uneven, as different parts of the Welaunee community are subject to different standards. Consistent standards should be applied, given the scale and longevity of the proposed development.
The proposed amendment currently addresses some community interests, but ATN and KIR believe the scope is incomplete. ATN and KIR propose that, at a minimum, the following community interests be addressed in the proposed amendment:
⦁ Protect natural resources, conserve wildlife populations, including but not limited to imperiled species, and provide recreational areas.
⦁ Provide mobility choices for residents and employees of all ages and abilities. Upon build out, the Welaunee Arch shall achieve at least a 20% internal capture rate for automobile trips.
⦁ Provide housing for diverse socio-economic groups within the Welaunee Arch.
⦁ Respect the character of Tallahassee by retaining mature, healthy forest and topography.
⦁ Development is to be predominantly self-supporting, rather than predominantly dependent on public funding for additional infrastructure and will minimize public costs for the provision and maintenance of community facilities.
2. The standards in the amendment must be sufficient to achieve stated objectives.
The objectives must be supported by policies containing complementary standards and strategies. Some strategies may be required of the developer and some may be implemented in conjunction with local government. Below are standards and strategies recommended to achieve the objectives of the proposed amendment. (This language is not intended to be all inclusive, but to serve as a guideline for modifications to the proposed amendment.)
Objective 1: Protect natural resources, conserve wildlife populations, including but not limited to imperiled species, and provide recreational areas.
– Standards and strategies: Create a system of interconnected parks, greenways, recreational areas, natural land buffers and protected open spaces throughout the Arch and provide connections to natural areas in surrounding lands. The Comprehensive Plan shall establish standards for a natural resources management plan that achieves this objective.
Objective 2: Provide mobility choices for residents and employees of all ages and abilities. Upon build out, the Welaunee Arch shall achieve at least a 20% internal capture rate for automobile trips.
– Standards and strategies: Provide safe, convenient, and attractive public transportation facilities, including, but not limited to, sidewalks, bikeways, multiuse trails, and transit stops. Establish transit supportive development standards, including minimum densities and intensities, for land use districts that are intended to accommodate higher densities and intensities.
Objective 3: Provide housing for diverse socio-economic groups within the Welaunee Arch.
– Standards and strategies: Provide housing for very low, low, and moderate-income households. A minimum of 25 percent of residential units shall be one of these categories. These housing units shall be integrated throughout all residential areas. Each residential development application shall include housing at a range of price levels.
Objective 4: Respect the character of Tallahassee by retaining mature, healthy forest and topography.
– Standards and strategies: Adopt a Welaunee Arch urban forest plan consistent with the City’s urban forestry plan. Establish Comprehensive Plan policies and land development standards that direct how site plans and subdivisions will incorporate existing topographic features into their designs.
Objective 5: Is predominantly self-supporting, rather than predominantly dependent on public funding for additional infrastructure.
– Standards and strategies: Establish Comprehensive Plan standards for a City-approved community facilities/infrastructure plan for the Arch that addresses, at a minimum: the mix, intensity, and density of land uses to ensure efficient use of infrastructure; standards for the construction of low-maintenance infrastructure; projected long term maintenance costs; and the provision of community facilities to support the new population. The community facilities/infrastructure plan will include, but not be limited to, stormwater, electric, gas, water, roads, schools, parks, libraries, and public safety facilities. The community facilities/infrastructure plan shall be completed prior to development.
Lastly, ATN and KIR note the following items which need to be addressed to facilitate implementation of the proposed amendment:
⦁ Define vague language, such as “sense of place” and “positive identity” and standards such as “If the Arch is intended to develop in phases, the stormwater plan may be conceptual and generalized based upon the maximum development allowed by this master plan.”
⦁ Provide maps that are drawn to scale.
ATN and KIR appreciate the opportunity to comment and we look forward to working with the staff and the Commissions on this amendment.