Riverside Avondale Overlay: Time to reassess?

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

If compromise is an art form, then the Riverside/Avondale Zoning Overlay is a masterpiece. With recent development issues and parking challenges dragging the zoning plan back into the spotlight, many residents wonder if it is time to consider adjustments.
The Riverside/Avondale Zoning Overlay was adopted in June 2008 after nearly two years of workshops and meetings — a process that included input from city officials, Riverside Avondale Preservation, business owners, developers, community members and outside consultants. The overlay's intent was to "protect the character, economic vitality, aesthetic appeal and historical integrity” of the Riverside/Avondale Historic District. While zoning code mandates remain in effect, it established provisions for building height, scale and setback; as well as public spaces, density, parking, signage, landscaping, walkways, rooflines, garages and outdoor cafes.
“In the end nobody was thrilled with it and I thought that was a great ending,” said Michael Corrigan, former RAP chairman, former councilman for Riverside/Avondale District 14, and chair of the steering committee that developed the overlay. “It was a good compromise because it wasn’t really pro anybody.”
After four years in practice, the compromises that define the overlay have proven effective in some instances, less so in others. Parking, in particular, has been an ongoing challenge.
“There was a lot of conversation about parking from the start, but there was also real commitment to revitalization. We addressed all along how to redevelop and keep to the character of the neighborhood, yet also provide parking,” said Tara Salmieri, one of the consultants from the Orlando firm, Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin who helped develop the overlay.
One of the solutions was to reduce the amount of required parking in commercial and office areas. Businesses moving into a historically contributing structure or those that rebuild on the site of a non-contributing structure without expanding receive a zero parking variance. Expansion of either requires 50 to 65 percent parking contribution — as does moving into any non-contributing structure.
“The idea was to provide incentives to come in without changing the footprint of the area,” Corrigan said. “As long as you weren’t exacerbating the problem by building a bigger building than we were going to give you a zero parking variance.”
It looked good on paper until Mojo No.4 restaurant moved into what was previously a low volume furniture store in the Shoppes of Avondale. They did not expand and therefore met the zero parking requirements. But the overlay does not address intensity – when a low volume business is replaced by one of much higher volume; or when several restaurants/bars are concentrated in one area.
“We did not anticipate that the area would become so heavy with restaurants,” said Kay Ehas, RAP board member and part of the overlay steering committee.
Corrigan agreed. “We were so focused on not tearing down buildings and keeping to the character of the area that we just didn’t consider this kind of usage.”
To the best recollection of Corrigan, Ehas and consultant Salmieri, there was never a specific mandate to address the intensity issue in the document.
“It was a process,” Salmieri said. “You can’t foresee and account for everything in the future. The best you can do is create a framework and address the majority of issues.”
Certainly unforeseen was the yearlong battle that would ensue over the proposed new construction of Goozlepipe & Guttyworks restaurant on North King Street.
The planning commission unanimously approved a proposed expansion with a zero parking variance. RAP appealed the decision, stating the overlay’s intention that an increase in size results in a 50 percent parking contribution. The two sides recently resolved the issue when Goozlepipe’s developers acquired a parking lot to meet the requirement.
While intensity was at the heart of the debate, the sometimes-ambiguous language of the overlay may have also played a role, said I. Mark Rubin, president of Accubuild Companies and a member of the overlay steering committee.
“The overlay absolutely needs to be re-written because it is riddled with inequities, inconsistencies and ambiguities,” Rubin said. “That is why the planning committee has difficulty interpreting it.”
Ed Salem, Goozlepipe’s co-developer, contends that the overlay does not explicitly address two instances, as relates to parking contribution: First, what happens when an expanded commercial structure replaces a residence in a commercially zoned area? Second, what happens when you rebuild and expand a non-contributing structure?
“The question of ‘intent’ was frequently brought up during the public meetings, but the overlay does not specifically address what the parking contribution is when you build bigger. Shouldn’t you get some parking credit for the structure that was already there?”
Revision seems inevitable moving forward as the district continues to grow with the addition of several new restaurants. An overlay revision committee attempted to make adjustments in 2011 but disbanded without success after several months.
“’Comprehensive’ is the word I would like to be able to use to describe the overlay,” Rubin said. “We need to honor historical integrity but also allow growth to match today’s society and needs.”
Ehas also advocates growth, but with a slant toward preservation. “The Riverside/Avondale commercial areas were built small scale the way they were to serve the neighborhood and meet the needs of the community. We need to let that be our guiding principal.”
If compromise is the process, then growth with integrity and balance is clearly the goal. The overlay is available at the City of Jacksonville website: www.coj.net/
departments/planning-and-development/
current-planning-division/riverside-
avondale-zoning-overlay.aspx
or the RAP website: www.riverside
avondale.org

By Steve DiMattia
Resident Community News

If compromise is an art form, then the Riverside/Avondale Zoning Overlay is a masterpiece. With recent development issues and parking challenges dragging the zoning plan back into the spotlight, many residents wonder if it is time to consider adjustments.
The Riverside/Avondale Zoning Overlay was adopted in June 2008 after nearly two years of workshops and meetings — a process that included input from city officials, Riverside Avondale Preservation, business owners, developers, community members and outside consultants. The overlay’s intent was to “protect the character, economic vitality, aesthetic appeal and historical integrity” of the Riverside/Avondale Historic District. While zoning code mandates remain in effect, it established provisions for building height, scale and setback; as well as public spaces, density, parking, signage, landscaping, walkways, rooflines, garages and outdoor cafes.
“In the end nobody was thrilled with it and I thought that was a great ending,” said Michael Corrigan, former RAP chairman, former councilman for Riverside/Avondale District 14, and chair of the steering committee that developed the overlay. “It was a good compromise because it wasn’t really pro anybody.”
After four years in practice, the compromises that define the overlay have proven effective in some instances, less so in others. Parking, in particular, has been an ongoing challenge.
“There was a lot of conversation about parking from the start, but there was also real commitment to revitalization. We addressed all along how to redevelop and keep to the character of the neighborhood, yet also provide parking,” said Tara Salmieri, one of the consultants from the Orlando firm, Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin who helped develop the overlay.
One of the solutions was to reduce the amount of required parking in commercial and office areas. Businesses moving into a historically contributing structure or those that rebuild on the site of a non-contributing structure without expanding receive a zero parking variance. Expansion of either requires 50 to 65 percent parking contribution — as does moving into any non-contributing structure.
“The idea was to provide incentives to come in without changing the footprint of the area,” Corrigan said. “As long as you weren’t exacerbating the problem by building a bigger building than we were going to give you a zero parking variance.”
It looked good on paper until Mojo No.4 restaurant moved into what was previously a low volume furniture store in the Shoppes of Avondale. They did not expand and therefore met the zero parking requirements. But the overlay does not address intensity – when a low volume business is replaced by one of much higher volume; or when several restaurants/bars are concentrated in one area.
“We did not anticipate that the area would become so heavy with restaurants,” said Kay Ehas, RAP board member and part of the overlay steering committee.
Corrigan agreed. “We were so focused on not tearing down buildings and keeping to the character of the area that we just didn’t consider this kind of usage.”
To the best recollection of Corrigan, Ehas and consultant Salmieri, there was never a specific mandate to address the intensity issue in the document.
“It was a process,” Salmieri said. “You can’t foresee and account for everything in the future. The best you can do is create a framework and address the majority of issues.”
Certainly unforeseen was the yearlong battle that would ensue over the proposed new construction of Goozlepipe & Guttyworks restaurant on North King Street.
The planning commission unanimously approved a proposed expansion with a zero parking variance. RAP appealed the decision, stating the overlay’s intention that an increase in size results in a 50 percent parking contribution. The two sides recently resolved the issue when Goozlepipe’s developers acquired a parking lot to meet the requirement.
While intensity was at the heart of the debate, the sometimes-ambiguous language of the overlay may have also played a role, said I. Mark Rubin, president of Accubuild Companies and a member of the overlay steering committee.
“The overlay absolutely needs to be re-written because it is riddled with inequities, inconsistencies and ambiguities,” Rubin said. “That is why the planning committee has difficulty interpreting it.”
Ed Salem, Goozlepipe’s co-developer, contends that the overlay does not explicitly address two instances, as relates to parking contribution: First, what happens when an expanded commercial structure replaces a residence in a commercially zoned area? Second, what happens when you rebuild and expand a non-contributing structure?
“The question of ‘intent’ was frequently brought up during the public meetings, but the overlay does not specifically address what the parking contribution is when you build bigger. Shouldn’t you get some parking credit for the structure that was already there?”
Revision seems inevitable moving forward as the district continues to grow with the addition of several new restaurants. An overlay revision committee attempted to make adjustments in 2011 but disbanded without success after several months.
“’Comprehensive’ is the word I would like to be able to use to describe the overlay,” Rubin said. “We need to honor historical integrity but also allow growth to match today’s society and needs.”
Ehas also advocates growth, but with a slant toward preservation. “The Riverside/Avondale commercial areas were built small scale the way they were to serve the neighborhood and meet the needs of the community. We need to let that be our guiding principal.”
If compromise is the process, then growth with integrity and balance is clearly the goal. The overlay is available at the City of Jacksonville website: www.coj.net/
departments/planning-and-development/
current-planning-division/riverside-
avondale-zoning-overlay.aspx
or the RAP website: www.riverside
avondale.org

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