Friday, May 14, 2010

Madoff Move Over

All over Florida developers are rushing to city commissions to get land use changes for higher density before Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4 is passed on November 2nd. OK, given the mindset of the land speculator, this is to be expected, unconscionable, but expected.

BUT, there is a disturbing and outrageous trend in our poor paved over, built-out Broward County. The Diplomat Hotel and the First Presbyterian Church in the Colee Hammock area of Ft. Lauderdale and who knows what others are pulling scams worthy of Bernie Madoff.

Land designations aimed at renovating aging neighborhoods are being bastardized for gain. To increase allowed density, clever but unprincipled designers have come up with the idea of changing land uses and turning their clients’ properties into *LACs and **PUDs. They are perverting the goals of designations created for revitalizing aging areas into livable neighborhood developments. This is wrong and must be recognized and stopped.

County regulations say: “(8) In no instance shall a density of greater than
fifty (50) dwelling units per gross acre be permitted.”

But, not ones to allow little things like land use laws get in their way, the Diplomat Hotel’s clever land use lawyers figured out a way to maximize not only the size of the building but the gluttony of the owners. HAVE THEY NO SHAME!!

The Diplomat applied for their hotel area to be termed a Local Activity Center (LAC) in order to benefit from the added density allowed to LACs. That way they could bypass the 50 unit per acre restriction and build a couple of 90 per acre condo towers. The neighbors went ballistic.

The Presbyterian Church obviously does not subscribe to Loving Thy Neighbors as it is trying to get a land use change which would call its property a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

The only planning done here is plotting to come up with the scheme to build what is prohibited by current code. The Colee Hammock neighbors are already sick of the traffic problems from the church, blocked driveways and streets, and are outraged at this ploy.

The church wants to build a massive five-story commercial office building and parking garage with a 66 ft. tower fronting Las Olas Boulevard. The upper four levels would include 264 parking spaces, with retail, restaurant and office space on the first floor. A two-story Family Center along Southeast Fourth Street will have administrative offices, classrooms, a kitchen, gymnasium, lockers and showers, meeting rooms and an activity center.

Some clever brainac found the PUD designation and realizing that land use and zoning is a free for all in a PUD, snatched the idea, I assume they said, “Let’s con the commission into thinking that this could be called a PUD and we can do what we want.”

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; they put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Isaiah (ch. V, v. 20)

*An LAC is defined as a compact, community level mixed-use center which must include residential, park/open space and at least one other non-residential use. Configuration must be supportive of the “5-minute walk,” and accessibility to mass transit facilities. An area, usually in the older sections of a city can be redeveloped into a neighborhood in which affordable housing and market priced homes are mixed in with stores, restaurants, offices and park land. The key is a design which leads to a stable community where people can live and work and leads to pride in their neighborhood.

**Planned Unit Development is a means of land regulation which promotes large scale, unified land development by means of mid-range, realistic programs in chase of physically-curable, social and economic deficiencies in land and cityscapes. Where appropriate, this development control promotes a mixture of both land uses and dwelling types with at least one of the land uses being regional in nature, the clustering of residential land uses providing public and common open space.

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