A five-member City Council met Wednesday January 29 to discuss a development moratorium for Homestead.
Mayor Steve Losner called initially for the workshop. City Attorney James White was asked to frame the issue for discussion while Director of the City’s Development Services, Joseph Corradino, shared an overview on freezing development.
“Between 2002 and 2009, there were six moratoriums in different areas of the City, and some had extensions,” said Corradino.
“A moratorium is meant to be temporary,” he said. “It’s meant to halt or restrict a specified development activity, so first you have to understand the goals.”
Corradino said the scope of a moratorium could cover residential or commercial property or a combination of land uses and could include or exempt different geographical areas of the City.
A 2008 development moratorium studied the impact of multiple-family homes on City services excluding Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) and exempting the northwest and southwest neighborhoods.
Attorney White suggested Council start with the scope to get to the heart of what needs to be accomplished.
Councilmember Larry Roth said, “I don’t understand what our goal is. What is the moratorium being put in place to change? I’m concerned that projects in the pipeline not be affected in any way. If we stop something in progress now, what liability are we facing?”
Mayor Losner said neighboring towns recently imposed building moratoriums. “This would be done to give us a breathing space,” said the Mayor.
If we continue to approve higher density, we’re never going to catch up.”
Attorney White said the closer an applicant gets to final approvals there could be cases of a developer having “vested rights” to continue a project. “There’s a lower risk where an application is still in process,” he added. “We build in a process of coming before Council to proceed based on the criteria of vested rights, so there’s a safety valve.”
Council discussion included more architecturally unique design styles, fewer cookie-cutter neighborhoods, and implementing a pause to consider impacts on service and transportation issues.
“My personal opinion is we rely too heavily on cluster homes, townhouses and small lot sizes,” said Mayor Losner. “This is not intended to be punitive,” he added. “We must have a real hard legal discussion one day about who has what rights and obligations in the DRI.”
Developments of regional impact (DRI) are determined by criteria set by the state for large-scale developments affecting several jurisdictions and can be several decades old.
“I met with Attorney White for hours about the DRI,” said Councilmember Sean Fletcher. “We have to ensure a good product for Homestead and we need the community involved.”
“I agree,” said Councilmember Jenifer Bailey. “Keeping a Homestead feel is important. We also need to keep mixed use in the downtown.”
“Density is an issue,” said Councilmember Stephen Shelley. “A good moratorium should try to slow down or limit multi-family type developments.”
Staff said the usual standard was six units per acre for residential building. Heavier densities were approved at fifteen per acre along the busway and ten per acre in the DRI overall (east of town). The southwest neighborhood had densities up to twenty units per acre, as being more likely to attract investment.
Councilmember Shelley said, “I don’t want to limit commercial investment in the city or be a bar to downtown development. The moratorium should be limited in some capacity to residential so we don’t shut down job creation.”
Council discussion focused on the impact of the higher density development of more than six units per acre.
“What do we want to City to look like in the future?” asked Councilmember Roth. “What’s left to develop? It’s a daunting task to consider all these things like the identity of Krome Avenue and the east side. And the word moratorium is going to concern investors because if there’s no growth, there’s no need for commercial building.”
Councilmember Bailey suggested the staff moratorium analysis look at each community master plan separately in addition to what’s left to be developed. “Is twelve months typical for the term of a moratorium?” she asked. Staff explained the term depended on the level of analysis and how long that study took.
Mayor Losner said, “Concurrency issues (traffic, infrastructure, City services etc.) can be considered on a case by case basis.
“Going forward, we should put applicants on notice that they may be subject to adoption of a moratorium ordinance,” he added.
Corradino told Council staff would synthesize the discussion issues and
prepare an outline. He asked if an announcement should be made that as of January 29 no further residential development applications would be accepted.
Attorney White cautioned that until there was an ordinance draft, a developer could not be stopped from participation so he urged producing the outline very soon.
Mayor Losner determined that the Planning & Zoning process took ninety days so a development plan came before Council in about 120 days.
Councilmember Shelley said that meant at least two more Council meetings were available to adopt a timely moratorium.
Councilmember Roth reiterated views on a moratorium’s scope.
He said Council actions should ensure the community’s problems are not compounded in the time local government needs to formulate a
policy response. He stated that residential and infill lot development needed consideration but should not include affordable or senior citizen housing; that a moratorium not impact downtown development or the lower density single family areas.
Development Services staff said the analysis would include geographic variances for the northwest and southwest corridors, would exempt commercial and industrial development, and would look at how many units remained to develop on vacant land.
Corradino also planned to analyze staffing requirements per capita for cities of similar size as a cost factor in the final adjusted density by area.
Mayor Losner said, “Don’t exempt affordable and elderly housing as moratorium densities will vary by area such as in the southwest or downtown and not by type.”
Council’s final direction through the Mayor was to schedule the next development moratorium workshop Thursday February 27. “We don’t want this to languish,” concluded Mayor Losner.