A standing-room-only crowd packed the Wilton Manors City Commission meeting room and spilled out into the anteroom.
Most were there to learn more about proposed changes to “future land use” and the “goals and objectives.”
After years of discussion about where and how much to develop, plans seem to be gaining momentum. Much of the plans revolve around Transit Oriented Corridors (TOC) around Dixie Highway north and south from Five Points, and the area east of Five Points to 15th Avenue by Manor Lanes. Mayor Scott Newton took a moment to clarify that neighborhoods behind the bowling alley, the lot where the church burned down, and homes west of the Pride Center, Andrews Ave. around St. Clements Church, around Wilton Elementary are not included in the TOCs and aren’t affected by proposed changes.
TOCs north, south, and east would be affected, but TOC west would not. The proposed land use changes would set density and allotments for how many and which types of units can go in an area. The city recently changed rules to allow for mid-rise buildings, which are defined as 4-8 residential floors, not counting any parking levels.
It also would help accommodate bringing a hotel or two into the city. Commissioner Mike Bracchi expressed concern that a big hotel in the entertainment district would be overdevelopment, as opposed to a boutique hotel that would only have a few dozen rooms. Newton said a huge, 200-room hotel is unlikely. He said developers have told him the city can’t support that many rooms. Even if the change goes through, the commission will have the final say over specific development proposals.
During public comments, some residents urged the commission to tread cautiously. They worry that overdevelopment would have a very negative impact on the environment and hurt the natural beauty that attracts people to South Florida in the first place.
These types of changes require an additional level of input and hearings. Commissioners voted to approve the plan for now and forward it to the state and county for review, followed by another public hearing.
The commission unanimously approved a ban on smoking in public parks. During the last legislative session in Tallahassee, lawmakers approved a bill giving local governments more control to set their own smoking policies.
Most people spoke in favor of the ordinance, with the only real debate being over fines and determining, like in the case of Hagen Park, where parking lots end and the park begins. On first reading a graduated fine schedule that went up to $250, was reduced to $25 per violation. This time people encouraged it to be somewhere in the middle and act as a deterrent. In the end, it was left at $25 and a general understanding that police would first warn people and ask them to stop before escalating to a ticket and fine.
Due to the Labor Day holiday, the next regularly scheduled commission meeting will be Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.