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Wilton Manors Commissioners finalized changes to the city’s code at its regular meeting Tuesday evening.

The much-debated changes to Article 30 of the city’s Unified Land Development Regulations passed on a 4-to-1 vote. The changes essentially increase density, adjust heights and setbacks and add properties to the city’s transit-oriented corridors.

“It’s been a long road but I think we’ve been able to preserve our neighborhoods with all the changes we’ve made,” said Mayor Scott Newton.

Commissioner Gary Resnick cast the lone no vote, objecting to allowing 90-foot buildings in the city and questioning the honesty of the process. Resnick, attending via Zoom, noted the state had fined the city for a sewer discharge and said increased density would only hamper an already stressed sewer system.

“I think this goes too far in the balance of what developers want,” Resnick said, adding, “the impact on our quality of life is going to be tremendous” and “traffic is already a nightmare.”

Newton responded that he was hurt by Resnick’s suggestion the planning process was intentionally misguided.

“Wilton Manors is changing in a way that is a nice step at a time,” Newton said. “We are not doing leaps and bounds like Fort Lauderdale. We’re not doing the 20-30 story buildings like Fort Lauderdale. I don’t want that either. I think it’s a nice compromise and it will be a nice aesthetic look.”

Vice Mayor Paul Rolli said development changes are vital for the city’s future and commended Community Development Services Director Roberta Moore for her dedication to seeing the project through.

“It’s a major undertaking,” Rolli said. “Our goal here is to increase our tax base so that the city can become fiscally sustainable as it grows in the future. It’s not all about tomorrow, it’s about 10, 15, 20 years from now.”

Commissioner Mike Bracchi said there was a lot of public engagement and compromise.

“I think we did a really good job with this,” Bracchi said.

Density is calculated at 60 units per acre and caveats were added to eliminate microunits. The new laws also permit drive-through windows for banks, coffee shops and pharmacies in the city’s east and west zones.

Commissioners also discussed developer agreements, variances and waivers.

“In my experience, in all the years I've been doing this a variance is a lot harder to prove than a waiver,” said planning consultant Jim Hickey.

During the public hearing, several residents voiced concerns. Mark Seymour, one of the owners of Hunter’s Nightclub, said he felt vulnerable that his business could be forced out of its Wilton Drive location by changes to city code.

Meanwhile, resident Michael Pierce, the partner of former Mayor John Fiore, said there would be “consequences” if development creeps into eastside neighborhoods.

Others asked for a shift in focus to Andrews Avenue on the westside.

“Moving forward, I hope this commission realizes that there is another street other than the Drive,” said resident Jake Valentine. “Take your blinders off because you’ve done a wonderful job. It’s done … other than some damn trees and remember there’s the Avenue.”

Tuesday night’s four-hour meeting was the first gathering inside commission chambers since a positive coronavirus diagnosis was reported to health officials from the July 27-28 meetings. The majority of attendees wore masks with the exception of a few members of the public. Facial coverings are required for employees inside city buildings, said Johnnie Goodnight, Wilton Manors LGBT liaison.

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