The proposed development of 88 residential units on the former Center for Spiritual Living site in Wilton Manors has been approved by the Broward County Planning Council [BCPC].
That body approved the redevelopment, located at Northeast 15 Avenue and Northeast 26 Street, at its meeting on June 22. But ultimate approval rests with the Wilton Manors City Commission. Among the BCPC members who voted no were current Fort Lauderdale and former Wilton Manors mayor Jack Seiler. It’s unclear at this time when the city commission will vote again on the project.
The city commission gave tentative approval to the project in December of last year, but told developers they needed to reduce the number of units further. Before that December meeting, developers had proposed 100 units. By the end, they dropped further to 88. At the time, Mayor Gary Resnick said 88 units was a step in the right direction but still not good enough. “I will not vote for a site plan that has the same footprint.”
Currently, the 4.9-acre site is zoned for commercial use but developers have said they won’t build any space for retail. The units will also be for sale, not rent. A feature which developers and supporters say will bring in residents who have a greater stake in the community than renters would.
Although he praised the aesthetics and the architecture, Commissioner Tom Green also said the number of units needed to be reduced. “No matter how wonderful it is . . . it’s not good enough for me. The density will determine everything else.”
Public opinion on the development were more mixed than the commission though. At the BCPC meeting, it was a combination of people for and against.
Resident Matthew Dreger said that the city needs the tax revenue from the project in case its budget is cut through a possible increase in homestead exemptions. Most of the city’s revenue comes from property taxes. He also called the concerns over density “disingenuous” and that “this may be more of a NIMBY [not in my backyard] situation” because residents near the church property hadn’t complained about other large developments in the city.
Resident Randy Comer suggested developers only build 40 units. In December, John Fiore, resident and former mayor, suggested 50 to 60 units. “I’m speaking for my neighbors who actually live in the neighborhood,” said Comer. Martin Nixon, president of the East Neighborhood Association [ENA], said the “vast majority” of ENA members oppose the project because it’s “too extreme.”
Resident Karl Lentzer said the project would be “great for the neighborhood” and disagreed with the amount of opposition from residents who live nearby. “Not all members of ENA are against it.”
Nixon said the project would create excessive traffic and noise and “destroy the quality of life” of the neighborhood. He added that a five-story development has “no precedent” in this area.
Resident and business owner Anthony LoGrande, who serves on the Wilton Manors Economic Development Task Force, said it would bring in much-needed customers who would support local businesses.
LoGrande countered Nixon by citing the five-story Wilton Station development which is located about 0.2 miles from the proposed development. “I don’t think [Wilton Station] did any detriment to the [adjacent] residential neighborhood,” LoGrande said.