Height and density regulations in Wilton Manors attract a lot of interest.

A broad group of city officials, contractors, land use attorneys, realtors, investors, and developers participated in an Oct. 15 virtual road table meeting to discuss how to build and design in the Island City. Roberta Moore, director of the Community Development Services Department, moderated the meeting.

“Wilton Manors is at a major turning point for its future,” said Commissioner Paul Rolli, noting two new commissioners and a new mayor would soon take office. The round table, Rolli said, was important for stakeholders to make informed decisions on a path toward future sustainability while keeping intact the city’s small-town feel and friendliness.

The discussion centered around how height and density regulations impacting the transit corridors of Andrews Ave., Dixie Hwy., NE 26th St., Wilton Dr. and Oakland Park Blvd.

Community development firm Calvin, Giordano & Associates put together an urban form and density report, which planning consultant James Hickey summarized during the meeting. The report examined ways the city could appropriately increase density. 

In mixed-use areas, the report recommends increasing density from the current 25 units to 75 units per gross acre. Hickey said planners had heard “loud and clear” from the community that additional density would result in a deterioration of the city’s single-family residential district. Landscaping and masonry walls are possible buffering solutions to noise and screening complaints, Hickey said. 

Height limits are set at six stories with the possibility of adding two more stories if certain caveats are met. Those caveats include building frontage, street activation, open space dedication, enhanced landscaping and LEED Gold or equivalent certification. Height limits in the city’s western boundaries are proposed for four stories with the possibility of adding another level. 

Adding affordable housing units and reducing retail percentages and parking space requirements in development projects were also brought up by stakeholders.

“In this day and age, retail continues to die,” said Peter LaPointe, president of Grass River Property which owns the Shoppes of Wilton Manors

Larry Baum, a managing partner at Stellar Communities, echoed LaPointe’s remarks.

“It’s not easy to lease commercial in Wilton Manors,” Baum said. “What we need is residential — more rooftops.”

Moore said Wilton Manors' code requires builders to pay into an affordable housing trust fund in the form of impact fees to obtain proper permitting. 

For comparison, Robert Lochrie, a land use attorney, said successful affordable housing projects in Fort Lauderdale, usually start at 140 units per acre.