Overview of Keep It Rural’s Participation in Development of the Welaunee Arch Master Plan
The action taken by the Joint Tallahassee-Leon County Commissions during the Welaunee Arch Master Plan (WAMP) workshop was not the motion proposed by Keep It Rural. We specifically argued against Option 1 (staff recommendation for the WAMP) and Option 2 (to conduct the adoption hearing on November 10). We proposed an Option 4 directing staff to revise the WAMP to include our Parks and Greenways Plan including the Refuge-Habitat Park that would encompass Land Use District 5, to incorporate a Transfer of Development Rights mechanism to implement the Refuge-Habitat Park, and to schedule another joint workshop in November 2020. We also spoke in favor of ATN’s, KHA’s, and Buckhead’s comments. What transpired is that the commissioners voted for Option 1 and Option 2, and included a provision for an optional open space transfer mechanism that could be used to create a Refuge- Habitat Park. They did direct staff to work with community stakeholders and to cross-reference and harmonize inconsistencies in the WAMP including the use of “shall” vs. “should.”
We plan to continue to work to make the WAMP better than the current version including:
- District 5 serving as a large Refuge-Habitat Park and contributing to a buffer between the USA and Rural zoning districts.
- Removal of the road bifurcating District 5 and connecting to Bannerman Road.
- Expanded buffers for both canopy roads (Miccosukee and Centerville).
- A revised map and table reflecting the above provisions (see map attachment).
- Consistent use of language and requirements for the Storm water Master Plan applied consistently to all future developments.
- Stop-clause language requiring that when land uses for the Arch exceed what has been analyzed for the Northeast Gateway project a new traffic study shall be required.
- Transportation road grid language for Districts 1, 2, and 3.
- Explicit street tree requirements for all residential streets.
- Ensuring that the design of the Northeast Gateway coordinates and harmonizes with the WAMP.
Chronology and Keep It Rural’s WAMP Development Positions.
In addition to attending the December 2020 open house on the WAMP, Keep It Rural participated in every public meeting conducted in 2020 including the Planning Commission, Joint City-County Commissions, City Commission, and County Commission meetings, and the WAMP charrettes, and at each opportunity provided written comments to all 12 commissioners, key staff, and comments on related specific agenda items throughout the process to date. In addition, we hosted a teach-in on the status of the WAMP prior to transmittal and another prior to the October 13, 2020 workshop.Keep It Rural worked hard to prevent the expansion of the Urban Services Area into the Welaunee Arch attending and speaking at all meetings, providing written comments, and accurate research and data on why the expansion was not warranted, not needed, and premature. We spoke at every opportunity from the Planning Commission meeting and Joint Workshop in February 2020 through the Transmittal hearing on May 26, 2020. We argued that the expansion is not justified economically, demographically, based on rapid growth, or on any projected current or future housing shortage needs, and directly contradicts critical Goals of the Comprehensive Plan.
Subsequent to transmittal we have worked diligently to ensure the WAMP gives strong, enforceable guidance for all Planned Unit Development (PUDs) applications so they are implemented as components of a coordinated, holistic plan, including parks, greenways and recreation facilities, street trees, stormwater, roads, schools and other infrastructure.
Keep It Rural argued, and provided research, facts and data supporting that the WAMP was not adequate and was too vague, permissive, and conceptual and would not provide the guidance required to ensure that each PUD contributed to a comprehensive and interconnected system of Parks and Greenways including expanded buffers for Miccosukee and Centerville Roads, and buffers for the transition from USA to Rural, and District 5 being designated a Refuge-Habitat Park. In addition, we have supported a comprehensive master stormwater plan, and a well-planned and connected roadway system including a Northeast Gateway design that would contribute and work in harmony with the goals of the WAMP.
Keep It Rural has from the beginning of the process to date consistently spoken in support of ATN’s recommendations including affordable and inclusionary housing, transit, and rational planning and data- based analysis, KHA’s stop-clause language, and Buckhead’s transportation and road system comments among others. We have not supported specific development density thresholds. However, now that the Arch will be in the USA and slated for high-density urban development we do support clustering the developments to minimize suburban sprawl, and to ensure that the Parks and Greenways plan, street tree provisions, and canopy road buffers are not fragmented and that the large and critical Refuge-Habitat Park comprising District 5 is included.
In addition to opposing expansion of the USA and advocating for a comprehensive WAMP, starting in April and through September of 2020, Keep It Rural advocated for the City and County Commissions to provide for real-time virtual public comment during their meetings including providing procedural recommendations for accomplishing this and statistics indicating that counties and cities of all sizes and demographics throughout Florida were already providing this format for more effective public engagement.
Starting in April of 2020 and to date Keep It Rural responded to the lack of transparency and the haste in developing the WAMP as well as the need to take the time to solicit effective public engagement and input amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keep It Rural will continue to advocate for transparency, fairness, and equity in using public resources for private benefit, and for good growth and development practices that encourage diverse housing types and affordable and inclusionary opportunities, walkability, safe pedestrian and cycling corridors, connected parks and greenways, and alternative transportation and energy choices. We will continue to collaborate with stakeholders and appreciate the support received to date for our recommendations.
Jeff A. Blair, President—On Behalf of the Board of Directors of Keep It Rural Inc.