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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 29, 2017 12 months ago

Sarasota code update progressing

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The city of Sarasota's overhaul of its zoning code is on track to be completed by next summer, the official overseeing the effort says.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

The city of Sarasota's overhaul of its zoning code is on track to be completed by next summer, the official overseeing the effort says.

Karin Murphy, the director of the city's Urban Design Studio, which has been leading the process, says public workshops are being planned for next month during which new code outlines will be presented.

Murphy expects the city's planning board to receive a detailed draft of the new, “form-based” zoning code sometime early next year, if the current pace of progress can be maintained.

“It's a very aggressive schedule for us to get it all done, but at this point we're optimistic,” says Murphy.

The code was last updated significantly in 2003, in the wake of the city's adoption of the Downtown Master Plan 2020, though that update pertained only to the city's downtown Community Redevelopment Area.

Murphy adds that residents, developers and builders alike will have an easier time navigating the new citywide zoning code.

“We're designing it to be much more user-friendly,” says Murphy, a former Sarasota Planning Department official. “The new structure will in a way be much easier for people, they'll see more continuity. At the same time, we're recognizing that 'one size fits all' doesn't work for our city.”

The new code, laid out in a series of “articles,” or chapters, will also feature density bonuses in some areas if developers pledge to include community amenities such as wider sidewalks or other features. Murphy notes the new code also will contain a sustainability chapter and components that attempt to enhance social justice.

As it is readying the new code, the 4-year-old design studio also is working to shift city zoning documents from a paper to a digital format.

Murphy says she expects the new code to be finalized and adopted by the city sometime next year.

“We're calling it the world's longest design charette,” she says. “But we want to take our time and make sure that we don't leave any areas or anyone behind in the process.”

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