Groups Begin Scrutinizing Sarasota Code

Government

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY OCT 8, 2018

A draft of a new form-based code, in the works for years in the City of Sarasota, saw its public release last week. Now business and civic groups have started scouring the code to learn what it could mean for the city’s future.

The city five years ago launched the Urban Design Studio to create a city-wide form-based code, something similar to the code regulating development in Downtown ever since the implementation of the 2020 Downtown Master Plan. City spokesman Jason Bartolone described the proposed code as “a modern response to the challenges of urban sprawl, deterioration of historic neighborhoods and the need for safe and efficient multi-modal transportation options for pedestrians and cyclists.” The new regulations intend to create predictability for the development community and for existing residents.

Kate Lowman, a founding member of STOP!, said her great concern right now revolves around process. The Downtown plan implemented an administrative review process for certain projects meeting code requirements to be approved without public hearings. “I have reviewed some aspects of the development approval process, and I can see that we will be losing even more public hearings,” she says. “Unfortunately it looks like this will take us in the wrong direction.”

But for architects, the chief concern remains in the heavy restrictions on design, something they now must contend with city-wide. “My main concern will still be with what many of us have been concerned with all along: Architectural Standards,” says architect James Piatchuk. He’s especially concerned that his photographs included in the code will steer expectations of the public even as architects seek out the chance to create something new and innovative. 

“They are insistent on using photos to try make their case,” he says. “Though what case it is isn’t exactly clear because they state ‘for illustrative purposes only’ on each and every single photo, which tends to just confuse the issue. What it amounts to to me is planners getting a toehold in being able to dictate architecture, pure and simple.”

The American Institute of Architects has remained engaged through the past years of discussion about the new code. With the draft ready, city planning staff now start a review process for the code that should last for three months, and officials plan to host community workshops, public meetings and hearings before the new code gets implemented.

That leaves groups like STOP! and the AIA in review mode for the moment, carefully studying the 478-page draft code. “I am going to go through the whole draft as there is a fair chunk of revised information to verify and I don’t want to give opinions without having done a thorough review,” says Julian Norman-Webb, president of the AIA Florida Gulf Coast Chapter.

Pictured: Excerpt of architectural standards included in Sarasota's draft form-based code.

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