A proposal to enact new design standards in the Zephyrhills Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) area has prompted debate.
On one hand, the design standards can promote across-the-board architectural and visual uniformity and compliance — to protect and enhance property values in the CRA.
On the other hand, if care isn’t taken, the standards can become cumbersome and expensive.
Those were some of the main points raised during the discussion of a proposed set of design standards that would apply to the CRA’s roughly 500-plus acre historic area, which encompasses the center spine of town.
It’s an extensive undertaking.
Gail Hamilton, director of the CRA, has worked on the past few years, in conjunction with Kimley-Horn, a planning, design and engineering consulting firm.
An 83-page drafted document was presented last month to the Zephyrhills CRA Board, which is chaired by all five city council members and mayor.
It contains regulations outlined in specific detail that pertain to site access, circulation, parking, lighting, tree preservation. It also has various requirements related to residential and retail space — particularly up and down Gall Boulevard and along cross streets.
For example, it calls for all drive-thru restaurants and banks to have buffering in the form of fences, gates, hardscapes and streetscapes.
It also calls for new streetlights built on public or private property to be required to take on a distinct historical look similar to what’s seen along City Hall and the Zephyrhills Public Library — which is a decorative fixture with Florida Vernacular style and black finish. By contrast, cobra head and shoebox style fixtures on top of an aluminum light pole, which frequently are seen in big box store parking lots, would be prohibited.
Another goal calls for tree preservation and creating, or maintaining, canopied roads — which are characterized by limbs of large trees that provide a lush and shaded effect, overhead.
The document also outlines a number of other restrictions, such as limiting the number and size of business signs and prohibiting residential parking on the grass.
Kelley Klepper, a project manager for Kimley-Horn, emphasized the significance of establishing concrete design standards throughout the CRA.
“A good design is the starting point for a great community. You’ve got a lot of great bones here in the city, especially within the CRA,” Klepper said.
Firm standards will help create the community’s desired aesthetic, and create accountability among property and business owners, he added.
“We want to make sure what we’re talking about has some teeth, because ultimately the CRA is that key focal point within itself,” Klepper continued.
“A lot of times we hear guidelines, we hear overlays. A guideline is just that, it’s a guide. It’s not a, ‘Thou shall,’ it’s a, ‘Well, we’d really, really appreciate it if you could,’ and there’s no teeth to it,” Klepper said.
Hamilton said the CRA would offer various incentives and partnership opportunities to help new and existing properties get up to code.
She said she has spoken with multiple residential and commercial developers who did not object to the design standards. If anything, they’re encouraged, because it provides a roadmap and expectations for the city’s future plans, she said.
“Developers want to know that,” Hamilton said.
She also talked about the value of having design standards.
“Your investment is going to be protected, because the person next to you is going to have to do the same thing. Rising tides lift all boats….” Hamilton said.
The CRA board, however, wants more specifics before taking stand. It tabled the issue until it receives additional information.
Board vice president Alan Knight cautioned strongly against overregulation.
He pointed to The Villages in Sumter County as an example, referencing a recent hot-button case where a couple was sued by the community’s development district after placing a 1-foot cross on display in their front yard, therefore violating a “lawn ornament” deed compliance.
“Every time I roll this page, all I see is another rule and another rule and another rule, and I just don’t want us to get into the idea that we’re so many rules that we can’t expand,” Knight said.
Board member Charles Proctor expressed similar concerns .
“I just don’t want to be super restrictive,” Proctor said. “I understand, we don’t want a bunch of junk cars with no tags in people’s yards, but on the same hand, I just want to be cautious.”
Meanwhile, board member Lance Smith thinks design standards are necessary.
However, Smith added: “I don’t want them to be too costly to the people. Believe me, I’m for ‘em, but we’ve got to be real careful.”
Hamilton said the design standards don’t contradict anything the city already has on the books with its form-based code and land development code.
The document helps organize all present city ordinances, with some additional expansions and clarifications, and multiple visual examples for better understanding, she said.
Hamilton also observed the standards are not as strict as seen in HOA/deed restricted communities, such as Silver Oaks. “They tell you certain things about what you can or cannot do with your property. I can assure you these are much less than those,” she said.
Klepper described the proposed standards as a “baby step” compared to what other municipalities have done with their respective historic districts.
The project manager mentioned some have gone so far as to regulating parking lot line colors or the font and lettering of business signage.
“We didn’t want to go anywhere near that,” Klepper said. “The document we have is not punitive; it’s not so many rules we can’t follow.”
He continued, “At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is increase property values. If you maintain your property, if your neighbors maintain their property, what’s going to happen to the valuation of that neighborhood? It’s going to go up.”
But, the board said it wants to see an example of a commercial business or homeowner go through a mock review and submittal process. That will give them a better idea of how much time and expense the new standards will create for someone who is looking to buy or invest in the city, they said.
The Zephyrhills CRA is a dependent special district in which any future increases in property values are set aside in a Trust Fund to support economic development and redevelopment projects within the designated district.
Although it functions within the City of Zephyrhills, the Zephyrhills CRA is a separate and distinct legal entity.
The district generally spans from Hercules Park to C Avenue, and from Zephyr Park to 17th Street. Within those boundaries are the following historic neighborhood districts: Hercules, Historic Jeffries, Historic Abbott, Moore’s Estate, Zephyr Lake, Oakside and Plaza.
Published September 09, 2020