Community center in a south Florida beach town as designed by Solin economic development planningMany local governments have amended their Comprehensive Plans to initiate incentives for economic development and redevelopment within strategic sub-areas targeted for reinvestment in mixed use, commercial, and/or industrial development which can generate higher tax ratables. Such public initiatives may require policies, strategic plans, regulatory incentives and zoning map changes. Proper due diligence and analysis should first confirm that such high tax ratables can be achieved consistent with best principles and practices of planning and management. Local government may also plan for development or redevelopment of strategic sites and work with private sector investors and developers to recruit high tax ratables to partner in such projects. Often local government assists by supplying infrastructure or giving other incentives to make a deal work. Following are several examples of SAI’s planning initiatives which have assisted economic development in several Florida local governments:

Evaluation of the Mid-Florida Regulatory Environment

Prepared by Solin and Associates, Inc. as sub-consultant to Real Estate Research Consultants, Inc. this series of reports evaluated public policy and regulatory measures within the City of Orlando, Orange County as well as Seminole, Lake, and Osceola Counties and concluded with recommended economic development public policy and regulatory initiatives. Each report included an evaluation to determine deterrents and disincentives for economic development and subsequently recommended approaches to advance the economic development competitiveness through strategic planning and regulations as well as planning initiatives. The analysis also considered the general competitive implications of Florida’s evolving growth management legislation.

The evaluation included analysis of the following components which an economic development strategy should address:

√     Target Industries

√     Redevelopment

√     Related Economic Development Services

√     Management of Strategic Sites

√     Infrastructure and Transportation

√     Incentives

The research included obtaining economic development information from other states which have major cities competing with the Mid-Florida region and interviewing selected business leaders, consultants, executives, and City planning staff who are eminently involved in economic development. In addition, Comprehensive Plans and Land Development Regulations of each local government were reviewed to achieve an understanding of the City’s approach to economic development. The then current Florida Growth Management Laws were reviewed to identify new economic development opportunities available to local governments due to changes in state legislation.

Sanford Comprehensive Plan

Generated New Activity Centers for Development and Redevelopment. The City of Sanford Comprehensive Plan, received accolades from Florida’s Department of Community Affairs based on the inclusion of the “Unincorporated Urbanized Area” contiguous to the City of Sanford within the revised Future Land Use Map (FLUM) for the “. The area was delineated based on a proposed interlocal agreement between the City of Sanford and the Seminole County. The FLUM was supplemented with a “Future Land Use Equivalency Chart” which recorded County FLUM designations and equivalent City FLUM designations. The Plan was successful in attracting public and private investment in the development of strategic areas of the City well as within strategically located unincorporated urbanized areas contiguous to the City limits leading to the following:

√     High Intensity Commercial Center at the I-4 and SR 46 intersection located west of the City limits;

√     Airport expansion and

√     New activity centers for Industry and Commerce at strategically located sites for economic development

√     Future activity centers, residential areas, and outer fringe estates serving as a transition between urban and rural areas.

Attraction of private investors is largely attributed to the City’s commitment to a plan for financing needed urban service delivery systems. SAI assisted the City by developing needed performance based regulatory incentives and other initiatives designed to reduce uncertainty and promote implementation of planned development consistent with the Plan.

Port St. Lucie Comprehensive Plan.

SAI received an Award of Merit from the Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association and received a Special Award for Public Service from the local Chamber of Commerce. A land use conversion process was conceived to promote additional multi-family residential uses, offices, neighborhood and community retail centers, institutional uses, together with outlying sub-centers for commercial trades and services as well as industrial development. The City was originally planned as a residential community with a build-out population of over 200,000. The land conversion process was a remedial strategy to resolve a significant deficit in land designated for commercial trades and services or industrial development.. The plan also fostered conservation of environmentally fragile lands, retention of designated parks and open space, and performance standards for promoting neighboring conservation. The Plan demonstrates Solin’s ability to accurately assess local conditions and develop innovative incentives for stimulating economic development.

Haines City Select Area Plan (SAP) for SR 17/CR 544 Commerce Park and Industrial Park Plan and Gateway Design.

The project included preparation of a Select Area Plan (SAP) for 392.6± acres in transition from rural to urban character. The area historically supported agricultural uses. However, land owners and City leadership supported development of commerce and industry for the strategically located acreage adjacent to two highways and a nearby abandoned CSX Railway Right-of-way. The City planned to extend City public water and sewerage systems and a main rail line with spurs to service the site—a major incentive that promoted a public-private partnership necessary for a win-win solution.

The SAP directed a SR 17/CR 544 Select Area Plan Overlay District with land use and design regulatory criteria that requires frontage roads, setbacks, open space, street trees of varied specimens, buffering, and improved building façade appearance to ensure an aesthetic appearance and design consistent with best management principles and practices along gateways. Land use, site design and planning principles were required and adopted as part of the Land Development Code Amendments.

Haines City Select Area Plan (SAP) for US 27 North Ridge Annexed Corridor.

This SAP included corridor analysis and delineated a set of new municipal Future Land Use Map designations and development regulations for sub-areas within the annexed North Ridge segment of US 27. The revisions in land use had to be consistent with pre-existing Polk County Future Land Use Map designations. Regulatory measures were revised to adapt to unique issues confronting the City. The SAP addressed the following:

The project included substantial interaction with land owners, focus groups, the State, County and Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) since a large portion of the west perimeter of the corridor abutted the Green Swamp, a State designated Area of Critical Concern. Each of the two Haines City Select Area Plans included projections of population and housing, infrastructure supply and demand in order to accurately assess potable water demand and supply in order to comply with 2012 SWFWMD allocations of future potable water supply. The annexation and Select Area Plan empowered the City to extend infrastructure and services and attract investment to the development and redevelopment of the US 27 North Ridge Corridor and expand the City’s tax base.

Englewood (Sarasota County) Sector Plan

Prepared by Solin and Associates, Inc. (SAI) as prime contractor was perhaps Florida’s first publicly funded Sector Plan in 1985 for the unincorporated Englewood Community in Southwest Sarasota County. The County established an Advisory Committee of Englewood citizenry and SAI collaborated with the Committee throughout the planning process. The adopted Plan became a component of the Comprehensive Plan and featured:

  1. Creation of a Town Center with a central design theme;
  2. Development of an industrial park and several community activity centers;
  3. Major reinvestments in community infrastructure and corridors;
  4. Future Land Use Element and Map amendments to support the strategic land use initiatives; and
  5. Resource protection initiatives to protect and sustain natural systems.

The Plan was the end result of a highly participatory planning process. A check with a County planner, Dennis Wilkinson, 20 years following the study revealed that development over the twenty-year period since adoption of the Englewood Sector Plan had been primarily consistent with the Plan and the Plan was considered a great success.