A recommended order issued today finds that a decision by the City of Jacksonville to adopt a small scale plan amendment that intensified land uses in a strip area from Office/Professional to Neighborhood Commercial conflicted with policies designed to discourage strip development, required NC designations to be in "nodes," and protect neighborhoods.
The Jax plan has a number of Policies designed to create integrated nodes and also to limit the intensity of development in strips to office/residential PUDs or TND developments; the RPI land use designation is the appropriate and consistent designation for development in these situations. Regardless, the City approved a change on a parcel that faces an arterial but is bracketed between commercial and other Insitutional designations for the more intense NC designation. The City argued that the "node" required by the Plan for NC designations was a "linear node" (read strip) that extended a 1/2 mile down the arterial from the major intersection. The Petitioners claimed that accepting this analysis or approach would destroy the distinction between nodes and strip and completely traverse the Plan's approach to discouraging problematic strip development.
The City also claimed that the NC designation was "more compatible" than the RPI because of the PUD that was to be placed on the property, and that the analysis of the consistency of the NC designation should take into account the restrictions on the of the property contained in the PUD ordinance and conditions (a truly, deeply and completely ridiculous position, as the City had to concede that different PUDs or land uses could be put on the property in the future).
The hearing officer rejected this and upheld the Petitioner's interpretation of the Plan's anti-strip development policies. "The purpsoe of a node is, of course, to concentrate commercial uses near an intersection and reduce the potential for strip development along arterial roads."
By all accounts, the City has been allowing the conversion of lands far from intersections not to the RPI designation allowed by the Plan policies, but the the NC designation, thereby allowing strips to proliferate throughout the City. Another policy - rejected by the 1st DCA in Dixon v Jacksonville -- [click here to download] -- allowed commercial development as a primary use in RPI-designated lands, despite the Plan's clear statement that commercial is to be used only as a limited secondary use in that land use designation.
Good Planning - 2; Bad Planning 0 - Maybe the citizens of Jacksonville will get some more consistent and better planned land use patterns out of this - and more truly mixed use development.
Here's a link to a PDF of the RO on the DOAH site: Heston et al v City of Jacksonville
Post Script - OK, so I normally don't post DOAH RO's in land use cases up here - but in this case I was the expert for the Petitioners and helped write the PRO. So I'm pleased.