UPDATED APRIL 21, 2021: Today Mount Dora's Planning & Zoning Commission voted to pursue an ordinance to increase building heights in the city, including in its historic downtown.
In advance of the public P & Z meeting, the City had advised that no votes would be taken. However, the chairmaninitiateda vote without making a motion or receiving a second, which didn't provide an opportunity for amendments from other commission members. Some members and residents expressed their frustration with the vote process and conduct.
Ultimately, the Commission voted 4-3 to advance "Option A" (see below) which was the most lenient option for developers. P & Z will vote on the finalized ordinance at its May 19 public meeting at 10 a.m. at City Hall. The P & Z Commission consists of city residents appointed by Mount Dora City Council members. The chairman serves as Council Member Doug Bryant's seat and serves at the pleasure of the City Council.
The below article was published April 20, 2021 prior to the meeting ______________________________
Mount Dora Planning and Zoning Commission (P & Z) will continue its discussion on increasing the building heights in downtown Mount Dora, as well as other areas of the city, at its April 21 meeting. In February, the Commission instructed the City’s planning staff to draft an ordinance to increase the heights to accommodate development. As a result, City staff drafted two versions of an ordinance which will be up for discussion at the April meeting.
TWO ORDINANCE VERSIONS:
OPTION “A” This version of the ordinance proposes building heights by zoning district:
Increases downtown heights from 35 feet to 55 feet except within 25 feet adjacent to single-family or duplex zoning districts which would then have a height maximum of 35 feet. (Zoned C-2 & M2). For perspective, downtown’s three-story Renaissance Building on Donnelly Street, is estimated at approximately 35 feet tall and City Hall is 28 feet tall, according to City documents supplied in February.
This proposed ordinance keeps 25 feet height along Lake Dora (no proposed changes).
Highland Street commercial district’s proposed height maximum is 45 feet, except any multiple-family structure within 25 feet adjacent to a single-family or duplex zoning district or use shall be a maximum height 35 feet. (Zoned C-2A)
Other Zoning Districts:
R-3 zoning district has a proposed 55-foot height limit, except any multiple-family structure within 25 feet adjacent to a single-family or duplex zoning district or use shall be a maximum height 35 feet.
Workplace (WP-1 and WP-2) zoning, which are the City’s industrial zoning change to 55 feet.
PLI zoning 55 feet, except within 25 feet adjacent to single-family or duplex zoning districts or use shall be a maximum height 35 feet.
In Mount Dora Golden Triangle, the height maximum is already 65 feet in the code. There are no proposed changes except lands zoned C-3. Mixed use zoning (MU-1) is already 60 feet for the Golden Triangle area.
OPTION “B” This version of the ordinance requires proposed building heights greater than 35 feet to go through the City’s normal “Conditional Use Permit” (CUP). That means projects requesting a building height greater than 35 feet must provide justification to P & Z through the detailed CUP process.
Once occupied, new taller downtown buildings would negatively impact parking in an area already short of spaces, so P & Z could seek to remove the downtown parking exemption by ordinance and create a parking impact fee to be paid by developers as a special criterion in the Conditional Use Permit (CUP). A parking impact fee criterion isn't in the current Option B of the ordinance.
Both ordinances would require Historic Preservation Board consideration through the Certificate of Appropriateness process in cases where the proposed buildings (or additions) are located within the Historic Preservation Review Boundary Area. Neither ordinance is needed to construct a new downtown parking garage.
At its April 21 meeting the Planning & Zoning Commission can choose to:
Ask the City’s planning staff to formalize one of the ordinances as is.
Ask the City’s planning staff to formalize one of the ordinances with changes.
Reject both ordinances.
Table the issue.
If the commission decides to proceed with either of the draft ordinances, it will need to be formalized and presented back to P & Z at a public hearing when it would vote and make recommendations to the City Council.
The City’s newest council member, Austin Guenther, works for G3 Development, his family’s commercial real estate development business which owns commercial properties that could benefit from the height increase. According to G3's website, the councilman is tasked with the company’s business development. G3's ownership also has a stake in Pineapple Point, the undeveloped waterfront acreage next to Lakeside Inn. Guenther would not be required to abstain from voting on any ordinance related to building heights, according to Mount Dora City Attorney Sherry Sutphen, “because he will not gain a special, private benefit different from all area property owners.”
Previous efforts to transform historic downtown Mount Dora with significantly higher building heights have ruffled more than a few feathers in the past. Changing downtown Mount Dora’s vibe with taller buildings could attract more developers, residents and businesses. However, a quick scan of the area shows numerous long-term vacant buildings, including four prime downtown corner properties, which indicates an abundance of space is already available for new businesses.
Anyone wanting to weigh in on increasing Mount Dora Building heights can attend the April 21st meeting 10 a.m. at City Hall. Social distancing and masks are required per the City’s Resolution 2020-138. Follow Mount Dora Buzz on Instagram. For more news and events in Mount Dora, Tavares & Eustis, visit the area's websiteand download the area's free mobile app.