It’s not hard… Use common sense!
It’s not hard… Use common sense!
We need a culture shift. Big time. Here’s a great article with some help for motorists on what it means to “Share The Road”: https://floridabicycle.org/for-motorists/
(P.S. If you’re viewing this article on your phone the formatting is much better if you select “Desktop Site”.)
Barry Watkins, 22 Feb 2019
Our proposals for improving walkability in Rockledge include adopting a SmartCode for the City. Let’s look in some detail over the next few posts at how this will help our neighborhoods evolve into more walkable places.
Special Districts – Driving-Oriented and Industrial Uses
One big thing that will help to create more walkable places in our city is to separate walkable uses from car-oriented uses. The SmartCode does this thru the use of Special Districts. Two Special Districts could accomplish what we need in this regard – an Auto-Oriented Special District (SDA) and an Industrial Special District (SDI). These zones would serve to push certain uses that are less conducive to walkability away from planned walkable centers and into specified locations at natural edges of activity.
Examples of businesses that would be located in an Auto-Oriented Special District
The Auto-Oriented Special District (SDA) would be where we would locate car-oriented businesses that by nature create a lot of car traffic such as big box retail, drive-thrus, auto sales, auto parts stores, and gas stations. This district would be located near the edge of town or in small pockets at the edge of walkable villages and very limited in acreage.
An Industrial Special District would house industrial uses that can’t readily coexist too close to residences
The Industrial Special District (SDI) would isolate some industrial uses from walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Small amounts of well-defined light industrial uses could be embedded in the walkable zones if they meet certain criteria. The SDI Special District is designed for entities such as larger format, low-density industrial, industrial that produces a lot of truck traffic, and any industrial use that produces too much noise or fumes to coexist too close to residences. SDI should be located near highway access and hidden from view from passing traffic and from neighboring areas with a landscaped buffer.
Auto-Oriented and Industrial businesses that already exist in the city should be grandfathered in and allowed to remain in their current locations. New approvals after the adoption of the new SmartCode would fall under the new standards.
Barry Watkins, 8 Feb 2019
The walkability plan we are proposing for Rockledge is an evolving plan. The picture above is the latest update to the village concept plan. We want to make our neighborhoods and commercial corridors more walkable while preserving the things we love about our existing neighborhoods. Mixed use and form-based codes such as the SmartCode allow for the preservation of the character of places while also allowing very targeted changes in a positive direction. How do we do this? For one thing, the code requires that each neighborhood be carefully mapped lot by lot and prescribes citizen involvement every step of the way to ensure that the quality and character of the neighborhood will never be diminished, but only enhanced and improved. This is critical. Portions of neighborhoods can be designated to evolve as walkable village centers. Quality and character are preserved by defining building heights, front yard setbacks, landscaping, architecture, and uses that are fully compatible with the surrounding homes. This is a delicate balance, and the services of well-trained professionals who are experienced at planning walkable communities should be utilized to help guide the way.
Village centers in our plan would be custom tailored for each location. A detailed design of the center would be spelled out in a neighborhood regulating plan. When a property owner wishes to develop, make a change, or change the use of their property they would be required to submit a site plan detailing the use, parking locations, building locations, etc. to the local review board for approval. Changes would have to be compatible with their neighbors and follow strict guidelines for signage, lighting, noise, etc. In this manner village and town centers can evolve naturally over time. The overall direction of each improvement is managed by the neighborhood regulating plan and the city’s walkability standards.
The Town Center as proposed above would convert Barton Blvd. into a mixed use higher intensity walkable center. Buildings could be up to 4 stories, most future buildings would be attached with very small front setbacks from the sidewalk. A free mix of neighborhood-compatible, walkable uses would be allowed. This corridor could provide a good number of office employment opportunities within about a 10 minute transit commute or drive from anywhere in the city.
The image above shows three villages centered on Barnes Blvd. The orange areas are conceptual village center designations. These would serve daily needs within a 10 min walk from surrounding homes. They would be zoned T5 with surrounding areas zoned T4 and T3. (See our article introducing the SmartCode here. You can download and see more about the SmartCode at http://www.smartcodecentral.com.)
Parking lots like this one in front of SkyZone at Barnes and Murrell are good candidates for transformation into walkable centers by introducing traditional small blocks.
A proposed Walkable Village Center at this intersection would allow the large parking lots to be divided into small blocks lined with mixed use buildings with retail on the ground floor and office and/or residential uses above. This transformation would be similar to the picture below.
Barry Watkins, 4 Feb 2019
The above image by Dover Kohl serves as a fantastic illustration of the two main choices for the future of Rockledge: 1) Status-quo sprawl on the left, and 2) Walkable development on the right. Drive around town. Try walking or biking to the store or to go out to eat. Many, many places around our city (and county) much more closely resemble the sprawl illustration above and almost none resemble the walkable illustration. Most are somewhere in between, but I think you’ll agree that the vast majority of places in Rockledge, especially along our major roads, have the basic character of sprawl, and are not built well for walking. Which picture would you rather our city look like? Which of the two options above would be the more desirable place in which to live, work, shop, and visit?
Why are we continuing to build things this way?
Who decides which future course our city will take? We do. Our current land development codes were set in place years ago and intentionally produced the current automobile-centered sprawl environment. Many places across the country and around the world are realizing we need a better approach. In order to change what we’re getting we need to make some changes to our codes. Changing the codes is the way to shape a different future. Developers, design professionals, and builders are all used to following the rules. When we make walkable places the law of the land that’s what they will build.
Sprawl vs Walkability: Some basic differences
Here are a few basic things we need to regulate differently in order to produce walkable places along our major roads:
These few changes to our codes among others are very easy to implement, can be done at very low or no cost to the city, and will bring dramatic improvements over time.