Rockledge Walkability Plan Post #11: Special Districts (Now, Isn’t That Special?)


transect zones plus sd

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.

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Rockledge Walkability Plan Post #10: Preserving Neighborhood Character


rockledge village concept 2019-02-08

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.

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This neighborhood store and cafe in Orlando, 903 Mills Market, is a great example of how commercial can peacefully coexist right next to existing residential. It serves as a great neighborhood amenity and doesn’t disturb the residential character of the place.

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.

rockledge village concept tc 2019-02-08

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.

rockledge village concept barnes 2019-02-08

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.)

Barnes and Murrell NW Corner Shopping Center

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.

aerial barnes and murrell

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.

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Image from The Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva

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We Are Working to Reverse this Trend!


https://www.fastcompany.com/90294569/the-number-of-pedestrians-killed-by-cars-keeps-going-up

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Rockledge Walkability Plan Post #9: Which Path Will You Choose?


Two alternatives: Sprawl Vs Walkability. Image by Dover Kohl. https://www.greaterplaces.com/street-design/i/9701278/commercial-corridor-retrofit

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?

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Shopping Center Barton and Murrel. Standard sprawl arrangement with a vast amount of unused parking in front, buildings set far away from the street.

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.

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Places like Celebration, Florida were built with walking as a priority. The code absolutely shapes the place.

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:

  1. Give more space to pedestrians and cyclists and less space to car traffic. Decrease the number of vehicle lanes, and narrow the lanes to 10′ Max. Reduce the number of turn lanes, add landscaped medians. Give more space for walking and bicycling and more separation between pedestrians, bicycles, and car traffic. Shade and buffer the spaces with street trees.

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    Providing space for cars (above) vs Providing space for walking and cycling (below). Image Source: http://buildabetterburb.org/sprawl-repair-is-essential-unavoidable/, photos by Steve Price, Urban Advantage

  2. Locate buildings closer to the street. Require small front setbacks. This arrangement is more attractive than the status quo, provides safe and easy access to buildings from the sidewalk, makes businesses more visible from the street. It also slows car traffic by providing drivers with visual cues.

    amenity-rich-street-example-wide-sidewalks-etc.

    Buildings close to the street with parking behind creates a pedestrian-friendly realm in front of buildings.

  3. Build up, not out. Allow taller buildings and higher intensities, and require smaller lot widths. Walkable places are compact. Building front doors closer together makes it easier to walk around to get things done rather than having to get in your car for every task.
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    A little intensity is a good thing. Building up and not out produces much higher property values per acre.

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    The status quo pushes buildings back from the street with parking in front. Sprawl makes it almost impossible to safely navigate places by walking and certainly makes walking an unpleasant task.

  4. Rearrange and reduce car parking. Add parallel parking at the street. Locate remaining parking behind buildings in common surface lots or parking structures. Reduce parking required by: a) Sharing parking spaces, and b) Converting some trips to walking, cycling, and transit. Shared parking is more efficient, especially with different uses on the same block.

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    Create inviting outdoor rooms in front of buildings instead of hot, ugly parking lots.

  5. Combine parking accesses. Reduce the number of driveways crossing the sidewalk. This reduces the number of conflict points between people walking, cycling, and driving, and will reduce the number of collisions, injuries, and fatalities.

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    Keep the number of driveways crossing the sidewalk to a minimum. Image source: https://www.nats.org/2017_Summer_Workshop_-_Transportation.html

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.

Walkable Brevard, Rockledge, Florida, email:walkablebrevard@gmail.com, 321-355-2747, http://facebook.com/groups/walkablebrevard, http://twitter.com/walkablebrevard

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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #8 – Human-Scaled Streets


Barry Watkins, 18 Jul 2018

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A human-scaled street in South Beach Miami, Espanola Way. Image source: http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/places-to-see/south-beach-art-deco-district/espanola-way

When it comes to our streets I think we can all agree we want them to be practical and safe. I think they should also be attractive and pleasant to drive on and to walk and cycle near. They need to be practical — we need to be able to get around well and our streets need to accommodate all traffic efficiently. They need to be safe — it shouldn’t be a matter of  taking your life in your hands to drive or cycle on the street or to try to walk or cycle across or along the street. And they should also be attractive and pleasant — this makes for better experiences for all users and would help to contribute to Rockledge being the most desirable place possible. Why not see if we can try to make our streets all the things we want them to be?

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Converting a car-dominated sprawl street into a human-scaled street. Image Source: http://buildabetterburb.org/sprawl-repair-is-essential-unavoidable/, photos by Steve Price, Urban Advantage

Don’t you think most of the goals above can be met better than we are meeting them now? One direction we could go that would meet all of our goals more effectively is to make our streets more “human-scaled”. Human-scaled streets are right-sized to meet the needs they are intended to serve. Most of our streets were originally designed and built after the 1950’s. Until very recently the status quo for street design since the 1950’s was to build them too wide and too fast. The reason for this is that our priority by and large in our street designs has been to accommodate as many cars as possible and to move them as fast as possible. Now many of us are realizing that designing with cars as our top priority hasn’t produced the best results. When we design things with walking and cycling as the priority while at the same time giving proper consideration to cars we strike the appropriate balance and produce results that are practical, safe, and attractive.

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A street with room for all users. Image source: https://www.nats.org/2017_Summer_Workshop_-_Transportation.html

So what does a human-scaled street look like? Human-scaled streets honor their context. They give room for all users — They have wide sidewalks and bike lanes. They have safe crossings that occur often enough to be practical to use, will be lined with shade trees and buildings set close to the street, and have appropriate lighting at night.  Human-scaled streets have features that slow car traffic a little. This is safer for everyone — drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. They have narrow travel lanes and appropriate traffic-calming devices like landscaped medians, raised crosswalks, roundabouts, and textured paving. They don’t have a lot of extra travel lanes, extra turn lanes, or channeled lanes, and they have small turn radii at street corners. Human-scaled intersections are sized for walking and cycling and not sized with moving cars as the top priority.

Converting a sprawl intersection to a human-scaled intersection. Image source: The Sprawl Repair Manual by Galina Tachieva

The safety of all users is the highest priority in the design of a human-scaled street. Moving cars is an important consideration, but should never be prioritized at the expense of safety. Human-scaled street design reduces the number and the severity of crashes for all users so it’s safer for everyone and creates streets that are practical, safe, and attractive.

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Planting street trees. Image source: https://bridgingthegap.org/event/volunteer-street-tree-planting-4/

How do we do it?

So, how can we make all of our streets more human-scaled? One segment at a time. It seems like a pretty drastic change in some cases to go from what we have now to human-scaled, and it is. What will make it possible is that every improvement we do can potentially pay for itself with the increased revenues to the City that it will bring. If we divide all the streets in the city of Rockledge into manageable segments and make a plan to phase the changes in a smart way that’s exactly what will happen. The improvements will pay for themselves. Each improvement project can be done with minimal cost. The result of the investment will be that the improvements make the land nearby more desirable. Property values in the area will rise bringing higher tax revenues. In some cases new building or redevelopment will occur, resulting in new impact fees and even higher property values and increased tax revenues. The increased revenues to the City can be rolled over into the next improvement project and the cycle keeps going. Small investments up front will be quickly recouped and instead of being a burden on our City’s funds will actually be money-makers for the City, especially in the long run!

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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #7 – Allow Positive Changes


Barry Watkins, 9 Jul 2018

culdesac transform before

“Let them evolve!” This needs to be our cry for our neighborhoods in Rockledge. Our existing land development codes and zoning were designed to freeze development in stone the way they were originally built and not allow any changes to occur. Turns out, this not a good thing. Healthy places will naturally evolve in a positive direction if they’re allowed. Adopting the SmartCode, part of our proposed Walkability Plan for Rockledge, would allow just that. Some changes would be healthy and good for us. Good codes, like the SmartCode, will allow changes to occur but in a directed way so that changes allowed are always positive and never negative.

The SmartCode uses mixed use zones called Transect Zones (T-zones) to direct future development in existing neighborhoods. Transect zones are applied within a neighborhood block by block and lot by lot. They generate and preserve the character of places in a finely-tuned way, but allow some flexibility for things that don’t adversely affect character. Things like the specific use allowed in a building are made as flexible as possible while the form of buildings is strictly controlled. This perfect balance of flexibility and strict controls results in properties being utilized to their fullest potential but in a high-quality manner. This encourages good investment and helps to maintain higher property values and desirability long into the future.

Each walkable neighborhood, sized at about 1/2mi square, would be designed within the SmartCode to contain multiple T-zones. The higher density zone can create a walkable center of activity for the neighborhood. In your average suburban neighborhood, which would cover most of Rockledge, the SmartCode would call for each neighborhood to include zones T-3, T-4, and T-5. Each of these t-zones gets defined for its regional context. T-3 produces a large-lot estate home residential character, T-4 is med density and mostly residential, T-5 is a higher density mixed use main street. All the t-zones in the SmartCode contain varying degrees of mixed use. The lower-numbered zones allow restricted commercial presence and lower residential densities, and the higher-numbered zones allow more commercial presence mixed with higher density residential.

Once the SmartCode and Walkability Plan are officially adopted the Planning Board and City Commission would then organize a project to map the city with the new transect zones neighborhood by neighborhood. The SmartCode prescribes a process that includes public input at every turn so that the citizens get to have a say in how the city’s neighborhoods are mapped directing their future positive evolution.

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Rockledge Walkability Plan, Post #6 – Village Concept Plan


Barry Watkins, 6 Jul 2018

Here’s a stab at a conceptual walkable village plan for the city of Rockledge. This is just a very preliminary concept plan that I put together as a way of facilitating our conversation on how Rockledge could transform itself into a walkable city. The yellow shaded areas are potential locations for village and neighborhood centers spaced throughout the city. These centers could be planned as hubs of activity for the surrounding neighborhoods and help to meet the daily needs of residents within a 10 min walk of their homes. We can create these walkable destinations by zoning them as mixed use centers as outlined in the SmartCode. Once the zones are put into place this kind of plan would allow for the positive evolution of existing development towards greater walkability.

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