|4/14/2021 4:40:00 PM|
Recently, Steve Reilly wrote an interesing story entitled “Englewood CRA Needs Homeowners Input” for the Englewood Sun, one of our local publications. The story was about the local Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board (CRA) beginning a capital improvement project that will primarily focus on sidewalks in specific neighborhoods just north of Dearborn Street. The story noted that the project may take “several years to complete.”
|Todd Tracy, Secretary OEVA|
If you casually read the story, you would probably turn the page happy that local tax dollars were being targeted for something as beneficial as sidewalks, I know I was. But the story did not include what I consider some of the more interesting points behind the project.
First, the Old Englewood Village Association (OEVA) and the CRA have been promoting the improvements of those blocks, and others, for years because they are in a very special zoning district called the Residential Commercial Transition Overlay District (RCTOD).
This CRA project is the first step towards the establishment of what I believe will be the town’s crowning jewel, a functioning and connected neighborhood-based arts district. The planned sidewalks, and the possible lighting, parking, and landscaping that might follow, will expand our downtown’s experience by several blocks. Locals and visitors from miles around will be able to explore several blocks of resident artisans’ businesses that will someday offer an impressive variety of goods and services. If you would like to learn more about the RCTOD zoning e-mail the CRA at Englewood@scgov.net or visit the OEVA web site at www.EnglewoodFL.org.
The point of this article is, before you invest your savings in a dream RCTOD zoned live/work studio, new sidewalks or not, you should do some homework. Like contact the CRA as they request and voice your opinion on the project. Ask how the neighborhood feels about the project, and when there are public meetings, attend them, because without the support of the community, even great ideas can get sidetracked.
Trust me, as a political veteran in the community, it is not going to be easy convincing homeowners that their support of the walking arts district should include granting the community the right to build a sidewalk in front of their home. Who knows, as the design evolves, it might even include some supportive parking. But the bottom line is that our town has been given the opportunity to participate in designing our very own walking arts district, so please get involved and help when you can.
Back to the homework. Say you want to buy an RCTOD home and open an art gallery. Some of the questions you should ask would include: Can you have monthly artist openings without a permit? If not, how many event permits can I pull annually? Will live music and snacks be allowed? Can you display goods outside to attract customers? Can you have a business sign, and if so, how big, and where? Can you have outside seating and lighting? What will be the district’s operational business hours? Do you need a handicap bathroom? How will the RCTOD district be promoted and connected to Dearborn Street events? Who manages the zoning district and what are your rights as an owner?
OEVA believes that during the planning and construction years for the sidewalk, the community should address some of the questions above and update the zoning to support today’s versions of what a live-in business will need. Recently, the RCTOD sub-committee of the CRA published a findings summary on the RCTOD zoning. You can find and read that report on the OEVA web site.
Updating zoning is a lengthy and complicated process, but the review of the RCTOD zoning was adopted as a CRA project a couple years ago. It is OEVA’s hope that, post Covid, the CRA will begin hosting public conversation on the zoning issues, so that when the sidewalk project is finished, both the infrastructure and the zoning will be ready to support the future.
I know looking forward is difficult and that community planning seems endless, even pointless at times, but not long ago, the Farmers Market did not have a place to operate from on Dearborn Street. There was no Veterans Memorial to enjoy.
No fishing pier or boat dockage. No parking lots. No Art Garden. No street management via the CRA. Years ago, some of those great ideas were misunderstood and challenged as well, but in the end, they rocked our world. The RCTOD will, too.
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