City staff adds new wrinkle to zoning change for Pickens School neighborhood

The Pensacola City Council is set approve a zoning change to the neighborhood around the old Pickens school—the site where Manna Food Pantries wanted to build a facility only to find that the use didn’ conform with Comprehensive Plan approved by the council in 2011.

The city had failed to correct its records to reflect the area being zoned for Medium Density Residential. Since Manna withdrew its plans, the planning department has worked to correct the issue. It met with the residents and the planning board approved the correcting the city records.

The last step is the council approving the administrative change. According to Melanie Nichols and residents in the area, city staff has made a few adjustments to the changes approved by the planning board.

Nothing is ever simple when it comes to the city planning department.

From: mel303
To: bspencer ; cbare
Sent: Wed, Oct 7, 2015 7:50 am
Subject: Rezoning Hearing – Manna Food Bank Property

Dear Charles and Brian,

Last night at the Council of Neighborhood Association Presidents of Pensacola Meeting we discussed this week’s Council Agenda Item to make the zoning changes in accordance with the Comprehensive Plan that was adopted by Council in July 2011. The Future Land Use Map that was adopted by Council in 2011 shows the area where the former Pickens School (now owned by Manna Food Bank) to be changed from Residential/Neighborhood Commercial to Medium Density Residential. This Comprehensive Plan change was approved after numerous public hearings in 2010 and 2011 and according to Policy FLU-1.1.2. “requires implementation and enforcement of land development regulations that are CONSISTENT with the Comprehensive Plan”.

Now the Planning Services staff is finally getting around to making the administrative changes to make the zoning map match the Comp Plan which is the overriding document for land use decisions. These amendments to make the zoning map match the approved Comp Plan went to the Planning Board and were approved on June 9, 2015.

Their recommendations are now coming to you for approval and adoption EXCEPT that something new has been added that was NOT presented on June 9th, an e-mail from Manna Food Bank for an exemption to the rezoning that was not received until September 25, 2015 and which was not discussed by Helen Gibson in her neighborhood meeting for consensus of property owners which was held on May 13, 2015.

At the Planning Board Hearing on June 9, 2015, they adopted the changes in the zoning to match the Future Land Use Designation. The properties “to remain R-NC” were those identified in the Future Land Use Map adopted by Council in 2011 and were the original properties as planned in 2011 which were the Pensacola Voice at 213 E. Yonge Street and the Little Raskals Child Development Center at 2525 North Tarragona Street.

Now, months after that Planning Board Hearing, new changes are being submitted to exempt the Manna Food Bank property which have not had the benefit of consideration before the City’s Planning Board.

I respectfully request that the Council either make the changes as approved by the Planning Board on June 9, 2015, or send the item back to the Planning Board.

The e-mail from Manna Food Bank writes that they “acknowledge that if this request is approved the property will remain in the Medium Density Residential land use category and will remain in the R-NC zoning district. Manna also acknowledges that the MDR future land use category PREVENTS the property from being developed for a commercial use and limits residential density to no more than 18 dwelling units per acre.”

So, my point is, if they acknowledge and understand this, then why not proceed with the Planning Board’s recommendation to change the zoning to match the Comprehensive Plan which is Medium-Density Residential?

To leave this gray area, is to only add additional confusion for the next owner of the property when Manna sells. The property is currently for sale and this neighborhood should not have to endure any more confusion as to what can be built on that site.

In 2010 and 2011 when the public meetings were held for the EAR-based amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, the neighborhood supported the change of the school site to Medium-Density Residential which supports the predominantly residential land use of this entire area.

They were led to believe that one day, when the school was torn down, that it would be developed as residential to match all of the surrounding area. After enduring years of School Board neglect of the property once it was left a boarded up, overgrown, weed property that kept nearby property values depressed, the neighborhood is NOW ready to see revitalization of this site as promised and intended in your 2011 decision to approve the Comprehensive Plan.

I sincerely hope that you will adopt the Planning Board’s decision to adopt the Future Land Use Map as featured in the 2011 Comprehensive Plan with NO new exemptions. The residents in this neighborhood deserve what they were promised in 2011 by the City Council.

Thank you for your assistance and service to our City,

Melanie Nichols

*I am writing as a citizen and not an official letter from CNAPP because at the meeting last night, we thought that Council was reviewing the Planning Board’s recommendation, which we supported, and had NO idea that staff had added an e-mail sent months after the Planning Board Public Hearing for inclusion in your agenda. Maybe at some point, we can review the duties of all the city staff who are supposed to be looking after neighborhoods and providing assistance and neighborhood enhancement, because right now volunteers are the only ones looking out for neighborhoods from repeated commercial intrusion and incompatible redevelopment attempts in violation of our City approved Comprehensive Plan.