The District 4 Master Plan has been revealed, and it is full of some great ideas: a plan for phasing in more walkability, new downtown friendly land development codes and lots of green space.
We like where Matrix is going with this, especially when you look at the new overlay zoning. It intends to encourage redevelopment and future development to conform to the type of community we want to live in. It includes most of the things Navarre Press has been talking about.
But frankly the whole thing as presented is a bit over the top.
When we first made that phone call to Quint Studer last year to ask for advice, he gave us some pretty good guidance on vibrancy within a community. Studer has earned a national reputation for building communities to their potential. What he says makes sense.
He warned not to get too grandiose. He pointed out that throwing all your wildest dreams on paper is not productive. Start small, one intersection at a time he said.
We like the long-range nature of the plan. It doesn’t just encompass the next five or 10 years. With this plan we have a clear guide for the next couple of decades.
But let’s be real. Every one of those pretty sketches of vibrant, mixed-use communities with all the bells and whistles we want are entirely up to the whim of private investors. And Studer is also the one who said it will take private investors to make a vibrant downtown happen.
What is of concern is, the plan embraces FDOT’s plan for the flyover on U.S. Highway 98, which will not solve traffic problems in Navarre. The flyover will put a visual divide between us and our largest asset – the beach. It will create blight where there isn’t any. Small businesses will be at risk because traffic on US 98 will be flying over their business. Widening US 98, improving the timing on the traffic lights and creating a community access road will solve the traffic problems.
And the plan includes ideas such as an outdoor movie theater, farmers market, restaurants and even a skate park under the overpass. It made us laugh thinking that we would try to enjoy a dinner while cars are driving over us. This would be one of the far-reaching parts.
We also have our doubts about how well the commissioners will be able to stick to the project even if it is approved. Those storage sheds they approved for Commissioner Lane Lynchard on Highway 87 directly conflict with this plan. Variances and rezonings have passed at an alarming rate in the past – will they be able to hold to the plan? Should we mention how quickly we abandoned the Heart of Navarre plan when it became apparent certain businesses just would not be allowed?
When we do finally get this plan tweaked to where we want it, we need to stick to it. Like our commissioner-elect Dave Piech said on the campaign trail, a plan is not worth anything if you do not stick to it.
And that means walking on a few toes. We love small business, but it is time for us to say “no, you cannot build another dollar store or auto parts store or storage units in downtown. That is not what downtown is for.”
It is time to hold the line.
One final note, ditch the parking garages. We do not have $8 million to spend on a place to store cars. What is the point behind it? You would think we learned our lesson from a $7 million park…Oh wait, this plan is influenced by the same guy.
If you have not already taken a look at the plan document, go check it out at plan4district4.com. Yeah it is long, but this could be your future. And share your thoughts by attending the Special Zoning meeting where it will be presented tonight, Oct. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Santa Rosa County Administrative Board Room located at 6495 Caroline Street in Milton.