Zoning laws create a better quality of life. However, here in Jacksonville Beach Florida, a referendum was put to the ballot back in 2005 limiting the height of new construction projects to only 35 feet city wide. In the mid 2000’s Jacksonville Beach saw growth in the form of multifamily, multi-story construction. Some residents became concerned that our quiet beach community was turning into high rise heaven for would be developers. The negative they say, was that this growth made it more difficult for single family residences in the area to view and have access to the ocean.
The great recession hit on 2007, and as we pull out of the recession and go full steam into a growth phase, the city of Jacksonville Beach finds itself strapped with an unrealistic, reactionary ill-conceived law on its books. The 35 foot height restriction across the entire Beach area has created negative economic hardships for our city. When we should be looking to build a vibrant community in harmony with each other, this height restriction law makes it nearly impossible for would be developers to create mixed use and multifamily projects. Seems the only type of projects that fit into this constrained law are gas stations, fast food joints and pharmacies. What we need to resolve this problem is a feasibility study that goes block by block and determines the most appropriate height restriction for each neighborhood and zoning use. Because this never happened we now we now find ourselves in a growth phase that could pass us by.
This complex issue should never have been brought to a city wide popular vote. It is too complex and too critical to our city’s future.
As an Architect it is our responsibility to create environments that address the street level, above the street and at an urban planning level. This law is so restrictive we as Architects are unable to even consider a positive long term plan for Jacksonville Beach.
We can have it all, great architecture, quality of life and economic prosperity. Sadly, this may completely pass us by this time around.
Yes, zoning is key to our quality of life. But we need strategic, focused study on these laws to help best add to our quality of life both economically, and socially.