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Jax Daily Record Friday, Jun. 14, 201905:10 AM EST

Arlington business owners pushing for changes at rezoning overlay hearing

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They say they can't afford the landscape architectural and civil engineering fees required to comply with the rules.
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Business owners are asking for more changes to a proposed Arlington design overlay.

Elected leaders and an Arlington advisory committee continue to push a plan to combat neighborhood blight with new design standards on commercial properties.

Jacksonville City Council held a public hearing Tuesday for the proposed Renew Arlington CRA Zoning Overlay.

Bill Cesery, whose family has owned the Lake Lucina Shopping Center since 1960, has pushed for modifications to the plan but wants a version to pass.

He supports the proposed “beautification, landscaping, traffic circles, code enforcement against the blight.”

A map of the proposed proposed Renew Arlington CRA Zoning Overlay.

Bill proponents, including several homeowners and District 1 council member Joyce Morgan, say the uniform property design will bring businesses into compliance with city code and improve curb appeal.

Modifications to the plan were disclosed last week at an Arlington town hall meeting.

Cesery said those still would cause financial strain for neighborhood business owners.

City planners limited, but did not eliminate, the proposed restrictions on commercial sign dimensions, landscaping buffers and compliant fencing materials.

The plan also addresses parking. Businesses that serve alcohol for consumption on the property, like bars and restaurants, will have to provide 100% of the parking spaces required by the city.

Some new landscaping buffer provisions could result in fewer parking spaces for existing businesses.

Cesery said many Arlington businesses cannot afford the landscape architectural and civil engineering fees required to comply with the rules.

“The first draft of this would cost (my property) about $100,000,” he told the council.

“They’ve changed a few things, but I don’t believe there’s ever been an overlay that’s taken down ever commercial sign within it. I don’t believe there’s ever been an overlay that destroys parking lots the way this one calls for parking lots to be cut up,” he said.

Morgan, who hosted the town hall and co-sponsors the bill, did not attend the hearing.

Three major business corridors in Arlington would be impacted: University Boulevard from the Arlington Expressway to Fort Caroline Road; Merrill Road from University Boulevard to Interstate 295; and a section of Arlington Road from University Boulevard to Rogero Road.

Ordinance 2019-239, the overlay plan, was approved June 6 by the city Planning Commission and a public hearing is scheduled at the full council vote June 25.

Office of Economic Development officials who helped the CRA board draft the rezoning say there will be minor design variations between the five “character areas” that make up overlay.

The overlay would be bolstered by a facade program offering businesses owners through the city's Department of Economic Development a $2 match for every $1 of investment.

The city will provide a maximum match of $20,000 to help properties owners alleviate the costs of complying with the Renew Arlington Overlay.

Cesery argues the $750,000 available this year to 461 commercial properties impacted in the Renew Arlington CRA will not be enough.

The CRA's budget comes from Tax Increment Financing. The Office of Economic Development said the CRA fund is replenished annual and the amount available for façade improvements will growth as new development increases the tax base in Arlington.

The grant match offer is available for the first two years of the overlay implantation and sunsets Dec. 31, 2021.

Goal and policy guidelines outline how business owners can use the grant money.

Eligible for the grant would be landscaping elements, such as design, architectural and contractor work, as well as new signage and fencing that meet standards set out in the new overlay.

Not eligible are equipment and machinery, billboards, chain-link fencing, building interior improvements, HVAC, moving expenses, debt refinancing and rectifying current code violations.

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