By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Causeway Landings, a 239-unit, multi-family residential project proposed for the North Causeway, isn't going away anytime soon.
Developer Atlantic Housing Partners is going ahead with the project despite hundreds of residents turning out at a public meeting in September to protest.
The developers submitted a site plan application last month for the apartments, and also a request for a parking variance and changes to an existing 2005 development agreement for the property that was approved by ordinance,
The site plan application, also for 10,750 square feet of non-residential space, will be heard by the city's Plan Review Committee at 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 4, in the City Commission Chambers at City Hall, 210 Sams Ave.
A preliminary meeting has already been held on the site plan application, said Gail Henrikson, the city's planning manager. On Jan. 4, staff comments will be given to the developers.
In addition, the city's Planning and Zoning Commission will hear two other applications at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, also in the City Commission Chambers.
One is seeking a variance to reduce the required parking by 170 spaces on the 14-acre site.
The other is an amendment to an existing 2005 development agreement to remove the approved marina use, decrease the approved building heights, increase the number of permitted residential units from 202 to 239, and incorporate a revised conceptual development plan to the 2005 agreement.
The city has already approved by ordinance in 2005 a development agreement for the North Causeway property for 202 condominiums.
"It's just not the same thing as apartments," said Martin Danaher, one of the leaders of New Smyrna Beach Citizens for Smart Growth LLC, which has recently been incorporated.
The people don't want this, he said, echoing the speakers at the meeting Sept. 5. "Just build what is already approved."
Opponents are now marshalling their forces and want the city to stand by the 2005 agreement.
Mr. Danaher, along with local businesswoman and long-time resident Sally Gillespie, has been working on the project for months.
In September, when the first public meeting was held, Ms. Gillespie said, "We are concerned about the plans for affordable and workforce housing. It's not compatible with the North Causeway."
The application to be considered by the city's Plan Review Committee Jan. 4 is for a new site plan for the property.
The plan review committee consists of the city's planning director, engineer, building department, fire and police representatives, public works department and the Utilities Commission.
Opponents can't speak at the Jan. 4 meeting.
"On Jan. 4 we will give them (the developers) our comments on the site plan," said Ms. Henrikson. "They can't do the site plan they're proposing unless the parking variance is approved and also the amendment to the development agreement."
She said the Planning and Zoning Commission makes the final determination on the parking variance. The decision can be appealed and would go to the circuit court.
The Planning and Zoning Commission also will make a recommendation to the City Commission on the proposed changes to the existing development agreement.
Ms. Henrikson said an ordinance approving the changes could only be adopted after two public readings before the City Commission.
After the Jan. 4 meeting, the developers can make corrections to the site plan and resubmit it. The plan then goes to the Planning and Zoning Commission, which makes the final decision.
Marc Gauthier of Atlantic Housing said in September the property is already zoned for R4 multi-residential and MU for mixed use, which includes retail.
Under current zoning, he said, Atlantic Housing can build:
-- Multi-family apartments at 18 units per acre (258 units)
-- Four-story buildings (45 feet high) along the western boundary.
-- Seven-story buildings (82 feet high) on the balance of the site.
-- Commercial space (in addition to the apartments), except at the west end, which is zoned residential.
Opponents would be happy if the developers built according to the existing agreement, said Mr. Danaher.
"Our position is that they are seeking not just amendments to the existing plan but essentially a whole new plan," he said. "They are trying to make changes so the whole plan is invalid."