By Paul Burdziakowski
For Hometown News
The Port Orange City Council April 2 reviewed proposed code amendments, initial steps to implementing the Ridgewood Corridor Plan.
By simplifying and clarifying some code requirements, it will provide appropriate flexibility and options for the suffering Ridgewood Corridor area.
The actual vote on the amendments was continued to April 23 to allow time for some revisions.
The first three amendments discussed are part of the short-term strategies for improvement. Under the first amendment, the council agreed a contractor's yard and motel uses were not consistent with the Ridgewood Corridor Plan to improve the economic position and appearance of the corridor.
Several motels along the corridor have significant criminal activity. Personal effects are left outside motels, making the area look unsightly and discourages new investment. A contractor's yard is incompatible with the retail and service function of Ridgewood Avenue, because it is noisy and contains a large amount of stored materials that discourage new investment. The council agreed to remove these as permitted uses, but the six existing motels and one construction yard on the Ridgewood Corridor can stay as long as they are not left vacant and expanded in any way.
The council partially accepted the second amendment, which would allow the use of alternative surfaces, including recycled concrete, for parking lots of properties south of Dunlawton Avenue, and require curbing for the alternative surface parking lots. The use of alternative surfaces will be allowed to continue for properties south of Fleming Avenue, but the council did not want to expand it north to Dunlawton. The use of alternative surfaces in this section of Ridgewood Avenue reduces the upfront cost for developing a new or existing site and reduces stormwater infrastructure needs, which are costly and limit the developable area in the small lots that are common there. The council did, however, vote to add the requirement for curbing for any newly constructed alternative surface parking lots.
The council accepted the third amendment, which will provide the corridor area with more landscaping options. The Ridgewood Corridor will now fall under landscaping requirements that allow for drought tolerant materials. Drought tolerant landscaping requires little to no irrigation which will allow developments along the corridor to plant attractive landscape buffers that can be easily maintained and help conserve water.
In addition, there were two other proposed amendments to clarify regulations for residential uses in the Ridgewood Development District and to prevent inconsistency between the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code.
The council accepted the fourth amendment that will add a requirement that future assisted living facilities and multi-family sites must have a future land use designation that allows residential uses. This wasn't clarified before in the way it was written so it couldn't be enforced.
The council also accepted the final amendment to modify the list of special requirements for multi-family developments. The internal building spacing requirement is proposed to be consistent with the Florida Building Code, as are the rest of the multi-family zoning districts in the city. The language for optional first floor commercial is now more consistent with modern mixed-use development practices, and outdoor activities for multi-family developments will now require screening from Ridgewood Avenue.
The Ridgewood Corridor Plan was adopted by the City Council on Jan. 15. The main objectives of the plan are to improve the corridor by making it more attractive, improving its economic position and minimizing activities that discourage investment.
The Ridgewood Corridor extends nearly three miles from Dunlawton south to the Rose Bay Bridge. The roadway was near its peak in commercial development from 1950 to 1970. In 1957, Ridgewood Avenue was even widened to four lanes. During the late 1970s, the extension of Dunlawton Avenue and creation of Interstate 95 caused a slowdown of activity in the area. As traffic moved toward the interstate, and developers moved westward where there were larger vacant lots, a gradual decline occurred in the once bustling corridor. The area now has a 14 percent vacancy rate and is mostly left with old motels and a few small businesses like restaurants, saloons, offices, thrift shops, used car dealerships, tattoo parlors and some manufacturing.