Commercial Development vs High Density Residential - What Does North Port Need

Op Ed by Carmine Miranda Since 2021 to present, I’ve heard the talk about growing the commercial tax base and bringing skilled jobs to North Port! It is well known that commercial / non residential land is limited due to early 1960’s platting! As a result, the city has committed taxpayer dollars for the infrastructure improvements on Toledo Blade and Sumter Blvds per the Camoine study! The city was recently awarded the Florida Job Growth Infrastructure Grant, for one million-six hundred ninety thousand dollars ($1,690,000.00) for a utility extension north of I-75 along Toledo Blade Boulevard. As part of the agreement, the City must certify that at least 1,947 new jobs have been created as a result of the grant project. Once word got out about the infrastructure improvements, Developers have come out of the woodwork to build high density residential in North Port. Is this what North Port needs? What happened to growing the commercial tax base and bringing skilled jobs to North Port? To make matters worse, Tallahassee enacted the ‘Live Local Act’ thereby introducing a land grab of our already limited commercial and light industrial land for affordable housing. The residents nor the commissioners can challenge this or be threatened with a lawsuit! The area North of I-75 and East of Toledo Blade is now called ‘Innovation Corridor’ to bring Light Industrial, Commercial, Office in a Business Park setting. There are three development projects proposed for this area that are in different stages of approval. Two of the development projects, Toledo Village and Toledo 320 contain a high density residential component. The Village has 3,598 mixed use residential units while the other has not disclosed the number of units to be built on the 262 acres. Toledo village contains 10 acres of commercial and Toledo 320 contains 55 acres of light industrial. In fact, the developers of Toledo 320 have stated at the June 29, 2023 public meeting that North Port Gardens, the first approved development (DRI) from a different developer will provide the bulk of the commercial and light industrial requirements so they don’t have to. Why would this be allowed? Shouldn’t each applicant coming forward be required to include a more robust commercial component and not piggyback off another applicant? Shouldn’t this be a requirement of planning and zoning and the commission especially if the talk is raising the commercial tax base to give property taxpayers some relief and to bring skilled jobs to NP so people can actually live here! The fact is - the commercial tax base was 5% in 2010! Thirteen going on Fourteen years later it is only 8%. A dismal track record that will no doubt continue if the commission approves the Toledo Blade 320 project!! There is no turning back once the land is developed! There is a Commission Meeting at City Hall Chambers on September 26, 2023 at 6:00pm. The Public portion of the meeting will focus on the Toledo 320 ordinances to rezone agricultural estates land to light industrial and high density residential Ordinance 2023-23 - This rezone amends the future land use from Agricultural, Estates to High Density Residential and Industrial for Toledo 320 Ordinance 2023-25 - This rezones current No Zoning Designation (NZD) to Industrial Light Warehousing District (ILW) for Toledo 320 Ordinance 2023-19 - This is the second reading for Toledo Village. The Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use Element Goal 5 states the intent of Village zoning allows for (residential 25-40%) (commercial 20-60%) (office 10-25%) (civic 10-25%) and parks/open space (10-no max). Let’s do the math: With 2086 acres proposed for the entire project and the proposed 10 acres of commercial, this equates to less than 1%! To meet the minimum of 20% commercial it should have 417 acres of Commercial! How do we grow the commercial tax base if we keep giving away precious land to the developers?