Board members voted 5-1 in favor of recommending to city commissioners the approval of a request from TFA IV LLC to rezone 6.75 of acres of the island to Planned Development.
A portion of the island is already zoned PD. Other portions of the island are currently zoned Special Commercial 3. The PD designation is required for the project to move forward.
P&Z commission members also added three recommendations to the list of 11 staff recommendations already contained in the agenda document.
The commissioners would like to see a financial impact analysis completed before the project moves forward. They would also like to see the site plan before that later document is submitted to city commissioners and would like to link the completion of the North Shore public access project to the completion of the proposed development.
Thursday’s meeting was the first step in a planning and permitting process expected to take 18 to 24 months. The rezoning request will now be go to the City Commission for a public hearing.
The project will consist of four, five-story condominium towers built atop a three-story podium spanning most of the area west of Palmetto Avenue.
The development will feature 24,000 square feet of public access, street level retail and restaurant space along Palmetto Avenue. The public will also have access to the waterfront area along the existing northern seawall and the “green space” area where Palmetto Avenue ends. The first floor of the five-story parking garage will also be open to the public.
The parking garage will be hidden from sight, surrounded by the four condominium structures. An open-air area atop the parking garage will be covered with real grass and will feature a swimming pool and other amenities designed for condo owners.
CPH designer Bing Liu mentioned three goals in designing the Marina Isle project: compliance with Schedule U design standards; a desire to compliment the historic district and waterfront area; and the desire to design a structure worthy of being considered “a landmark” in Sanford.
Liu said many of the design elements were inspired by local structures, including the Spanish Revival architectural elements found at the old Forrest Lake/Mayfair Hotel now occupied by New Tribes Mission.
Construction is expected to take an additional 18 to 24 months. During that time, construction vehicles will be required to use Palmetto Avenue and Third Street as their route of travel to and from the island.
Wolfys, Oscar’s, The Palms Resort and the office building at the northeastern edge of the will be demolished when work begins.
Developer Frank Cerasoli and CPH engineer David Gierach stressed the point that the development was designed according to Schedule U design standards and would not hinder access to the marina or the North Shore area.
Cerasoli said it was too early to identify a price range for the condos, but said the development would feature smaller, more affordable units — in the 1,000- to 1,200-square-foot range.
Developers, he explained, are moving away from larger units that have become difficult to sell in the current real estate climate.
P&Z commission member Andy Kutz offered the most resistance to the plan.
“It’s probably a viable project, and I think it’s going to happen, but I think it’s a little premature,” Kutz said, suggesting that more planning and design work was in order.
“I don’t have a problem with the project, but I think this is going to be the last of the slow, quiet Sanford that we’ve experienced for a long period of time. It’s going to change the character of the community forever.”
That said, Kutz stated that he would not interfere with the project’s progress as long as it was “planned well and all the pieces were in place.”
Richard Huber cast the sole “nay” vote against the project.
P&Z Commissioner Carol Dennison asked if the condominiums would generate additional property tax revenues for the city and was assured by Cerasoli and Planning and Development Services Director Russ Gibson that they would.
Sanford residents Doreen Freemen, Jay Jurie and Joseph Guida spoke during Thursday’s public hearing.
“We have such a facility on the west side of City Hall [Gateway at Riverwalk] which remains predominantly empty,” Freemen said. “They have sold four units, have three pending, and that’s it out of 74 units.”
After mentioning that she has seen no indication of retail activity at Gateway, Freemen said, “The objectivity of ‘build and they will come’ has not happened so far in Gateway. I’m very concerned that we are going to wind up with another ‘white elephant’ if we’re not careful.”
Cerasoli and his TFA IV business partner, George Fuller, have no financial stake in Gateway. In the past, they have often been mistakenly associated with that development because they purchased the island lease from Gateway developer Bob Horian.
Jay Jurie asked P&Z members to “hold in advance” their vote of approval until a fiscal impact analysis has been conducted on the project.
Although his request was not honored, P&Z members did include a request in their motion that the fiscal impact analysis be conducted before city commissioners approve the rezoning request.
Jurie said he was against the developer’s request to not adhere to city staff’s recommendation that the building be built to LEED certifications, which results in a more environmentally friendly development.
The developers argued that LEED certification is only required if additional height allowances are requested. Cerasoli said building to LEED would add 5 to 8 percent to the project’s cost.
Gibson said the development falls within the riverfront district, created when new downtown design standards were adopted, and developers building in that area are required to build to LEED standards.
“Mr. Gibson pointed out LEED is something that’s here and now and the city, I think, would be very remiss to waive this particular stipulation,” Jurie said.
Joseph Guida spoke in favor of the development. The former Boston native said much of Boston’s waterfront property is city-owned and leased to individuals. He mentioned that many of those developments serve as “focal points” that attract families and other visitors into Boston’s downtown area.
“One thing that I have been surprised that has not happened here in Sanford, having such a beautiful waterfront, is the fact that there’s no keystone development in the middle of the city that would bring families and people from outside the city into the center of it,” Guida said.