During the past year and a half, St. Petersburg has been conducting a review of the City’s Land Development (Zoning) Regulations (LDRs). HONNA has been actively engaged in the process, attending public meetings, meeting with City Council members, and submitting input as part of the Neighborhood Review Committee. This Committee included Historic Kenwood, Crescent Lake and HONNA as the core group, with other neighborhoods participating.
The consensus among neighborhoods was that far too many of the new houses constructed after the 2007 LDR revision were too large and had a boxy and/or poorly designed appearance. Many of these houses did not fit into the neighborhood context – a phenomenon that is not unique to St. Petersburg; it is happening all across the country.
Approximately 85 amendments were under consideration. Many of them were for clarification and consolidation, but a number of them were substantive. The most important of these was the introduction of a Floor Area Ratio (FAR). This measurement of the square footage of all floors of a structure plus the garage, divided by the square footage of the lot, is a measurement used to control the size of buildings in a number of cities in Florida and other states.
Citywide, the average FAR historically was .30. For homes built since 2007, that number increased to .44 (an average living space of 2660 square feet). City staff proposed establishing a FAR standard that would make new construction proportionate to the size of the lot, and would use a bonus point system to incentivize good design. Their proposal was for a base FAR of 0.5 and up to 0.2 bonus points for a possible total of .07.
The Review Committee’s research showed that this ratio was too high and would not adequately address the issue of oversized new construction in the Traditional neighborhoods. The City Council agreed with the Committee and voted unanimously that a base FAR of 0.4 and an allowance for specific design bonuses up to 0.2 to achieve a maximum FAR of 0.6 would be a more effective ratio for NT-2 and NT-3 Traditional neighborhoods such as Old Northeast. NT-1 Traditional neighborhoods will be subject to the staff’s 0.5 and 0.2 bonus proposal, and a FAR ratio will not apply to NS (Neighborhood Suburban) districts.
Applying the FAR in a NT-2 neighborhood, one could build a 2,300 square foot house on a typical 45 x 128 foot lot without the need to utilize bonuses and up to a 4,000 square foot home by improving design and maximizing bonuses.
The City’s website (http://www.stpete.org/planning_zoning/land_development.php) has more detailed information about all the changes which were adopted on July 20th. Keep in mind that Old Northeast is composed of two zoning categories: NT-2 which includes 6th Avenue northward to the south side of 9th Avenue, and NT-3 which includes the north side of 9th Avenue to 30th Avenue.