Cutting-edge project slated to rise west of Lakewood Park after St. Lucie Commission approves amendments

FORT PIERCE ― A Miami developer plans to build a novel residential community near the northeast intersection of Indrio Road and I-95 after the St. Lucie County Commission voted unanimously Oct. 20 to grant amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations for the resurrection of a cutting-edge plan dormant since 2006.

Planning and Development Services Director Leslie Olson acknowledged the significant investment Gustavo Lumer had already made in the county for his planned mixed-use community under the new Towns, Villages and Countryside Element vetted and approved by both area residents and state experts more than a decade ago.

“We wanted to recognize him for being our first applicant to propose developing a town under the TVC but also extending the utilities all the way out to I-95 – that’s big for us,” she said. “He is in the audience today, so we just wanted to recognize his investment in St. Lucie County and how that investment will spur the development of this important corner of our community. So, thank you Mr. Lumer.”

The developer had previously requested the county approve a Comp Plan amendment reducing the minimum workforce housing affordability maintenance period from the initially required 25 years to only eight years due to changes in the housing market since the TVC concept was first proposed more than 14 years ago. Development in the area had already begun to stagnate by that time due to the lack of sanitary sewer and water services. Mr. Lumer and his representatives had also asked for increased flexibility in the development standards and review process for the Planned Town or Village Zoning within the TVC Overlay Zone. The St. Lucie County Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the requests during its July 16 meeting, although some members of that board expressed concerns about losing the guarantee on the affordable housing component after only eight years. The county’s outside consultant on the project, Kara Wood of Calvin, Giordano & Associates, attempted to alleviate those fears that day.

“The county doesn’t lose anything,” she said last July. “The affordability period has to do with the length of time during which the price is capped for that home. The county would work with Community Services or Planning staff to see what median home prices are, and then that would all be set with the developer when they come through for final site plan approval.”

The Board held its first hearing on the requests Aug. 4, and during the latest meeting, Ms. Wood briefly detailed the amendment requests while simultaneously thanking Mr. Lumer for his willingness to be the first developer to construct housing under the new zoning. Residential developers and area citizens alike had hoped the TVC would help wean the county from the developmental urban sprawl so typical of Florida residential development in the early 2000s.

“I’ll be presenting these two items, which are the Comprehensive Plan text amendment, and the Land Development Code text amendment related to this project,” she said. “I’ll echo it’s been a pleasure to work with these applicants and learn from them and how to make these regulations work better. Part of what we’re doing today is tweaking the regulations that the county adopted in 2006 to make it work with the reality of the development market.”

One of the last-minute changes to the Comp Plan Ms. Wood suggested to the Board that day would also alleviate some of the concerns expressed by P&Z Commissioners James Taylor and Valerie Slack last summer on what they viewed as vague wording in the clause regulating the workforce housing affordability maintenance period. The original version described cutting it from “25 to eight years for housing affordability, or the period of affordability specified by the funding.”

“That to me means it’s not going to be at least eight years,” Mr. Taylor said July 16.

The new wording now proposed by the consultant after a draft review by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council would further clarify the new minimum requirement and provide the county a stronger guarantee.

“The Department of Economic Opportunity had no concerns over the proposed amendment,” she explained of the state-level reviewing organization. “The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council suggests adding this phrase, whichever is longer, to the proposed amendment, so we have shown that here as amended text to the Comprehensive Plan policy.”

After Ms. Wood’s presentation, County Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky thanked both her and the Miami developer.

“Thank you for believing in our community and coming to us and investing in our community,” he said to Mr. Lumer. “This has been a long time coming, TVC’s been an award-winning project for some time, and Kara thank you for coming back and being our expert on this.”

Chairwoman Cathy Townsend then alluded to Ms. Wood’s longevity working on the so-called Indrio & I‐95 Development project, which the latter said in July was the culmination of “hundreds of public meetings” in the early 2000s in which residents and developers alike insisted they wanted no more one-unit-per-acre suburban developments.

“You’re the one that actually did the beginning of this many years ago?” the former asked.

“I was hired by the county after the adoption of the amendments, so yeah, my first task was defending it,” Ms. Wood responded.

Ms. Olson agreed the consultant had helped coordinate the recent resurrection of the unique developmental model.

“It’s coming full circle,” she said.

Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky then made the motion to approve the requests, which was seconded by Commissioner Sean Mitchell and passed unanimously.

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