The PSJRA board, which consists of the five city commissioners with two at-large members, will consider a request to spend $20,000 on a detailed plan for rezoning Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

 

 

During much of 2016 a citizens committee, along with a consultant, updated the North Port St. Joe Master Plan.

A critical step in moving the plan forward will arrive during the Port St. Joe Redevelopment Agency 4:30 p.m. ET tonight, immediately prior to the next regular meeting of the Port St. Joe City Commission.

The PSJRA board, which consists of the five city commissioners with two at-large members, will consider a request to spend $20,000 on a detailed plan for rezoning Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

During a recent special meeting, two commissioners indicated their intent to support spending the dollars.

But during an April meeting of the PSJRA, one other commissioner wondered whether the effort had the backing of the neighborhood’s citizens.

The North Port St. Joe Project Area Coalition has been at work on crafting a vision to revitalize the neighborhood since early 2016.

The PAC meets monthly in open public meetings and held a series of three open, public workshops last year to solicit citizen input while crafting an update to the NPSJ Master Plan first created in 2010.

The meetings and workshops were solidly attended, though one of the main goals of the next phase is increasing community input and support for the plan.

The update was aimed at identifying existing opportunities and assets in a landscape which had significantly changed over six years.

And right smack in the bull’s eye of those assets is Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., once the thriving center of the community and, based on public input, fundamental to the neighborhood’s heritage, culture and identity.

Now, as PAC president Rev. Chester Davis noted to commissioners recently, it is a boulevard of “blight” with vacant lots and storefronts.

Davis reminded commissioners that decades of division are over and pleaded with them not to continue to allow on the north side of town what would not be permitted on the south side.

What emerged from that April PSJRA discussion about rezoning MLK was that its generally “mixed-use” zoning designation was “inflexible” and provides “minimal development guidelines and lacks the incentives necessary to attract investment and promote development,” according to the PAC.

To ensure appropriate zoning, city manager Jim Anderson said during the special meeting, commissioners would have to have a detailed plan of what that zoning would look like.

The detailed plan “would ensure MLK is zoned correctly for redevelopment, can attract infrastructure funding and provide shovel-ready sites to attract investors,” according to a proposal from the PAC.

Once the plan is complete, it would be subject to approval by the PSJRA board and the City Commission, which would have to undertake any updates to the land development regulations and ensure consistency with the city’s comprehensive plan.

The work on the plan would entail detailed mapping of MLK, an illustrated and detailed plan of the vision spelled out in the Master Plan update and identification of potential incentives to attract investment and motivate property owners to develop their land.

The work would take about 12 weeks, according to consultants John Hendry and Philip Giang, who have served as consultants since the onset of work on the Master Plan update.

The timing for the redevelopment plan is a fit, the PAC contends, because with various economic development incentives, particularly the arrival of Triumph Gulf Coast and other RESTORE act funds as well as development of the neighboring port, investment for the community will be at hand.

But, the main contention, is a year of work will be for nothing if implementation of the plan does not move ahead; the detailed plan for rezoning MLK is the next important step.