Public attends high density Inverness meeting

About 40 people attended an Inverness Planning and Zoning Board meeting to oppose increasing the city's move to allow greater residential densities.

Hopes for a political mechanism to allow Inverness to build high density structures like condominiums and senior living facilities hit a roadblock this week.

The city’s advisory Planning and Zoning Board voted 3-3 against the city staff’s request to add a high density land use category to its Comprehensive Plan.

About 40 city residents attended the meeting, held signs and heckled the city’s development director who was requesting the additional land use.

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The 3-3 tie meant the proposal failed. The issue that would allow as many as 17.5 units per acre now goes to the Inverness City Council. The council will hear the issue next month.

Development Director Greg Rice told the P and Z board that high density was the answer for many people not interested in single-family homes and the responsibility in upkeep that comes with them.

The city’s current land use allows for as many as 12.5 units per acre.

But P and Z board member Karen Esty said she saw no reason to increase the current density and that the city was already overburdened with trying to provide services to residents and was facing enough traffic congestion.

“I don’t understand why five more units ... would make a difference. What is necessitating five more units,” Esty told Rice.

Rice said the higher density would allow for new development in downtown and along the city’s commercial corridors. He said it would also increase the city’s tax base and help the city move away from urban sprawl.

But members of the public who attended the meeting would hear none of it.

“Big cities are big cities. Small towns are small towns,” said Inverness resident Vincent Arcuri. “You can hardly get into this town during rush hour. ... We don’t want to make it Tampa.”

Other residents predicted similar problems.

“I don’t see any real reason for this increase,” said Brian Lambert.

He said he wasn’t convinced lifting density restrictions would create more taxes. He also complained the area doesn’t have enough jobs to employ the influx of people

 “I want to retire. I want to retire in a nice quiet (community),” he said.

Others, like Jennifer Lutz, warned compact housing would ruin the character of the city.

“Why put up high-rise, high-density, possibly low-income housing,” she said.

“You can’t bring in hundreds of people. ... It’s going to ruin the small-town feel,” Lutz said.

Some who came to the meeting said their concern was a proposed affordable apartment complex between Forest Drive and Longwood Avenue, near the center of the city.

The developer, Green Mills Group out of Sarasota, last year built a 106-unit apartment campus offering affordable housing on Colonade Street.

But Rice tried to reassure the P and Z board this high-density proposal wasn’t targeted at any project.

“This is not Miami. It’s not Las Vegas,” Rice said. “This is not about Forrest Drive whatsoever.”   

Voting against the density change was P and Z board members Janice Devine, Karen Esty, and Albert Arcuri.

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.