Sawgrass Lakes West Comments
January 10, 2019
Ms. Shannon Lewis
City of Melbourne
900 E. Strawbridge Avenue
Melbourne, Florida 32901
SUBJECT: City of West Melbourne Objections to, and Recommendations for,
the Proposed City of Melbourne Comprehensive Plan Text Amendment
to Exclude 300 Acres of Platt Ranch from Certain City of Melbourne Requirements
Dear Ms. Lewis:
The City of West Melbourne hereby expresses our opposition to the City of Melbourne comprehensive plan text amendment to your future land use policy (Melbourne Case #CPA-2018-07). We are most particularly concerned that excluding 300 acres from the requirements for master planning infrastructure would lead to both short term and long term imbalances in public services to current and future West Melbourne citizens and to potential new citizens of the City of Melbourne.
This letter provides you with our technical analysis (City Manager, City Attorney, and Planning Director) of the proposed changes to your Future Land Use Element, policy 1.11.6 – Platt Ranch Community Activity Center. The importance of policies in a city’s comprehensive plan is that these policy statements serve to shape and cap land development in a City. It is from this approach that we are making comments requesting that the City of Melbourne consider our concerns for impacts to our citizens, businesses, and public infrastructure system.
The Melbourne proposal changes Policy 1.11.6 of the Melbourne Future Land Use Element to keep the future land use designation of the property as “Platt Ranch Community Activity Center,” but to create an exception that the 300 acres proposed to be developed by DR Horton as a continuation of Sawgrass Lakes would not have to comply with the same master planning and other requirements applicable to the rest of the “Platt Ranch Community Activity Center.”
Release of the 300 acres from the Platt Ranch Master Plan Requirement:
By keeping the future land use designation of the property as “Platt Ranch Community Activity Center” but providing six (6) exceptions to the general policies of master planning for a larger area, the proposed changes are not consistent with the stated intent of the “Platt Ranch Community Activity Center” which states under Melbourne Future Land Use Policy 1.11.6:
Individual neighborhoods and non-residential components with the PRCAC will be supported by inter-connected roadways, walkways, trail networks and open space, …discourage the proliferation of urban sprawl.
The proposal for this development may address the immediate needs of the proposed developer of Sawgrass Lakes West but do not speak to the policy statement of coordinating the development in an orchestrated manner for the entire area, including this 300 acres, and discouraging the proliferation of urban sprawl. The closest residential development that exists in the City of Melbourne is located north of Eau Gallie Boulevard, near I-95 at a distance that exceeds 14,000 linear feet – over 2.5 miles away.
The Melbourne proposed text amendment to Policy 1.11.6 provides some description of the manner in which the DR Horton proposed community would receive the basic services for residential development, but does not describe all of the urban services that are associated with this type of suburban residential development.
Infrastructure and Melbourne’s Capital Improvements Elements
Sewer – The Melbourne comprehensive plan addresses responsibility for utility line extensions. The Melbourne Capital Improvements Element Policy 1.6.4 contains a general statement that connections to the City of Melbourne’s sewer trunk system shall be the responsibility of the developer and not of the City of Melbourne.
Capital Improvements Policy 1.6.4: New developments shall be responsible for installing all public facilities necessitated by the new development, including but not limited to, internal water and sewer systems, traffic circulation systems, and internal recreation/open space facilities within their development. In addition, connections of internal systems to the City's designated major water and sewer trunk systems and traffic circulation network shall be the financial responsibility of the developer.
However, the proposed comprehensive plan amendments are directly counter to this policy. As explained in Melbourne’s November 15 Planning and Zoning Board staff report (attached), the City of Melbourne now proposes that the City pay for an extension of Melbourne’s sewer collection system not only to the border of the Platt Ranch property, but directly to the remote 300 acres that are the subject of the comprehensive plan amendments:
In order to facilitate the development of the property within the City of Melbourne, the developer requested that the City expedite sewer service to the southeast area of the Platt Ranch property. To adequately serve this area and tie into future utility phases, it requires the establishment of an additional force main project of approximately $850,000, including design and construction, from the Platt Ranch property to the area of the Western Pump Station/Force Main and the acceleration of portions of several projects that are already included in the Public Works & Utilities 5-year capital improvement plan. These projects make up the backbone of sanitary sewer service for sites west of Interstate 95, including the Platt Ranch property. As development was originally anticipated to occur from north to south, the projects were aligned to be completed in that order. To address the Sawgrass Lakes West development, and the fact that development will now occur from south to north, the projects would essentially be reversed depending on the final engineering of pump stations of the new development. All actions required to amend the capital improvement plan would come back before Council for authorization.
Melbourne’s staff report does not explain why, given that the City is extending its sewer lines from a great distance to this southernmost part of their city limits, a master utility plan is not required at this time to indicate the timing of this extension and the general mapped framework of this sewer line trunk system, and whether consideration has been given to the general impacts to the existing sewer collection system. These are the types of considerations made in most master utility plans.
The exception of the 300-acre property from the master utility plan requirement and the City’s provision of an isolated sewer line further contradicts Policy 1.3.4 of Melbourne’s Infrastructure Element and the prevention of urban sprawl:
Infrastructure Policy 1.3.4: Using the capital improvements program and annual work program, develop a program for upgrading and expanding collection lines and transmission mains that provide for controlled, orderly growth in the service area, without contributing to urban sprawl.
Public policy dictates that the closest available utility capable of serving an area when service is required should provide such service. The proposal to extend Melbourne’s sewer collection service across miles of undeveloped land to serve the most remote portion of the Platt Ranch property, when the City of West Melbourne has sewer collection services immediately adjacent to the 300-acre property, is contrary to section 180.06, Florida Statutes, which states in pertinent part:
Any municipality … is authorized … [t]o provide for the collection and disposal of sewage, including wastewater reuse, and other liquid wastes; …[a]nd incidental to such purposes and to enable the accomplishment of the same, to construct reservoirs, sewerage systems, trunk sewers, intercepting sewers, pumping stations, wells, siphons, intakes, pipelines, distribution systems, purification works, collection systems, treatment and disposal works….
…However, a … municipality shall not construct any system, work, project or utility authorized to be constructed hereunder in the event that a system, work, project, or utility of a similar character is being actually operated by a municipality … immediately adjacent thereto, unless such municipality … consents to such construction.
A sewer collection system is being actually operated by the City of West Melbourne immediately adjacent to the 300-acre area, serving the existing Sawgrass Lakes development, and is fully capable of serving the proposed 300-acre extension. Therefore, pursuant to Fla. Stat. § 180.06, the City of Melbourne is prohibited from constructing a sewer system to serve the 300-acre area unless the City of West Melbourne consents to such construction. The City of Melbourne has neither requested nor received such consent.
Potable water – Melbourne already provides water to both the Brandywine subdivision and to the Platt Ranch in this area, but even this backbone system, its expectations, its changes, and responsibility for extension costs should be stated in a “utility provision agreement” between the Platt Ranch property owner and the City of Melbourne. Excluding this property from a master utility plan (UPA) which is located at the very southern extent of Melbourne adds to the appearance that parts of the Platt Ranch are acceptable to be developed piece meal and others are not, but the criteria as to what can be developed in bits and pieces is not stated.
Traffic and other circulation matters & Melbourne’s Transportation Element
The City of Melbourne comprehensive plan text amendment to their FLU Policy 1.11.6 contains a proactive statement that pedestrian and vehicular facilities will connect to the existing portion of Sawgrass Lakes. At this time, there is no road system to serve the 300 acres except for the existing Sawgrass Lakes subdivision, located exclusively within the jurisdiction of the City of West Melbourne. Neither the Melbourne future land use element nor the Melbourne Transportation element of Melbourne’s comprehensive plan expressly supports extending Norfolk Parkway to the existing St. Johns Heritage Parkway within a specific time frame. Future roadway connections were supposed to be part of a conceptual master plan for the “Platt Ranch Community Activity Center.” If “Sawgrass Lakes West” is excluded from the concept master plan requirement and there is no mention of this important connection of Norfolk Parkway to the St. Johns Heritage Parkway, then there is absolutely no provision for the traffic impacts of the “Sawgrass Lakes West” development, which will send each and every one of the trips it generates onto the City of West Melbourne’s existing arterial - Norfolk Parkway.
Currently Norfolk Parkway terminates near the West Melbourne city limits west of the western driveway of the new Pineapple Cove Classical Academy. The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization has always identified the extension of Norfolk Parkway to the St. Johns Heritage Parkway as an important connection. The proposed comprehensive plan amendments “flip” the expected development pattern of the Platt Ranch to encourage development of the remote southeast portion of the property first, with no connection to any City of Melbourne transportation facilities, nor to any County or State roads. Therefore, the extension of Norfolk Parkway must be prioritized to address the traffic impacts of this development on the City of West Melbourne.
In the immediate time frame, West Melbourne staff is concerned about where and which roads Sawgrass Lakes West would use to connect to the existing Sawgrass Lakes. The City of Melbourne and the developer’s stated plan is to extend Norfolk Parkway westward, and the private road Shallow Creek Boulevard northwest from their present terminuses. If Shallow Creek Boulevard is extended northbound and eventually loops back in to a short extension of Norfolk Parkway, this will strain both the existing segments of Shallow Creek Boulevard and Norfolk Parkway, as well as the existing intersection of those two roads. The City of Melbourne’s comprehensive plan amendments should address these traffic impacts. Moreover, the City of Melbourne’s comprehensive plan amendments assume a right and present ability to extend these two roads, but multiple approvals and other actions of the City of West Melbourne will be required before either can be extended to West Melbourne’s city limits.
We understand that the 300 acres with the proposed 700 houses would generate more than 6000 average daily trips. The current segment of Norfolk Parkway next to Sawgrass Lakes is 2-lane and will accommodate the build out of 933 houses plus a projection of a thousand students at the charter school, or approximately 7,500-10,000 average daily trips per the 2013 traffic study by Lassiter Transportation Group. The current Sawgrass Lakes segment of Norfolk Parkway has the road width to accommodate 4-lanes and so does the current intersection of Shallow Creek Boulevard and Norfolk Parkway. The City of West Melbourne successfully imposed transportation milestones on DR Horton with regard to the development of the existing Sawgrass Lakes development. The City of Melbourne should do the same.
It is logical that DR Horton be asked to assist with an improvement of existing collectors and arterials to minimize harmful impacts to the already burdened area. In consideration of the potential construction of new homes and the resultant increase in traffic where there is currently only one way in and out of the development, should the City of Melbourne proceed with the Comprehensive Plan text amendment, West Melbourne specifically recommends that Melbourne’s text amendment provide that:
a) Prior to the 60th certificate of occupancy for a new home in Sawgrass Lakes West, construction is completed on an additional Norfolk Parkway approach lane in each direction as Norfolk Parkway approaches the existing private road Shallow Creek Boulevard.
b) Prior to the 120th certificate of occupancy for a new home in Sawgrass Lakes West, construction is completed of a new traffic signal at the intersection of Norfolk Parkway and the existing private road Shallow Creek Boulevard.
c) Prior to the 240th certificate of occupancy for a new home in Sawgrass Lakes West, construction is completed of a second northbound Minton Road left turn lane to westbound Norfolk Parkway and a third Norfolk Parkway eastbound lane approaching Minton Road, with appropriate modifications to the roadway striping and the exiting traffic signal.
d) Prior to the 360th certificate of occupancy for a new home in Sawgrass Lakes West, the City of Melbourne shall have acquired the entire right-of way to extend an ultimate four lane Norfolk Parkway west to the St. Johns Heritage Parkway.
e) Prior to the 580th certificate of occupancy for a new home in Sawgrass Lakes West, construction is completed of two lanes of Norfolk Parkway west to the St. Johns Heritage Parkway.
Additionally, Melbourne has the following policy in its Transportation Element from their adopted comprehensive plan and this policy statement speaks to cooperating with numerous agencies about a future St. Johns Heritage Parkway right of way:
Melbourne Transportation Element Policy 1.1.8: The City will work with the County and the TPO to preserve the right-of-way for the St. Johns Heritage Parkway corridor, and to coordinate future annexations with right-of-way acquisition, design and construction of the parkway.
There is nothing in the proposed Platt Ranch Community Activity Center Future Land Use Policy 1.11.6 that similarly addresses right-of-way acquisition, design and construction of Norfolk Parkway to connect to the St. Johns Heritage Parkway in the 300-acre area that is proposed to be exempted from many infrastructure planning requirements and that logically would be the next phase of extension of Norfolk Parkway towards the St. Johns Heritage Parkway. Melbourne’s Policy 1.1.8 should be augmented with a policy addressing Melbourne’s efforts for right-of-way acquisition, design, and construction of Melbourne’s segment of the Norfolk Parkway.
The proposed exemption of 300 acres from the Platt Ranch Master Plan also conflicts with the Melbourne policy that requires that comprehensive plan amendments be reviewed for potential impacts to the transportation system.
Melbourne Transportation Element Policy 1.3.6: Annexations and amendments to the Future Land Use Element shall be reviewed for their potential impacts on the transportation system in order to identify any concurrency required improvements.
A review of the potential impacts to the transportation system was not part of the public hearing records with the Melbourne proposed text amendment. Although transportation concurrency is no longer a requirement by the State of Florida, Melbourne still has this requirement in its Transportation Element Policy 1.3.6 and the review of potential impacts on the transportation system is missing from the amendment to the “Platt Ranch Community Activity Center.”
Suggested process and identification for “Sawgrass Lakes West”
Another manner that DR Horton’s desire to extend its Sawgrass Lakes community could have been approached by the City of Melbourne would be to create a new future land use designation and a separate set of rules, and require the property to undergo a future land use map amendment for identification under the new designation. This inherently makes more sense from a citizen perspective because then there are not multiple exceptions to what is in the Melbourne comprehensive plan as logically planned approach to build out of the Platt Ranch area.
Sharing of Information
The Melbourne Planning Director sent an email to our Planning Director in the spirit of complying with the Platt Ranch master plan/utility provision to inform West Melbourne of the comprehensive plan text amendment and the anticipated February 2019 adoption timeframe.
Although there are many details to work out with any proposed subdivision regardless of which jurisdiction the property may be in, the impact of sewer and water line extension, and the impact to roads that pass through West Melbourne city limits are important details that should be discussed prior to Melbourne’s tentative February 2019 adoption hearing of the text amendment.
Thank you for your consideration.
c: Mayor and Members of the West Melbourne City Council
City Attorney Morris Richardson
Planning Director Christy Fischer