NEW PORT RICHEY — In December, New Port Richey City Council agreed to a moratorium on new multifamily developments, until the city could develop a set of rules ensuring future projects match their vision for the city.
This week, council got its first look at the proposed development standards and they liked what they saw, voting unanimously to send them on to their second and final approval later this month.
The design standards get specific about how new apartments should look, how they should match up with the neighboring development and even what materials and design features were acceptable for the structures.
City manager Debbie Manns told council members the rules were needed since nothing specific is currently detailed in city development rules, and interest in building multifamily projects continues.
With no current standards in place, “the objectives of an integrated and walkable community are easily lost,” Manns said. “We thought it was too important to allow our left-undeveloped properties — which are just ripe for multifamily — to be left vulnerable to less-than-suitable development.”
Brad Cornelius, the city’s contract planner, walked council members through the new standards, which have been been reviewed by the city’s land development review board and commented on by citizens who attended those meetings. Cornelius said that the proposal has also been discussed with several developers who are interested in building multifamily projects, and they offered positive feedback.
The rules, which will impact any multifamily project with more than 10 units or located on a parcel an acre or larger, are “not a cookbook,” Cornelius said. Rather, they are a list of guidelines for developers, he explained, focused on livability and a good relationship between the new apartment community and other nearby land uses.
The guidelines include lists of acceptable materials for the outside walls, although those can be appealed, suggested designs for interesting structures and encouragement to define the boundaries of the development but also interconnect with the surrounding neighborhoods
Amenities such as nature trails, ball parks, playgrounds, swimming pools and athletic courts will also be required based on the size of the development. The type of amenity will depend on the nature of the development such as if they are family oriented or focused on older residents, Cornelius said.
One amenity will be required for developments with between 10 and 50 units, two for those up to 100 units and three for those with over 100 units. Half the units will also need a private open space, such as a balcony or patio of at least 80 square feet.
Any community larger than 50 units will also need to provide a community gathering space.
Buildings should be more than one color, but not garish, according to the guidelines. They should also be in scale with surrounding development. A wide variety of plants are expected for landscaping and while the rules don’t require adhering to resiliency standards of energy efficiency and water conservation, developers will have to present to the city their approach on those issues.
“I’m very supportive of the ordinance,” said council member Peter Altman. He said he thought the rules would still allow complexes to be built affordably.
“It’s something we’ve been needing and lacking,” said council member Matt Murphy. “We don’t want a cheap, boring development project that’s not going to complement our community. Instead we want quality investment in our community.”