More than three and half years ago Margate city officials approved 1.5 parking spaces per unit for the 240-unit Toscana Luxury Apartment complex on NW 31st Street. Some said it wasn’t enough. They were right. Toscana returns to City Hall Tuesday to request a parking variance from the City’s Board of Adjustment. ____________
Pushing projects through quickly and dealing with problems later is commonplace among South Florida cities and developers.
One such development is Toscana Luxury Apartments on NW 31st in Margate across from the Penn Dutch Plaza.
Located along Margate’s Transit Oriented Corridor (TOC), parking requirements for Toscana were described as impractical, dangerous and unrealistic when site plans were approved by city officials in 2013.
“What’s a half a car? Somebody please explain that to me,” said City Commissioner, Tommy Ruzzano at the time.
A half-a-car is what Margate wrote into its zoning requirements for new apartments when State Road 7 was rezoned as a TOC corridor a few years back. The reasoning behind reducing the code from two parking spaces per unit to 1½ was to account for an increase in public transportation use by residents - “a hypothetical consideration at best,” reported MargateNews.net.
Then Ambassador to the city's Chamber of Commerce and now an elected official in Margate, Anthony Caggiano, said two parking spaces per unit were critical. Most couples have at least two cars and if they have a child over 16 living with them that makes three, he said in 2013.
“This is Florida. This isn’t New York where people are jumping on trains and buses,” said Caggiano, who three years later was voted into office. ”1.5 just doesn’t cut it.”
Toscana engineers now say more parking is needed as occupancy nears capacity. On Tuesday, petitioners will be asking the BOA to approve a variance that would allow the apartment complex to provide residents with an additional 18-foot drive isle to enhance 90-degree parking conditions, along with tandem parking that can be accessed only through other spaces. Petitioners are also asking the city to void the 19-foot clearance required by code for parallel parking. Because the lot is Z-shaped, engineers failed to provide adequate parking for residents during the construction phase of the project and the city failed to notice.
“The fact that the commission was flim-flammed and coerced into going along with this shows how fragile the decision process is up here,” Margate resident, Rich Popovic told commissioners during pre-construction talks. “It’s scary, because you’re also in charge of our redevelopment.”
Due to unique conditions on the property, Margate planning staff has declared a “genuine hardship” for Toscana. City planners recommend the BOA approve the drive isle and parallel parking concepts, but deny tandem parking.
“This [tandem parking] has a high potential to create a nuisance,” wrote staff.
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