CNU Florida Chapter Meeting Attracts 300

crandell's picture

The third annual CNU Florida Chapter statewide meeting, Jan. 18-19 at Rollins College, attracted almost 300 new urbanists from across the state. Attendance this year has grown tremendously over last year's meeting, which brought in 200 attendees. The event allows members to come together to discuss issues of local concern, learn about the latest advances around the state, and meet other new urbanists. CNU Florida was CNU's first chapter and now has over 200 members.

Topics on Thursday included concurrency and New Urbanism, transportation and the Florida Green Book, the backlash against TNDs and New Urbanism, and implementing New Urbanism at the regional scale. Keynote speaker James Howard Kunstler spoke on Florida and the Long Emergency, and urged new urbanists to plan ahead and anticipate the coming energy shortage.

The agenda also included two awards presentations. The John Nolen Medal for contributions to urbanism in Florida was presented to the Miami School of Architecture, and the Charles Barrett Award for excellence in Architecture and Urban Design was awarded to Scott Merrill.

Meeting attendees will spend Friday morning in breakout groups to discuss and draft chapter positions on the topic covered at the meeting.

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MLewyn's picture

CNU Florida

I posted on CNU Florida at my blog (http://lewyn.tripod.com/blog). I wrote:

Last week I went to a conference of the Florida chapter of the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU). Two presentations were especially interesting.

Billy Hattaway of Glatting Jackson (a traffic engineering firm) spoke about CNU's efforts to reform the Florida Green Book (guidelines governing street design). These guidelines are apparently not pedestrian-friendly; for example, they call for streets to be designed for 50 mph traffic even if pedestrians are using them as well as drivers. I was aware of national traffic engineering guidelines put out by AASHTO (a national highway organization) but had no idea Florida had its own rules.

Engineers believe that compliance with these guidelines can immunize them from tort liability- often wrongly, because there's very little litigation against engineers when they are making discretionary policy choices. Hattaway said that CNU is working to create special, more pedestrian-oriented guidelines for New Urbanist developments. Unfortunately, these guidelines will be limited to Traditional Neighborhood Developments (TNDs- basically, New Urbanist developments, defined in the proposed guidebook) rather than applying to all developments.

Another interesting speaker was Frank Starkey, a developer. He said that New Urbanists face a difficult tradeoff: on the one hand, when developers borrow one or two elements of New Urbanism and wind up with something that is 99% conventional sprawl, this creates a backlash against New Urbanism as "prettied-up sprawl."

But on the other hand, New Urbanists' support of separate zoning disticts for TNDs with (in his words) "gold-plated design standards" was actually an obstacle to more pedestrian-friendly development, in two ways. First, the standards create an extra layer of bureaucracy for TNDs to go through, and often make TNDs more expensive. Second, if TND is an "all or nothing" choice, developers are more likely to choose the familiar status quo. My sense was (and maybe I'm projecting my own views onto his) that he thought New Urbanists should focus less on building the perfect TND code and more on improving the 99 percent of the market that is not TND.

Someone from Palm Beach County spoke about how the city facilitated downtown development in West Palm Beach. In addition to creating a form-based code, the city created one-stop review: an unelected commission could grant or deny permits within 45 minutes, and the commission was the only body a developer needed to go to. Result: a revitalized downtown (but also complaints about overdevelopment).

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