Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bonita Springs City Council adopts Complete Streets Policy

BikeWalkLee is thrilled to see the City of Bonita Springs join the complete streets movement!  Congratulations to the City Council that unanimously and enthusiastically adopted the complete streets resolution!  Be sure to say "thank you" to the Council members and staff! 

As we've reported over the past few months (see links below), Bonita Springs is moving in exciting directions in support of a complete streets and livable communities vision.  At the Oct. 15th meeting, the City Council unanimously and enthusiastically adopted a complete streets policy resolution and directed staff to begin implementation of the policy by incorporating it in the city's comp plan, ordinances, local development codes (LDCs), and other policies and procedures.   (Click here for Council agenda package, p. 5-8.) 
Public Comment
Several members of the public spoke in support of the complete streets resolution.  

BikeWalkLee's Darla Letourneau urged support and applauded the Council's many recent actions in support of complete streets and livable communities.  She highlighted the downtown redevelopment project, which clearly demonstrates that the Council, staff, and its consultants "get it" and are integrating the concepts in a visionary way in this specific project. Letourneau reviewed the history of Lee County's participation in the complete streets movement: when Lee County first adopted complete streets policies in 2009, there were only 3 other communities in Florida and 100 in communities across the country.  Fast forward to 2014 and there are now over 600 communities nationwide and 32 in Florida.  With the recent FDOT complete streets policy announcement, Florida is poised to see many more communities join the movement.

Letourneau outlined why the complete streets approach is so successful.  It's based on some simple ideas:
  • streets should be safe for people of all ages and abilities, whether they are walking, driving, bicycling, or taking the bus;
  • It's based on a belief that the streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities;
  • Complete streets are safer streets--and that's really important in FL and Lee County because bike/ped fatalities are highest in country;
  • It's about improving bike/ped connectivity, which encourages use of alternative transportation; and
  • It provides a path to multi-modal transportation system. 
She encouraged the Council to quickly move forward to integrate the complete streets approach into the city's policy framework-- from its comp plan, to ordinances, LDCs, procedures and practices.

Sarah Baker, with the Lee County Department of Health and a member of Bonita Springs' Bike/Ped Advisory Committee (and BikeWalkLee's Bonita rep), spoke about the importance of complete streets in fostering healthy lifestyles, which is an important tool in addressing the county's obesity problems.

Dr. Margaret Banyan (FGCU professor and BWL steering group member) spoke about the economic value of complete streets.  Research shows that complete streets increase the livability of a community and add value economically.  She cited several studies that demonstrated the increase in business activity and private property values from investments in bike/ped/transit facilities.

Beth Brainard, the Executive Director of the Naples Pathways Coalition spoke in support and talked about the importance of connecting Lee and Collier Counties and about the potential for attracting more residents and visitors if we provide safe and accessible biking and walking facilities.

Tessa LeSage, the Director of Social Innovation and Sustainability with the SWFL Community Foundation talked about the importance of complete streets and sustainability policies and programs to be competitive for grants.  Bonita Springs' sustainability strategy and complete streets policy positions the city to be recognized nationally as a sustainable city that will give it a leg up in competing for businesses, workers, and residents, as well as for grants. 

 Staff Presentations
There were two presentations by staff.  First, John DePalma, the transportation consultant to the Public Works Department, spoke about multi-modalism and complete streets, highlighting the guiding principles of both, the challenges faced, and how Bonita could address those challenges.

Jenn Duffala Hagen with Bonita's Community Development staff presented an in-depth power point about complete streets, and identified the following benefits for Bonita Springs:
  • It's consistent with the city's adopted sustainability strategy;
  • It supports the Florida Green City designation that the city is pursuing;
  • It supports the city's comp plan transportation element;
  • It has many economic benefits--from lowering transportation costs for residents, stimulating stimulates and diversifying the local economy, to improving property values
  • It provides transportation choices and encourages more active transportation;
  • It has many social benefits--from improving safety and providing access, fostering strong communities, attracting new residents and young professionals, and promoting an active lifestyle;
  • It has many environmental benefits--from reducing emissions, reducing heat island effect, to contributing to a more comfortable and visually interesting environment through greenscaping.

Council Discussion
Council members spoke in support of the resolution, thanked the staff and public for their presentations and comments, and focused on the next steps of implementation and the connection between the complete streets policy and the many other initiatives the city has undertaken--from the downtown redevelopment project, to the Bonita Beach Rd. visioning project, to the traffic study, and encouraged staff to go beyond the currently approved venders list of consultants to recruit companies with experience in these various programs and new approaches.  The Council unanimously adopted the complete streets resolution and directed staff to begin the process of integrating it into the city's policy framework, including the comp plan, ordinances, LDCs, etc.

Mobility Fee Discussion
As requested by the Council at its Aug. 6th meeting, the staff presented its study of mobility fees as a potential replacement for road impact fees.  The staff's PowerPoint ( see Agenda Item H, p. 9-19.) provided a comparative analysis of the two types of fee systems and how they operate and the benefits of each.  The staff had analyzed the mobility fee systems of several Florida communities and focused on the City of Kissimmee experience as the most applicable to Bonita Springs.  

The consensus of the Council was that the first step was for the city to conduct the various connectivity and transportation studies underway, incorporate complete streets into the policy framework, look at what needed to be changed in the vision and comp plan, all of which may result in a radically different CIP.  Once that revised CIP is developed and they know the costs, then they can come back to the issue of the best tools for financing those costs--whether it's road impact fees, mobility fees, special assessments or some hybrid combination.  They agreed that they would need to consult a mobility fee expert to provide more in-depth advice.  In the meantime, staff is exploring the possibility of expanding the uses of road impact fees to include bike/ped facilities by analyzing capacity on the basis of trips, not just vehicle capacity.

BikeWalkLee congratulates the City of Bonita Springs for its adoption of a complete streets policy and looks forward to working with the City on its many innovative initiatives.

Past BikeWalkLee Blogs on Bonita developments:
BikeWalkLee Blog: Aug. 26, 2014:  BikeWalkLee calls for comprehensive transportation planning at Aug. 22nd MPO Board meeting (which includes the US 41 and Bonita Beach Rd. flyover issue and Background on Bonita Springs developments)

Report by Darla Letourneau

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