Why Laurel Park’s design standards are not perfect…….

Updating post…………

One of the design requirements for new construction in Laurel Park’s zone district –    RSM-9 was not adhered to during the site development for the new homes on Devonshire, Alderman and Rawls streets.  Each lot was mounded up with fill to provide a “platform” to build a home on without the necessity to elevate construction.



The developer had crews on site removing the tons of fill that was trucked in only a month ago.







Already the land is looking more like the city blocks they started with.   New homes built here will have to comply with all of the design standards adopted by the city for the RSM-9 zone district.



It is sad that so much money and energy was wasted on this.


The RSM-9 zone district and design standards were adopted decades ago for Laurel Park, well before a portion of the district became a National Register of Historic Places District and without consideration for the area of Laurel Park located in a flood zone or the varying size of the rights-of-ways that exist throughout the neighborhood.  As a result, the standards for redevelopment in Laurel Park have not always produced the results they were intended to accomplish.


Redevelopment on properties within the flood zone are required to meet the FEMA regulations ( The Federal Emergency Management Agency of the Federal government) as well as the RSM-9 design standards.

For some properties this means building the first floor as high as 6 to 7 feet off the ground. This can and has become awkward for maintaining a comfortable scale and balance in a district that is made up primarily of bungalows and cottages that are rarely higher off the ground than 18 inches.


RSM-9’s front yard setbacks can also be challenging for new construction in the flood zone.   Steep front steps are difficult to avoid constructing especially on properties that have no right-of-way extending beyond the curb and are required to build within 20 feet of the property line.


For the development of the homes on Devonshire within the flood zone, tons of fill has been trucked in creating a subdivision in the middle of Laurel Park’s traditional downtown city blocks.  The finished grade of the land is well above the surrounding neighborhood – an apparent disregard of the RSM-9 design standard “f.”

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In recent years the design standard for front porches has had to be rewritten to correct a wide interpretation of this standard after some new homes were built with porches facing side yards rather than the desired front porch.


Over the past decade planners and urban designers have designed far more effective tools to help build better, more comfortable, sustainable neighborhoods.  Form-base codes is one of these successful tools that has been applied throughout our country in some of the most desired cities, towns and neighborhoods.  Form-based codes are more flexible and adapt to the specific characteristics of each individual district, neighborhood and block so that all land issues are taken into account as well as the architectural fabric and relationship to the street.

The RSM-9 zone district design standards do not adequately fit the nature of all of the district.  Laurel Park and all of Sarasota deserve codes that do the very best to sustain our city’s unique built environment.

Read more about the City of Sarasota’s existing zoning code for RSM-9 and the 6 design standards below ……………..

As with all residential zone districts the intent of the City’s zoning code is:

“To create, maintain and promote the development and redevelopment of these neighborhoods while preserving their existing residential character. The regulations promote desirable residential areas by addressing aesthetically pleasing environments, safety, privacy, and recreational opportunities. The site development standards allow flexibility of development while maintaining compatibility within the City’s various neighborhoods. In addition, the regulations provide clarity to property owners, developers, and neighbors about the limits of what is allowed.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-27 at 5.43.31 PM The area of downtown Sarasota known as Laurel Park* is zoned RSM-9 (Residential Single Multiple 9 units per acre.)   The zoning category is unique to Laurel Park and includes six design standards that must be adhered to when building in the zone district.

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