Design Review Board Touted as Saving Money, Time

Published on Monday, 03 May 2010 23:23

The project to build the Publix supermarket in Ave Maria was delayed more than nine months and cost at least $150,000 more than necessary because of the need to seek variances from inapplicable Collier County building design standards, Barron Collier executive Blake Gable told residents at an informational meeting about a proposed architectural design review board Monday.

Ave Maria Development and Ave Maria University are proposing the establishment of an Ave Maria Design Review Board that would approve and administer design standards for non-residential and mixed-use buildings in the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District. Following Monday's informational meeting, at which no objections were raised by the approximately 20 residents in attendance, the proposal now moves to the district Board of Supervisors and then to the county in a process expected to last well into the fall.

Attorney George Vernadoe, who represents the developers and the university in this matter, said many of the standards in the Collier County Land Development Code have no applicability to the type of construction in the town of Ave Maria and on the university campus. "As a result, projects take longer," he said. He noted that the design review board would have authority only in aesthetic matters. It would have no authority over land use, and all other Collier County codes, such as building codes, electrical codes and fire codes, would continue to apply, he said.

Mr. Gable, President of Barron Collier's real estate division, said the time spent seeking variances for Publix cost between $150,000 and $200,000, delayed the project, and, "in the end, Publix said it was one of their most attractive buildings."

Another example cited by Mr. Vernadoe was the Golisano field house on the AMU campus. Since the county code dictated a number of glass windows which the University felt were inappropriate, it was forced to seek a variance for a new design. (The first design is shown on the left in the pictures below, and the picture on the right shows the final design.) After the meeting, Skip Doyle, the director of construction for AMU, said that those design changes increased the total cost of the building by at least $80,000.

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The proposed design standards are currently being drafted by a committee composed of representatives of the developers and the university, Mr. Vernadoe said. The next step is that those standards would be submitted for approval to the district Board of Supervisors and there would be a public hearing. The standards, along with the board's charter, would then be submitted to Collier County for approval and there would be another public hearing. The entire process would likely take four to seven months, Mr. Vernadoe estimated.

The proposal already has the "full support of the county and all county commissioners," Mr. Gable said.

The district Board of Supervisors would appoint all seven members of the proposed board and their terms would be staggered, Mr. Vernadoe said. The proposal calls for at least two to be "properly licensed and/or certified architects, planners, landscape architects, or engineers." Of the remaining five, one would be recommended by Ave Maria Development, one by AMU, one would be an owner, operator or representative of an independent business in Ave Maria, one would be a resident of the district not affiliated with the developers or the university, and one would be an "at large" member.