Those opposed have expressed concerns regarding unchecked development and greater congestion. Those in favor site the lack of redevelopment of any kind since the 2002 restrictions were put in place and the need to revitalize the town and increase the tax base, to keep tax rates for everyone down. The debate goes on but from what we are hearing, the city is in dire need of tax revenue and only modest changes to the height restriction is being proposed, so this debate deserves the attention it is getting.
“Fear of Heights” The Building Height Debate Continues in Cocoa Beach
We have not heard a single group lobby or suggest they want more high rises in Cocoa Beach. This is a good thing, but what we are hearing and what we think makes sense, is a loosening of the Charter imposed restrictions so some meaningful redevelopment can happen which will allow property owners to rebuild some old properties and fill in land that has remained vacant for years. This will ultimately raise the tax base so that the city of Cocoa Beach can rebuild its aging infrastructure and attract new residents and higher-end travelers to this amazing beach community. If passed, the height relief would only apply to the recently created Redevelopment Districts – 13% of Cocoa Beach covering the commercial centers in town.
Here are representative photos of what can be constructed under the current regulations. The current regulations require building heights be measured 45 feet from the crown of the abutting road and are an absolute height (i.e nothing above). The developers of both projects shown had to max out the site to get the 10 units per acre permitted eliminating the ability to provide greater set backs and green space. By doing so they managed to squeeze in three floors over the parking with low ceilings.
These are two of only three buildings of any meaningful value constructed within the City limits since 2002 and almost nothing has been constructed in this city in over 15 years. There are vacant lots all around. Some people call it charming, while others call it run down and a ton of missed opportunity.
We received this graphic depicting a 75 ft building relative to other structures. What is clear is that 75 feet is not high-rise as represented by Cocoa Beach’s Stonewood Tower.
Now this next set of photos feature buildings that are 70 feet, more or less. You can find these structures in Brevard South of 16th Street and similar ones in Avon by the Sea and in Cape Canaveral to the north of town. Are these buildings really that bad?
We have not heard a single group lobby or suggest they want high rises in Cocoa Beach. What the Charter Review Committee may be suggesting is a 70ft building height with some allowance for utilities and architectural details on the roof like the bottom photo above.
Tim Tumulty, current resident and former Mayor of Cocoa Beach says, the Height is the issue, not density. “I understand everyone’s concern about height, but don’t confuse it with density. Bringing up the issue of overcrowding Cocoa Beach due to a height change is a false narrative. Density for residential property in Cocoa Beach, is limited to 10 units per acre. If buildings on that acre are one story or ten stories, only 10 units are allowed. Increasing the height will not increase the density.
The population in Cocoa Beach:
2007: 11,989 Dropped under 12k
2011: 11,207 Lowest recorded in the last 30 years
2018: Still under 12k
An investor of three commercial properties in downtown Cocoa Beach stated, that his properties were oceanfront and they planned to develop all of them to at least 5 stories to make a profitable return on investment. When the City decided to restrict them from developing the property, they made no further investment in the City and the properties languished and became stagnant. The properties were eventually sold and they remain mostly vacant to this day.
Could the City have used the extra tax revenues? The citizens of Cocoa Beach suffered successive increases of more than 10% in their property tax rates over the last two years increase which is being challenged in court by the Brevard County Clerk of Courts. What is certain is that without new development, residents will pay much higher property taxes over the years to come.
Any idea how much in property taxes from redevelopment could contribute to the City’s budget?
Tom Hermansen, local resident and property owner ran some numbers. “A vacant dirt lot in our downtown on A1A between Minuteman and 1st St North (aka the Ocean Dunes property) is assessed at about $720,000 and is currently garnering Cocoa Beach $3,940 in tax revenue. The proposed development of 25 units at Ocean Dunes would be valued for tax purposes at approximately $16,250,000 (25 x $650,000). This development could provide the City $2.7 million dollars in bonded funds – from a single project! Adding a 25-unit condo building – 4 stories over parking – to our downtown isn’t going to impact traffic one iota as half the owners will likely be snowbirds. But this single project represents a huge financial windfall to the City, which could pay for police officers, equipment or deferred infrastructure projects. There is a reason this site has been vacant since 2004 – its because the current height restriction of 45 feet absolute from the crown of the road, plus the very high cost of the land, makes it infeasible to develop to todays standards.”
This table summarizes the this calculation
Sounds like two mid-rise condos on in-fill lots could pay for a completely new City Hall without asking current residents for another dime in taxes. Makes sense to us!
There is lots of other capital projects we need to handle that just get pushed off for lack of funding. Here is a very short list take directly from the City’s budget document.
We can support increasing the building height, and not support high-rises at the same time. Seventy feet or 5 storys is not a high-rise, just modern construction. It would be great to see some new construction to fill in the vacant lots and replace some of the old and tired 1950s era structures around town. We think it would attract nicer clientele and minimize the burden low-end clientele attracted by cheap rates place on our community and our law enforcement and emergency medical service workers.
Local resident Kim Aromando also made a great point on local Facebook group Wake Up Cocoa Beach!, “Rapidly expanding Space X is and will be bringing wealth to the space coast. Our current hotel inventory does not sufficiently accommodate high end suites and rooms to house media or people who come and eventually pay $250,000 to orbit the earth. Space Coast property values are rising, numerous new mansions created on A1A. Is this in part a result of the Space X presence? Do the Cocoa Beach residents reject a proposal that would regenerate the tax base and the appeal of the area from one destination to another? Everyone is always wondering why the cruise ships don’t bus travelers into the Minutemen area. Do you want that business, or don’t you? Residents need to decide. Last week, driving by the parking lot north of YenYen, I saw 2 bikini-clad females on top of a pickup truck. Humping it. I know which travelers and visitors I would rather see occupying beautiful hotels.”
The bottom line and the one thing that is clear, if there is a proposed change, it will have to go to the voters to approve.