A look at meaning of 'mixed use'

PHOTO CAPTION: 
Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, District 3

Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, District 3Some of the comments in my previous articles were about the retail bubble, how it collapsed and yet we know there will always be retail, just with a different look and feel, I have also talked about the changes it will create locally, and I want to continue that discussion.
 
There are steps I think we can take to create success; for the future of Citrus County, these steps can be as I suggested before, again one is to think differently about our Land Development Code, there will hopefully be many people in the community with input, so I will continue to talk about it to help drive the conversation with suggestions.
 
Many who came to Citrus to escape crowded cities believe mixed use will create an an unwanted influx of growth. My reply is that growth in a great place like Citrus County is inevitable, we should prepare for it through mixed zoning, and you and your family will see benefits like added convenience, reduced blight, and higher home values.
 
So my first suggestion is most importantly to focus on creating a clear “mixed use” sections as part of a Land Development Code change in the future. We need to understand that all business that are brick and mortar have to keep costs down and be allow them to generate as much money as possible at that location.
 
So they have to develop a commercial land that makes people want to come in, yet still also have to face the challenges of the market and the internet.
 
So in a retail store it has to sell a certain amount of product or charge enough for a type of product to generate foot traffic or revenue, and if not, then you see what we have here in Citrus County: blighted strip malls and empty storefronts.
 
On the other hand locations that rent apartments are only able to charge what the market will allow and it is dependent on the types of jobs and wages available in the community, and in the past it depended on the previous to drive success for the latter.
 
The rental businesses are restricted in population density requirements and have the challenges of making it a place people want to move to and live in, be it because of the style or the location, so cost of development has to be kept as low as possible to help insure long term profitability and simultaneously make it appealing to the renter.
 
So my first suggestion, and I think an obvious initial step, is helping business through the creation of a mix use section of the Land Development Code that will allow a business to have multiple uses, and help insure a cost effective business model that should allow for long term security.
 
But there will be challenges to this. First are the assumptions that we can just do it through the already established process, by using a town center or a planned unit development (PUD).
 
While these tools do technically help facilitate something that is more like a mixed use policy, it's not nearly as permissive as a true mixed use section. The goal of a proper mixed use section is simple: shorten the process and allow businesses to succeed through a less expensive process.
 
Every single business has one goal, making money.
 
By insuring the ability to maximize the use of the location, streamlining the process and creating a more predictable system, we should see a growth of business, supported by the new home building and those who have moved into once empty (foreclosed) homes.
 
A mixed use code will also help insure that we have a better ability to change use, as many know there are places that have changed use from a residential to a commercial (Dr’s office, restaurants and lawyer office, are some examples​).
 
But the goal is to insure this continues to happen in a much broader spectrum.
 
I would love to see letters to the editor with suggestions of changes, what people think could be a real enhancement to the community with the already established or historical buildings.
 
I have to tell you that every time I drive by the old Van Ness auto parts store on Hwy 41 with it's big barn, I think a restaurant with the barn being converted to outdoor seating and attract people there to eat some food and ride the trail. Instead of a state funding for a trailhead it could be a mom and pop business that can, not only provide food, but also take advantage of the trail by creating a private park (trailhead).
 
I see empty strip malls being both commercial and residential, old motels​being both short term rental and business offices.
 
I may never have the funds to create business like that, but as a policy maker I want to insure that any good ideas that comes to us will have the support and encouragement that the government can give.
 
So let's start by encouraging business growth. I think the first step is a “Mixed Use” section to our Land Development Code. In the end, we can change it so that in the future we don't make it work, but instead allow it to work.
 
As always, this is a conversation, these are my thoughts, and I look forward to yours.
 
Jimmie T. Smith,
Citrus County Commissioner, District 3