Since the adoption of the OLF-8 Hybrid Compromise Plan, the design team and County staff have been hard at work putting the plan elements into a code of ordinances to be adopted by the County Commission.
As this process moves forward to a close, here is the current, tentative timeline for the final adoption of the plan:
September 7, 2021
The Planning Board will hold a workshop for a final review of the Master Plan elements, design code, and planning documents for OLF-8. In addition, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is expected to approve the Future Land Use (FLU) Map on or around September 8, 2021. Should there be no major changes or amendments, the Master Plan will move to the next step.
October 5, 2021
Ordinance language for the Master Plan will go to the Planning Board for review and recommendation to the County Commission. Once approved by the Planning Board, the entire package of documents (DEO-approved FLU Map, Zoning, Planning, and Design elements) will move forward to the Board of County Commissioners for consideration.
October 7, 2021
The Board of County Commissioners will hold the first of two public hearings for the OLF-8 Master Plan. The different legislative elements of the Master Plan will be contained in a series of documents, each of which will require a vote by the BCC for approval.
October 21, 2021
Second of two public hearings/meetings on the Master Plan elements. Once all parts of the Master Plan receive two public hearings and two affirmative votes by the BCC, the Master Plan will be officially adopted.
As always, if there are significant edits, amendments, or other delays to this process, the timeline for approval may change. Check back here or at the MyEscambia Project Page to stay updated.
After several public record requests of the OLF-8 Master Plan team’s external and stakeholder emails, we were also asked to turn over our internal emails and text messages as well.
In the interest of transparency, here they are, along with the memo from team leader Marina Khoury to the Board of County Commissioners.
On my email to Alison below, you will see attached a link to the internal team emails and text messages, per Commissioner Bergosh’s public records request on February 11th.
As you will find in our emails, the team certainly has opinions on this project and expresses them internally. You will see that the team is working diligently to include as many stakeholders as possible, but that we are also keenly aware of the political nature of this project, and we strive to avoid those entanglements. Our goal in this project has been to ensure that the public is heard, to be treated as professionals, and to provide you our best recommendation based on the scope of work in our contract.
We would also like to formally address some of the issues that have been raised over the past few weeks regarding this project.
County Staff Attendance
Based on our review of our meeting notes and requests, the only meetings where we were specifically asked for county staff to not be present were the meetings with Scott Luth. These meetings did discuss some confidential prospects in the economic development pipeline, as he explained to you earlier. Any other meetings where county staff were not present were set up by stakeholders directly with the team, and we did not think it necessary to include staff.
In addition, team members had one-on-one phone calls with stakeholders without staff or even other members of the contracting team. It has never been our practice, nor has it been for any of our clients, that a staff member was present in every interaction. That would be an incredibly time-intensive and unproductive use of your project manager’s time. In addition, it defeats the purpose of contracting with outside firms to manage stakeholder outreach.
We believe in engaging the public where they are. For us to get clear feedback, sometimes confidential plans from developers or other investors, or to simply create an environment for candid conversations, we do not share everything we are told. If constituents have opinions about the process or elected officials, unless we are asked to share those opinions, we do not. However, we draw all ideas presented to us, in public, at the charrette.
The same goes for you as our client. We do not share everything you tell us with the public. Our focus is on this project, and achieving the goals set forth in the contract. To be distracted by politics or personal agendas – from citizens or elected officials – would undermine that candid and trusting process.
Staff was present at our Town Hall meeting earlier this week and can provide you with an update.
Our Team’s Recommendation
To be clear, this team absolutely has a bias for the development OLF-8. That is what you hired us to do. In the same way that a doctor might tell a patient to watch their diet, get more exercise, or lose weight, so do we, as experts in our field, have recommendations that you are paying us to provide to you.
That should not be seen as subversive or as an attempt to undermine you. It should be seen as our contractually mandated effort to educate, provide context, and create expectations for the property, for both you and the public. It should be seen as the professionals you hired providing the advice you hired them to provide.
To be clear, we will design and develop the plan you direct us to provide when a majority of the board comes to that agreement. That does not mean our recommendation goes away, in the same way a doctor still provides care even if the patient doesn’t follow his recommendations to stop smoking or exercise more.
We hope this memo, along with our emails and text messages, address some of the questions and issues raised over the past few weeks and months. Our intention has always been to give you and the public the best information possible, based on our experience and data, for the development of OLF-8.
You have, with the Hybrid Plan, what we believe may be a workable solution for the future of OLF-8. This framework plan still needs refining, and there are still opportunities for adjusting it. We hope to see this process through and bring to the community a successful Master Plan, should you decide to move forward with our contract.
However, given the concern raised by some members of the BCC about the future of our engagement with you, we will respectfully wait for your direction or decision before we continue work on this project.
Earlier this month, Commissioner Robert Bender convened a meeting of some OLF-8 stakeholders regarding the future of the Master Plan process. That meeting was attended by Commissioner Bender, Scott Luth of Florida West, Lewis Bear of the Pensacola-Escambia Development Commission, Keith Hoskins of Navy Federal, and members of the DPZ team.
The purpose of the meeting was to develop a framework for a compromise plan on OLF-8, and we applaud Commissioner Bender for his leadership as Chairman of the Commission to bring this meeting forward.
Four Charrette Plans
As you may recall, the DPZ Team developed four master plan scenarios over the course of the last several months, including the ten-day virtual charrette engagement. Those four plans represented a wide range of ideas, goals, and emphases for the property.
The Commerce Park plan focused almost exclusively on industrial and commercial uses, with a small area of retail and office space, and a handful of multi-family residential units.
The Market Plan was ranked as the top choice by the DPZ Team as the highest and most valuable use of the land. That plan emphasized residential development, recreational and civic space, and still preserved 92 acres for targeted job creation along with a town center for retail and amenities.
The Village Plan was the top choice of charrette participants, which created large swaths of undeveloped areas or minimally developed “farmsteads” in addition to a 70-acre commercial area and a town center for shopping, dining and civic uses.
The Greenway Plan was the fourth plan developed, and created a unique layout and combination of uses, with a more aggressive allocation for commerce uses. This plan also scored well during the charrette, but due to the offset street grid, the team felt that this option would be the most difficult to achieve from a transportation and connectivity standpoint.
Post Charrette – A Compromise Plan
However, as these four plans were moved forward to the County Commission, it became apparent that none of the plans would muster majority support of the board. At that point, and at Commissioner Bender’s request, we began to discuss some options for a compromise plan, which would allow for private-sector retail and town center development, some residential space to support the retail areas, and significant acreage allocated for job creation.
In addition, the team explored the idea of integrating time limits and phasing triggers into the development plan. This would create flexibility into the future, so that space would be preserved for longer-term needs such as job creation and commerce, but it could also be revisited and re-evaluated for other market opportunities at a date certain.
The phasing triggers would also help to guide future land-use decisions by setting timeframes for additional development, once certain milestones were achieved on the site. This would create a flexible and market-responsive roadmap for the future of OLF-8. View the presentation here.
How Much Land for Jobs?
One of the critical and lingering questions during this process has been the amount of space that should be allocated for targeted jobs. The UWF Haas Center performed an economic impact analysis which modeled the effects of 1,000/2,000/3,000/4,000 jobs on OLF-8. Not surprisingly, the data shows a significant economic impact for each targeted job created. On average, for every 100 targeted, high-wage jobs created, there are another 60-80 additional jobs created as a result.
These numbers certainly make the case for a robust job-creation effort on OLF-8, the primary goal of this project. The question for our team has always been, how much land is required to create these jobs? Our analysis of multiple different industries indicates that 1,000 jobs can fit on anywhere from 9 to 72 acres, depending on the job type.
This means that every master plan scenario we designed can accommodate at least 1,000 jobs at the largest warehouse level, and thousands more jobs at the smaller, more technical levels. In addition, many of these employers with higher jobs-per-acre are also the companies that pay higher wages and support broader economic growth.
Moving Forward…We Hope
The DPZ Team is encouraged by the initial responses by stakeholders and members of the Commission to the compromise plan, which we are calling the Hybrid Plan.
However, our commitment is, and always has been, to be an honest broker and advisor to both the County Commissioners AND the community. Our scope of work, as well as our own internal beliefs, place a high value on public engagement and public interaction.
Thus, we are hosting a Virtual Town Hall on March 2, at 6:00 p.m. for members of the public to share their ideas, opinions and suggestions on this new plan. This presentation is outside the scope of our contract, but we are donating our time to prepare, promote, and present this new plan so you will have the chance to be heard. Click here to register.
On March 11, 2021, the Board of County Commissioners will meet again and discuss the OLF-8 Master Plan as well as the future of this project. We are hopeful that the BCC will continue to support the work of the Master Plan team and the public’s engagement in this project.
Have Your Say on the Future of Former Helicopter Field
A 500-acre former helicopter training field in Beulah is ready for a makeover…or at least a plan. The landing field, known as OLF-8, is now the property of the citizens of Escambia County, and county commissioners want the public to help decide its future as part of a master plan for the site that can maximize the possibility of bringing high-paying jobs to the site.
After being postponed due to Hurricane Sally, the internationally-recognized town planning firm DPZ will lead a series of online community meetings to gather input and ideas on the future development of OLF-8, beginning Tuesday, Oct. 13. The series of meetings, called a “charrette,” allows citizens and stakeholders to participate directly in the planning and design process.
Marina Khoury, partner with DPZ, said the charrette process brings the community together with the planning and design team to collaborate on the master plan. “The term charrette is a French word that means ‘an intense and collaborative planning workshop,’ so we need the community’s input to help us develop master plans,” said Khoury.
“At the beginning of the charrette, we will present the research and analysis of the site, as well as a few different scenarios for the development of the OLF-8 site. For the next 10 days, we will be asking the citizens to share their feedback, suggestions, and ideas with us as we refine those scenarios,” Khoury continued. “This allows the community to see their input and feedback implemented and incorporated into the plan, almost in realtime.”
For those who would like to participate in the charrette process, there will be 12 different events that you will be able to check into virtually. Seven of those will be small group meetings where topics such as transportation and infrastructure, marketability and jobs, and community needs will be addressed.
Three larger evening presentations will update the community on the data and analysis gathered during the project, share initial, intermediate, and final design scenarios, and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Each of these evening presentations will build on the previous presentations, showing the progress and input collected from the public during the process.
In addition, walkability expert Jeff Speck will present two special seminars on the broader concepts of walkability and master planning. These sessions will provide citizens and stakeholders with a higher-level understanding of the concepts and best practices within the master plan.
Information about all of these sessions, and ways to participate, can be found by clicking here.
Citizens wishing to participate who do not have internet access should contact OLF-8 Project Manager Terri Berry at 850-595-3421. Accommodations will be made.
Project Website Allows Citizens to Give Input at Their Convenience
The OLF8 Master Plan project team, led by DPZ CoDesign, has officially launched their website and Facebook page, and the team is ready for your feedback.
“This OLF-8 project is really a project for the entirety of Escambia County,” said Escambia County District 1 Commissioner Jeff Bergosh. “We need citizens to bring their unique perspective to this project so that our planning team will have the best information to create something that really makes a difference in Beulah and Escambia County as a whole.”
The OLF8 Master Plan project is an Escambia County-driven initiative to turn the empty helicopter field by Navy Federal Credit Union Campus into a thriving asset for the community. The project team was selected by the Escambia County Commissioners to create a plan to maximize the opportunities for jobs and community uses on this 500 plus acre site in Beulah.
“Even though we are living in unprecedented times, that is no reason to sacrifice public input, especially on this project,” said team leader Marina Khoury, of DPZ Design. “With this website, we look forward to getting feedback from the community today, which will be very helpful for us leading up to our charrette week in September and beyond.”
At MyOLF8.com, residents can find many ways to not only learn about the project, but also how to participate as a citizen in the project planning. Learn about the team members guiding the project, read the project goals set out by the county and explore the ample opportunities to leave your own input.
“This is a really big project for Escambia County, so it’s important to us to know that the citizens will have plenty of opportunities to give their input,” said Terri Berry, Project Coordinator in the Natural Resources Management Department. “We’re excited to finally hear what the community has to say and what they want to OLF8 to be.”
The website contains an interactive online map where citizens can leave virtual “flags” with their ideas, such as what they would like to see at the location, or if they know something about the geography of a particular portion that would be of interest to the project team.
MyOLF8.com also has the ability to conduct public meetings, like charrette week, with a large virtual presence. Charrette week, which begins on September 21, is the team’s chance to sit down with members of the community to hear their concerns and their wishes for the project.
During the week, the design team will use that feedback to craft a plan for the site that creates the highest and best use for the community. At the end of the week, the team will have another large presentation where the public input-based plan is debuted. This week will also consist of smaller topic-based meetings to gather citizen ideas and feedback.
Project managers said the new concerns over group meetings have pushed many citizen activities online, but with perhaps even better results.
“In the last few months, we have observed a larger virtual presence at other charrettes conducted and have seen promising results,” said Khoury. “It is our aim to be as inclusive as possible and we expect to receive more input online than we could have expected in person. The platform we are using will make it easy for anyone to leave a comment, and we will easily be able to track them.”
Be sure to follow along with the project on Facebook, as well as the website, where we will be posting regular updates.