By Tim Pallesen

    City commissioners want to limit the height of new Atlantic Avenue buildings to three floors in new downtown development rules set for final approval on Feb. 24.
    Other new buildings in the central business district would be limited to four floors.
    Housing density would be restricted to a maximum of 30 units per acre, with a shift away from studio and one-bedroom units.
    Other major changes in the first update of the downtown master plan since 2002 include a public open space requirement for new buildings over 20,000 square feet.
    The future downtown will be friendlier to pedestrians with front building setbacks increased from five to 10 feet. New landscape rules add five more feet of width from streets.
    A professional traffic study will now be required for large projects such as Atlantic Crossing.
    “We need this and we need it now,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said before the unanimous 5-0 vote on Feb. 3 to approve the changes on first reading. “This town is a jewel and we need to take a long-term view of the limited space we still have.”
    Commissioners were close to approving the new rules last December, but the process was delayed when Colony Hotel owner Jestena Boughton pleaded for the three-floor height limit to keep air and sunlight on Atlantic Avenue.
    “Thank you for doing what I asked,” Boughton said to commissioners at the Feb. 3 meeting.
    An attorney for one Atlantic Avenue property owner threatened to sue. But the mayor and city attorney said the height limit between Swinton Avenue and the Intracoastal Waterway is justifiable to preserve the historic character of Atlantic Avenue.
    The city still might give incentives that allow developers to build larger buildings for specific purposes.
    But commissioners rejected a request from the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency to allow office buildings to have five floors.

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