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City visions match up, to a point

By KATHY SAUNDERS
© St. Petersburg Times
published July 28, 2002

TREASURE ISLAND -- Both sides on the development debate got together Friday to compare their visions for the future of Treasure Island. Turns out, they agree on more than they thought.

They all think taller buildings along the beach could improve the looks of the waterfront, as long as the designs and landscaping are controlled.

But the two sides still are divided on whether voters rather than city commissioners should make those land-use decisions. Proponents of a voter referendum are planning to continue to gather signatures from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today on Sunset Beach, Paradise Island and the Isle of Capri.

Walter Herring of the "Save Treasure Island" contingent said the group had about 1,700 signatures last week -- about 300 more than would be required to force the issue to a public vote.

The residents participating in the petition-signing drives want the voters to determine whether proposed changes to the city's Land Development Regulations should be approved. Right now, the suggested changes include an increase in height of all city building heights by 5 feet.

Hotels and motels could go as high as 100 feet if developers agree to leave more space between buildings, add landscaping and provide public beach access.

City commissioners sent the suggestions to the Planning and Zoning Board and voted last week to give the 15-member planning board until Aug. 28 to study the proposals and make their recommendations. The planning board has held two public meetings to review the plans and has scheduled another meeting and hearing Aug. 7 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at City Hall, 120 108th Ave.

Sid Rice, part of a family that owns about 10 acres on the northern tip of the island, and his attorney, Tim Ferguson of Naples, were among those who met with Sunset Beach resident Chris Hearn on Friday at the city-owned former chamber of commerce building. They were joined by Ken Brown, president of the Treasure Island Business Association, Harry Black, president of the Treasure Island Hotel/Motel Association, and architect Peter Jon Volmar. Other residents included Sunset Beach lawyer Heidi Horak and Gerry Ehly from the Isle of Capri. Former Commissioner Allan Sansotta attended by phone.

Those who attended the sit-down Friday plan to prepare individual wish-lists and meet again in the next 10 days.

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