Madeira Beach gives new zoning tentative approval

Published April 17, 2005

MADEIRA BEACH - Commissioners took the first steps Tuesday night toward adding a new form of development to the city: planned development zoning districts.

The zoning is not meant for typical big-box condo developments, city officials said. It exists for projects that involve two or more buildings, which may have multiple uses, and wish to bring "imaginative, functional, high-quality" developments to the city.

The new zoning district, which commissioners passed unanimously on first reading, will allow the city and the public to have a much greater role in deciding the types of development that come into the community, said City Manager Jill Silverboard.

For instance, each project under consideration will require three public hearings as well as one neighborhood information meeting.

To ensure all facets of the project are disclosed, developers will have many elements of their plans scrutinized, including building dimensions, setbacks, architectural treatments and public improvements.

The hearings before the commission will be quasijudicial, their decisions appealable to the circuit court.

For all these reasons, it is unlikely this new designation will be used very often, Silverboard said.

"Application will be minimal in this city because there's a limited number of proprietors that will choose to redevelop in this way," she said.

Residents at the meeting questioned everything from density requirements - potential projects must conform to the density set forth in their future land use categories - to the potential for abuse by developers and commissioners.

The city attorney said while the commission can deny approval, the reasons must be "articulable." Paula Cohen, the city's community development director, said no interaction between developers and commissioner is allowed outside the quasijudicial hearing.

"All of it is done in a public setting," she said.

The Planning Commission discussed the planned development district Monday night, recommending its passage with one change: they want more of a voice in the process. Members of the advisory board to the commission want such projects to come to them after the neighborhood meeting and before the commission meetings for review, without a public hearing and without quasijudicial proceedings.

Commissioners decided against this Tuesday, as the city attorney advised them it was against state law.

In other business, the commission:

Appointed two new members to the Planning Commission. Sarah Nichols' term will end in September. Kevin Connolly, a former commissioner, will sit on the board until September 2006.

Voted 4-1 to amend the land development regulations regarding swimming pools. Now pools may be located within the required 12-foot rear yard setback as long as a minimum setback of eight feet is maintained from the rear property line. It's subject to a signed and sealed engineer's certification verifying the seawall's structural integrity.