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Madeira Beach commission okays new zoning district

The city manager sees both property owners and the City Commission gaining from approval of this planning "tool."

Published May 1, 2005

MADEIRA BEACH - After months of discussion, the City Commission unanimously approved on Tuesday a new planned development zoning district for the city.

The decision will allow the commission to garner more public input and increase its own accountability concerning what gets built in the city.

"For the private property owners, they gain some flexibility," said City Manager Jill Silverboard, minutes before the vote. The city is going to "gain a higher-quality project."

"I believe it's a tool the community's ready for and would benefit from," she added.

The new zoning district is meant to accommodate "integrated and well-designed" projects that offer flexible design and encourage "imaginative, functional, high-quality" developments, the ordinance reads.

The projects will involve two or more buildings, may have multiple uses, and be compatible with the adjacent structures, land and activities.

Developers have no obligation to develop their property in this way, Silverboard said. Because of the intensity of the process and the extra steps they have to take, she said it's unlikely this type of zoning will be utilized often.

When it is, each project under consideration will require three public hearings, as well as one neighborhood information meeting. The hearings before the commission will be quasijudicial, their decisions appealable to the circuit court.

To ensure all facets of the project are disclosed, the smallest to largest details of the developers' plans will be scrutinized, city officials said.

Of the 25 residents at the meeting, the handful who spoke liked planned development zoning, but were concerned about the practicalities of it and the potentials for abuse.

John Peterpaul said the plan seems to be a "mini-master plan that changes the codes." Developers will offer up their plans to the city, without added incentive, he said.

"These are dangerous situations that are going to haunt us because of a lack of foresight within the codes," he said. "You don't need to eliminate our codes to get where you need to go. ... They're going to come. We don't need to incite them by giving them something in our code."

In a Thursday phone interview, Silverboard said planned development does not change city codes and the minimum standards will still be required, with two exceptions: setback and height requirements.

"The idea is to allow for the flexibility in the layout of the project so we can achieve greater compatibility (with surrounding buildings), possibly better view corridors and take into consideration a property with unique characteristics," she said. "That doesn't mean there won't be a standard. It just means there will be a standard that's appropriate for the property."

As a way to discourage abuse of the new powers commissioners will have, Kevin Connolly, former commissioner and a new Planning Commission member, suggested a three-year moratorium on city commissioners, city staff or Planning Commission members benefiting financially from the developments.

Mayor Charles Parker agreed with this suggestion, saying he trusts the integrity of the current commissioners but can't vouch for those in the future.

In some regards, the new zoning will dictate requirements above and beyond current standards, Silverboard said. The commission could require property owners to put utilities underground, for example.

"It's not a free-for-all, but it is a different approach," she said. "There's some risk but there's trade-off there."

For more details on planned development, pick up free copies of the ordinance at City Hall, 300 Municipal Drive.

In other business, commissioners:

Welcomed Elaine Barclay, the new deputy city clerk, Tuesday night. She started April 11 and will assist City Clerk Denise Schlegel.

Voted unanimously to require any requests for vacations of public rights of way to be voted on by referendum. The vacations will be granted only if a majority votes to do so.

[Last modified April 30, 2005, 23:59:18]

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