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Land use challenges come on 2 fronts

By JON WILSON
Published April 25, 2007


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The city's most influential neighborhood organization wants officials to revisit proposed land development rules with an eye toward tweaking some of the wording.

It is not a case of outright opposition to the new rules, said Barbara Heck, president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations.

"CONA is not against the (proposed rules). We love them," Heck said.

"A few little things cropped up as we evaluated word by word. You have to look at the details," she said.

Meanwhile, one of CONA's member organizations, Eagle Crest Civic Association, has assumed a more aggressive stance on a separate, but related, issue.

"It's absolutely in the context," said Lance Lubin, the Eagle Crest president. "To not see this associated within a larger context, with a ground war going on in St. Pete, is naive at worst and myopic at best."

Eagle Crest is suing the city government to stop the rezoning approval of 18 acres at Ninth Avenue N and 66th Street, which would pave the way for a development with townhomes, restaurants and banks.

Eagle Crest leaders have put up a Web site, www.helpsaveour neighborhoods.com, to explain the neighborhood's position and solicit funds to support its lawsuit.

Eagle Crest's fight is relevant to the progress of the new land development rules, Lubin said.

"You can see that the people directing the city are committed to making it something different than what it is. There is a belief among movers and shakers that single-family residences are unworkable, and beyond that, passe," he said.

CONA representatives are more concerned about certain pieces of verbiage, Heck said.

Among their concerns are limitations on who is allowed to appeal city board decisions about developers' plans, the length of time allowed between plan approval and construction start, and limits on how long a construction can go on.

Neighborhood associations should have the ability to appeal, Heck said. "It is one of the keys," she said.

CONA also wants to assure that neighborhood associations receive sufficient notice of hearings about planned projects, that protection is afforded to waterfront property and other parkland in neighborhood areas, that variances to development rules can be granted only by city boards, and that city boards retain seven members.

The proposed new rules, in the works for nearly seven years, are nearing adoption. But the City Council delayed a public hearing last month after legal questions arose.

CONA leaders plan to meet with city staff members to resolve concerns, Heck said. A meeting date has not been scheduled.

[Last modified April 24, 2007, 23:56:14]


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