Tuesday, November 10, 2015

SAB Victory on Developer Regulation

Beach commissioners take control of big development decisons from PZB

Posted: November 9, 2015 - 11:39pm | Updated: November 9, 2015 - 11:53pm
The St. Augustine Beach commission will now have the final say in any developments that will have a major impact on the city.
The commissioners unanimously voted Monday night to approve an ordinance that gives them the power to approve major impact developments, a power that was once allotted to the Planning and Zoning Board.
The ordinance also re-defines what constitutes a major impact development.
Under the ordinance, a major impact development is any activity that exceeds 3 acres, involves more than 3,000 square feet of nonresidential floor space or is a residential project of more than 25 dwelling units.
“It places the burden of responsibility on elected officials, where it should be,” said Beach Mayor Andrea Samuels. “This (the ordinance) is our checks and balances. We only had a check, now we have a balance.”
Commissioner Undine George added: “We’re working on it, and everyone here has expressed their commitment to getting it resolved.”
The ordinance was a result of resident confusion about the respective roles the commission and PZB have in approving developments, like the Embassy Suites, which was approved by the PZB in June.
Since a variance wasn’t needed, the request didn’t come to the commission, and it was approved even though it exceeded an agreed-upon 35-foot height limit.
Officials argue the hotel has to be raised for flood insurance purposes, and the 35 feet doesn’t start until the first level of habitable space.
The ordinance was reviewed by the PZB during its October meeting, and it recommended it be postponed until a land use planner is hired.
But on Monday, Samuels said she didn’t want to wait.
“I think this is an extremely important piece of legislation, and it needs to happen now, to manage the growth of St. Augustine Beach,” she said.
But Robert Kahler, a Beach resident, believed the ordinance was blaming the PZB.
“(The ordinance) is taking the PZB to the woodshed unfairly, and I hate to see them take the blame,” he said
During Monday’s meeting, a temporary building moratorium was tabled.
The moratorium would have affected developers wanting to build on land stretching between Pope Road and A Street, east of Beach Boulevard to the ocean.
It was drafted by City Attorney Doug Burnett after some citizens asked if the building permit for the Embassy Suites could be stopped. Burnett advised that it legally can’t, but a temporary building moratorium might be a way to prevent confusion over how height is determined, according to a memo by City Manager Max Royle.
Samuels suggested waiting to see if the moratorium was needed after Thursday’s special meeting to discuss building heights.
“We’re going to discuss what language we can and cannot write, and what we can and cannot do,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to maintain the intent of the ordinance. I believe the workshop will be very beneficial for us to discuss these issues, and we’ll be able to get it done.”
She suggested coming back in December to discuss the moratorium.
“We can always come back to it if we need it,” she said.
The special meeting will be Thursday at 5:01 p.m. at City Hall.

sponger2 11/10/15 - 06:35 am 30Confused?
The residents weren't confused, they were pizzed off. The federal mandate for having the first floor above the flood tidal zone does't preclude them from adhering to the thirty five foot total height restriction. The rhetoric about starting at "that point from the first floor is simply that, rhetoric. In lay mans terms, that's called bullsh&t. The beach simply let it happen because Embassy had already invested large sums of money and were not going to be put off. And the beach caved, period.

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