Tuesday, December 08, 2015

SAB Comm'n to Decide All Big Development Decisions

Beach gets new mayor, vice mayor
Commissioners discuss major impact development ordinance

Posted: December 7, 2015 - 11:24pm | Updated: December 8, 2015 - 6:49am
St. Augustine Beach has a new mayor.
During Monday’s commission meeting, commissioners appointed Vice Mayor Rich O’Brien to serve as mayor for two terms.
O’Brien, who was elected as mayor in 2007 and 2012, was nominated Monday by incumbent Mayor Andrea Samuels.
He won 3-2 against Commissioner Undine George, who nominated herself after the public voiced their support.
Five people addressed the commission, saying George should be appointed mayor.
George is the only commissioner to have not been mayor, and there was agreement that it was her turn to have the title.
“Undine is my wife, but she is more than qualified,” said Ed George, her husband and former mayor. “(She) has been nothing but positive and is the voice of reason on contentious issues.”
Beach resident Ann Palmquist added: “She brings a different point of view.”
George acknowledged the group’s support and said she would make being mayor a top priority for the residents.
“I’m honored by the support, and I’m not usually self-serving or self-driven, but I’ve been hearing a lot of requests, so I’m nominating myself,” she said.
Later in the meeting, she accepted a nomination by Samuels to serve as vice mayor. The commission unanimously voted in favor of her.
Big development
With the mayor and vice mayor elected, attention turned to an ordinance that would give the commission sole authority on approving major impact development.
The ordinance, which also set tighter restrictions about what constitutes a major land development, was unanimously approved by the commission Monday night. The power used to be allotted to the Planning and Zoning Board, but was re-visited after approval in June of an Embassy Suites on A1A Beach Boulevard.
The estimated height for the hotel is 53 feet, which exceeds a limit Beach residents set when they voted on a charter referendum last year.
They agreed to a 35-foot limit, but Beach officials said the Embassy Suites needs to be raised for flood insurance purposes, and those state and federal regulations supersede the charter. The area in which people live and work will be capped at 35 feet, said City Manager Max Royle.
“This ordinance will take some of the heat off the PZB and place the responsibility back onto the commission, who are elected,” Commissioner Margaret England said Monday night.
O’Brien added: “Someone said this would be micro-management. To me, it’s oversight. We are the elected officials, and the expectation was we would weigh in on Embassy Suites. We did not, but we should have, and this is what we need to take care of.”
He also said the ordinance is not a reflection on the competency of PZB members.
“They are qualified people, but this is what residents want,” he said.
But Beach resident Robert Kahler said the ordinance is hypocritical.
“You’re hanging the blame on the PZB for something that was created by the commission,” he said. “Who hired advisement to the PZB? You guys did, and now you’re going to turn around and say ‘shame on those people, they need to be watched.’ ”
Other business
Other topics on Monday’s agenda included:
n An ordinance clarifying where measuring building height starts that doesn’t violate state and federal laws;
n Approval of using the Embassy Suites property for parking during Beach Blast Off;
n Review of proposals for a land planner and grant writer;
n Approval of the painting of crosswalks on A1A Beach Boulevard.

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