St. Pete Beach Poised For New Development?
On the evening of Monday, March 9, 2015, The St. Pete Beach City Commission approved on its second reading an ordinance approving a settlement to resolve the case of James Anderson, Joseph Kody and John Miller vs. City of St. Pete Beach, DOAH Case No. 13-00341GM, which legal battle has its origins over a decade ago. This ongoing legal battle over the beach has nearly frozen development within the City over that period. The City has been forced to issue warnings with any development orders since they could not guarantee they were consistent with its comprehensive plan; therefore, subjecting developments to the risk of costly and time consuming legal challenge.
The opponents of the most recent comprehensive plan were concerned about the condition and capacity of City’s public water, sewer and stormwater facilities; a significant increase in temporary lodging (hotel) units exceeding a proper ratio in hotel to residential units; inadequate long-term analysis of proposed development and evacuation planning; and excessive impervious surface within the hotel district.
The proposed settlement involves remedial plan amendments to the City’s comprehensive plan, which should go into effect later this month, pending any further legal challenge. The following are a few highlights of the plan amendments:
- Ensuring public infrastructure and facilities are, or will be, adequate to accommodate existing and proposed growth.
- Requiring public hearing for projects within the Community Redevelopment District that exceed 30 temporary lodging units per acre or 50 feet in height through the conditional use permitting process.
- Adding height (not to exceed 50 feet), setback and buffering policies for those portions of the Large Resort District which are within 200 feet of residential properties located outside the Community Redevelopment District.
- Adding a 30-foot wide landscape buffer for temporary lodging buildings over 50 feet in height.
- Eliminating the affordable housing density bonus within the Large Resort District.
- Limiting building height to 50 feet for residential or a mix of residential and temporary lodging within the Large Resort District.
- Limiting building height to 116 feet for temporary lodging within the Large Resort District.
- Eliminating references to a beach boardwalk or trail, but providing that the City may require an easement for public access landward of the mean high water line as part of any large scale development within the Large Resort and Boutique/Hotel Condo Districts.
Amendments to the City’s Land Development Code will likely follow to ensure consistency with the comprehensive plan changes, which will continue to provide opportunities to continue the dialog on what level of development is appropriate, but this is a great step towards inviting development into one of the regions great beach communities. St. Pete Beach is a regional amenity and is important to the economy of the entire Tampa Bay region as a vacation destination, so it must stay attractive and relevant. While some might object to seeing new development in the area, it comes with opportunities to improve infrastructure which likely all support.