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Changes to St. Pete Beach development rules will take time

ST. PETE BEACH — Before recent voter-approved ordinances affecting development rules can go into effect here, they must be formally approved by the City Commission.

Last Tuesday, the city's comprehensive development plan — a bone of contention for several years now — was amended by voters.

Once the commission adopts the changes to the plan, they must also be approved by the county and the state. So, residents are unlikely to see any real effect in the city from the new rules right away.

This process could take three months, according to City Manager Mike Bonfield.

The first commission vote will come Tuesday during a public hearing on ordinances governing development regulations. The second and final vote will be June 24.

The commission is expected to ratify the amended comprehensive plan at its June 16 meeting.

And even though a legal challenge to the June 3 referendum election failed to stop the election, more legal challenges are virtually a given and could delay implementation of the comprehensive plan and its related development regulations.

Ken Weiss, an attorney leading the fight against the new development rules, has asked the court to declare the results of the election "null and void."

He is also "considering his options" for legal challenges based on a phrase that was included in the "whereas" section of each of the four ordinances approved by voters.

Each ordinance says "Whereas, the majority of registered voters" in the city approved the action. Weiss says although a majority of voters who participated in the election did approve the ballot questions, that number was not a majority of the city's approximate 7,500 voters.

"How many issues can be overlooked before people say: Was something wrong with the election?" Weiss asked.

"Eventually this will be resolved. This is all about citizens voting rights. The real question is the sanctity of the ballot and the ballot summary has to be valid for an election. If not accurate, how can we say there has been a real vote?"

Weiss is representing William Pyle in the current lawsuit against the election results. Pyle is a major financial supporter of a political action group, Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRG), which is opposed to the now approved changes to the city's land use plan.

The referendum election was the result of a successful petition drive by Save Our Little Village (SOLV).

The four ballot questions proposed by SOLV and approved by voters amended the city comprehensive plan to create a community redevelopment district, as well as establish a large resort section of the city's land development code. The ordinances also changed the city's general standards for redevelopment and the city's Town Center core development regulations.

Bonfield said Friday that SOLV will not have any role in the implementation of the development ordinances but likely will participate in resolving any legal disputes involving the new regulations.

Changes to St. Pete Beach development rules will take time 06/07/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 5:47pm]
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