TREASURE ISLAND — Residents came out in force Wednesday to express their opinions about a proposed ordinance aimed to shape redevelopment on the north end of the island near John's Pass.
Nearly 100 people packed commission chambers for a special meeting where the City Commission took a first look at the planned development ordinance, which has just received six months of vetting by the local planning agency.
Representatives from a group called Our Treasure Island! — formed to stop any increase in density or height in island developments — told commissioners they are opposed to the proposed ordinance.
"If you continue down this path, we will fight you every step of the way," said Kay Stimer, a Key Capri Condominium resident and member of the group.
Shelley Eckert, another Key Capri member, questioned whether "spot zoning" was involved in Greenleaf Capital's plans to redevelop about 10 acres of property including Gator's Cafe & Saloon.
She said the commission was "misleading the public" by saying no redevelopment proposal had been presented to the commission because some plans had been discussed with individual commissioners and city staff.
But Brent Von Horn, assistant general counsel for Greenleaf, told attendees that there are no firm development plans as yet.
"We are cleaning up Gator's and the marina, taking care of our property," he said. "We continue to watch and see what our options are."
An initial conceptual plan floated by the real estate arm of HCI Holdings included a 14-story and a 10-story building on property at John's Pass. The company has said more density and height would be needed if they were to build a $100 million to $150 million high-end resort.
City staff had proposed the idea of a special planned development district, which would allow developers of large projects more flexibility in design and layout, drainage, and traffic circulation.
Any proposal for buildings higher than five stories or with a density of more than 50 units per acre would have to be voted on in a referendum election.
Commissioner Alan Bildz said he had problems with the proposed ordinance since he thinks it would violate a new state law that prohibits a development order going before voters for approval.
But city attorney Maura Kiefer said she had researched the issue and said voters would be asked to vote on a "text amendment" or a development regulation, not a development order.
Several residents pointed out potential problems with traffic patterns and congestion in the north end. John Sahn, owner of Twins Inn & Apartments, said he wished the planned development district could be extended to include his property on the west side of Gulf Boulevard north of 126th Avenue.
If the planned development district is successful, City Manager Reid Silverboard said it could potentially be expanded to other areas.
Resident Heidi Horak said she thought not allowing greater height and density would result in "ugly and blocky" buildings under existing zoning regulations.
"You are going to scare off the development community and you are not going to get the results you want," she said.
The proposed ordinance was pushed ahead to a first reading, initially planned for the commission's Feb. 18 meeting.