TREASURE ISLAND — After hearing the first objections to a proposed new zoning district, city commissioners decided to give planning and zoning board members six months to review it and make recommendations.
A resident and two planning and zoning board members told commissioners last week that they think the proposal for a planned development district needs considerable revisions.
"After going through eight years of planning redevelopment and the referendum two months ago, now we are talking about going up 20 more feet," said resident Ed Gayton. "We are back to 2002."
But Michele Orton, interim community improvement director, said the new district would not increase density or height in the city's downtown core or the east side of Gulf Boulevard, two issues voters did not approve. The city administration is proposing the changes to encourage developers to build upscale hotels but current zoning doesn't allow the projects to be economically feasible, she said.
A planned development district would still be scrutinized by the City Commission, city staff and the planning and zoning board but would allow for increased density and height in some cases.
Gayton objected to recent revisions. Developers would be able to gain points by adding amenities such as additional public parking and the points could be used to increase density and height in some areas.
Gayton criticized some of the point-generating items such as limiting curb cuts and installing energy-efficient appliances.
"This ordinance is a joke and should be rewritten," he said. "We need to give extra points for things that residents want."
City Manager Reid Silverboard insisted the proposal is meant as a guideline that can be changed by planning and zoning board members and the City Commission.
"There is no conspiracy or deep dark secret that Reid Silverboard is trying to build an Empire State building downtown," he said.
Planning and zoning board Chairman Jim Lorenz also objected to the planned development district proposal and assured commissioners that "almost every person on the (planning and zoning) board doesn't want the downtown included" in a new zoning district. He insisted his board needs at least six months to review the proposal instead of the 90 days suggested by city staff.
"I see a lot of holes," he said.
Commissioners decided to give the board six months to review the proposal and come back with its recommendations.
"We want a complete vetting of the ordinance," said Commissioner Tim Ramsberger.
Silverboard has said the zoning district would encourage revamping of the north end of the island, which has some rundown and unattractive buildings.
"A lot of properties on north Gulf Boulevard have seen better days and that will remain that way unless we do something," he said. "We are trying to give as much flexibility as we can to developers."