Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

Battle renews in St. Pete Beach over comprehensive plan

ST. PETE BEACH — Opponents of the current comprehensive plan have fired another legal broadside in the seemingly never-ending battle over where and how redevelopment can occur.

Last week, James Anderson and two other residents — Joseph Kody and John Miller — filed two legal actions with the state.

The first asks the state for a formal administration hearing, preceded by mediation.

The second asks the state to withhold final approval of the comprehensive plan pending the outcome of a related legal action in the 2nd District Court of Appeal.

In that case, Anderson is appealing a lower court ruling in favor of the city in the ongoing dispute over the comprehensive plan. Oral arguments on the appeal are scheduled for Nov. 12.

The appeal also has drawn the interest of the First Amendment Foundation, which filed a brief against the city. The foundation's interest involves alleged misuse of closed-door meetings between the commission and its attorneys.

The comprehensive plan has been the center of a legal dispute for more than a decade — a dispute that has cost the city about $1 million in legal fees and produced several referendum elections, political power shifts on the commission, changes to the city charter, and even a special state law.

The city's current comprehensive plan, originally written by a group of residents and hotel owners (Save Our Little Village, or SOLV) and approved by voters, has been reviewed by the state and just last month was unanimously approved by the commission with some changes requested by the state.

Normally, the state would then automatically certify the revised plan and it would be in effect.

The opponents' actions last week could delay or even prevent that outcome.

This is the second time the opponents have tried to put implementation of the plan on hold. A similar request by resident Bill Pyle in 2008 failed when the city and SOLV fought the move.

They appear ready to fight again.

On Friday, the city's legal firm notified the opponents that it is preparing for the administrative hearing and intends to "object to the motion to stay or abate" implementation of the comprehensive plan.

The foes' main argument this time appears to be potentially obstructed views from the Silver Sands Condominium.

The motion for mediation contends that the plan "would negatively impact" residents' "use and enjoyment" of their property, their ability to evacuate during a hurricane and their property values.

The opponents also say the city's comprehensive plan violates state law, particularly as it relates to the effect of redevelopment on the city's infrastructure.

"The SOLV plan is completely incompatible with the residential environment of the Silver Sands," said Ken Weiss, an attorney for the opponents.

"What possible benefit to the city could outweigh the fact those residents will not only will have their property values diminished but will lose the view which brought them to the city?"

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