NEW PORT RICHEY — Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe, in his last meeting before leaving office, used the occasion to describe his feelings about the city's development code.
"It stinks, quite frankly," he said of an antiquated code he believes recently cost the city a pricey lawsuit settlement.
Marlowe encouraged his colleagues to focus on updating land use and zoning codes to make it easier on city staff and businesses trying to locate in New Port Richey.
Marlowe, who decided against campaigning for another term in Tuesday's election, weighed in at the request of council member Bill Phillips, who asked for thoughts on spending $967,000 the city will get from utility transfers.
The deputy mayor suggested $37,000 for a review of the land use code and computer upgrades in the development department.
"I think you should give that serious consideration," he said.
Marlowe referred with disgust to a recent $362,500 settlement agreement the city entered into with residents who sued over a zoning issue.
Wayne and Susan Allen received a zoning variance in 2005 to split their waterfront property on Mandy Lane into two lots on which they planned to build two homes.
After they got the variance, the city issued the Allens a permit to demolish an existing home on the property, which they did. Then a neighbor sued the city saying he had not been notified of the variance hearing.
The city eventually settled with the neighbor and took back the variance granted the Allens. They sued, saying they had been denied their property rights. Last month, the city's attorney advised the council to enter into the settlement.
Only Bob Langford remains from the 2005 council that made the decision to grant the variance. The city manager and attorney on staff then are also no longer with the city.
Marlowe argued the Allens should never have had to seek a variance to split the property into two lots in the first place, and the unnecessary red tape cost the city.
"I thought the city got hosed,'' he said. "Quite frankly, so did the Allens."