Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge rules against city in St. Pete Beach development dispute

ST. PETE BEACH — A voter-approved comprehensive plan — the legal guide for all development and redevelopment within the city — has been declared invalid.

Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Court Judge David Demers ruled against the city Wednesday in a long and bitterly fought case.

The case, along with others pending, mirrors much of the recent debate over a state constitutional amendment that would have required voter approval of local comprehensive land use plans. Called "Hometown Democracy" by its supporters, Amendment 4 was defeated by voters in November.

St. Pete Beach has spent nearly a half million dollars in legal fees so far to fight the suits against it. Now it appears the city may be forced to spend even more to reimburse resident Bill Pyle for the costs he incurred in fighting the development regulations approved by voters in 2008.

His attorney, Ken Weiss, said Sunday those fees are "well in excess of $100,000" but "a fraction" of what the city has spent.

"Yikes," said St. Pete Beach Mayor Mike Finnerty. "This is truly an unfortunate situation for St. Pete Beach. The city is in dire need of redevelopment. I don't know where this ruling puts us."

The ruling involves four ordinances approved by voters that changed the comprehensive plan, particularly as it applies to redevelopment of the aging hotel row along Gulf Boulevard.

Demers found the referendum ballot summaries did not meet requirements of state law or the City Charter.

"Obviously, I am gratified with the judge's decision, which was elegant and decisive. If I had been on the other side, I would be less pleased," Pyle said.

He asserted voters were deceived about the real impact of the 2008 comprehensive plan changes. The judge agreed.

"Plaintiff is right. The ordinance misleads voters," the judge ruled, describing one ballot summary as "wordsmithing" and another as "illusory."

The amended comprehensive plan initially was drafted by Save Our Little Village (SOLV), a pro-hotel group that subsequently joined the city in fighting Pyle's attempts to reverse the referendum's results.

There are other suits involving other aspects of the comprehensive plan pending against the city filed by residents Bruce Kadura and Richard McCormick.

Those suits are also before Demers and a ruling on them is expected by the end of the year.

Finnerty said the court ruling and its implications will be discussed at the next regular City Commission meeting Dec. 14, or possibly before if a special workshop is called.

Weiss described the judge's decision as a "vindication."

"All the city and SOLV had to do was tell the citizens the truth. But they hid the real issue — that the proposed comprehensive plan increased height and density on the beach for hotel owners," he said.

Judge rules against city in St. Pete Beach development dispute 11/28/10 [Last modified: Sunday, November 28, 2010 10:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. President Trump offers prayers for Kissimmee police

    Blogs

    President Donald Trump reacted to the police shooting in Kissimmee:

  2. Kissimmee police officer dies, one gravely wounded; Jacksonville officers shot

    News

    KISSIMMEE — A Kissimmee police officer died and a second was gravely wounded Friday night, police Chief Jeff O'Dell said.

    Two police officers have been shot and killed in Kissimmee, authorities say. The shooting happened in the area of Palmway and Cypress around 9:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo courtesy of WESH.com
  3. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  4. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  5. Jameis Winston's hardest lesson: He can't always save the day

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ever wonder what in the world goes through Jameis Winston's mind when he tries to fit the ball in a keyhole as he is being dragged to the turf like he was during Thursday night's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars?

    Jameis Winston, left, tries to hang on to the ball as Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler tries to strip it from him.