Wednesday, January 24, 2018
News Roundup

Latest St. Pete Beach flap is over remote parking lots

ST. PETE BEACH — Repeated protests from Punta Vista residents, angry about a Sirata Beach Resort off-site parking lot, led to a 90-day moratorium on consideration of any temporary-use applications and may have contributed to the April dismissal of former City Manager Mike Bonfield.

The lot is at 5195 Gulf Blvd., at the corner of Punta Vista Drive, just south of the Sirata and at the entrance to Punta Vista's small enclave of waterfront homes.

The Sirata bought the property, which had been vacant for about seven years, last year with the intent to eventually develop it. Bonfield informally approved the lot for Sirata employees' use last fall.

Sirata owner Gregg Nicklaus later applied for a temporary-use permit.

Controversy over Bonfield's actions and the continuing use of the lot erupted in hours' worth of debate at commission meetings in April and May.

The commission paused temporary-use permits to give the Planning Board time to review the issue June 17 and make recommendations to the commission.

The Planning Board will be asked to determine authority and procedures for temporary-use permit approvals, how permits would be affected by zoning regulations, the time length for permits, and conditions that could be imposed.

Interim City Manager Elaine Edmunds said the Sirata will be allowed to continue using the parking lot during the moratorium.

Code violations are being pursued, however. Edmunds said an unpermitted sign at the Sirata lot has been removed.

Nicklaus stresses that the site is directly on Gulf Boulevard, a state road, and has numerous commercial neighbors, including a liquor store, a taxi service and shops. He maintains that a parking use conforms to current land development codes.

Sam Dudding, whose home borders the lot, says he and his family have witnessed lot users smoking marijuana, urinating in public and using foul language, and they've found used condoms and other trash accumulating along the fence line and even in his yard.

Tom Callahan, perhaps the most vocal of the Punta Vista residents, is adamantly opposed to the lot being used for parking, calling it a "rezoning coup" that is "devaluing quality of life, reducing safety of residents and devaluing their properties."

He submitted a petition signed by 23 residents asking that the parking lot be shut down.

Home values on his street have fallen more than 4 percent since January, compared to a 4 percent increase for residential homes throughout the city, he said.

Callahan's persistent opposition included calls for investigating Bonfield's actions.

When questioned by newly elected Mayor Maria Lowe in March, Bonfield acknowledged that he had approved the use and told Lowe that he would allow the Sirata to use the lot "until it comes before the City Commission" for review.

Such review is not required under the city rules, which only call for applications to be submitted to the city manager for review.

Previously, applications were approved either by the city manager or his staff. Only once recently did the commission review a temporary-permit application.

The Sirata permit was to be considered by the commission at its April 22 meeting, but discussion was delayed to allow consideration of several similar requests.

Instead, at that April 22 meeting, Lowe and Commissioners Melinda Pletcher and Terri Finnerty called for Bonfield's dismissal, refusing to give their reasons.

Subsequently, the commission devoted hours to discussing temporary-use permit procedures during a series of meetings.

Particularly at issue is the lack of clear guidelines as to how permits are to be reviewed and approved.

Pending temporary-use renewal requests for off-site parking on Gulf Boulevard include those from the Grand Plaza Resorts and Sungold LLC. No complaints about those applications have been received.

"Whatever the current status, policy and procedural issues with these three parking lots, they are clearly being extensively used and exhibit a need that may not otherwise be met," Edmunds said in her report to the commission.

Comments
Lightning beats Predators in overtime

Lightning beats Predators in overtime

NASHVILLE — Steven Stamkos’ celebration said it all.The Lightning captain delivered an emphatic fist pump after his rocket one-timer clanked in off the crossbar, tying the score with just over two minutes left at Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night. T...
Updated: 3 hours ago

High school scoreboard for Jan. 23

Tuesday’s scoreboardBoys basketballBoca Ciega 55, Canterbury 53Girls basketballBoca Ciega 65, Largo 19
Updated: 4 hours ago

Hernando sheriff: Shooter injures three; in standoff with SWAT

BROOKSVILLE — A shooter was on the loose Tuesday night after injuring three victims, according to Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis.The sheriff would not say if there were any fatalities.The Sheriff’s Office received a report about the at about 9 p.m. Dep...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Updated: 4 hours ago
Sheriff: Pasco man planned, then carried out neighbor’s execution

Sheriff: Pasco man planned, then carried out neighbor’s execution

HOLIDAY — A neighborhood dispute ended in gunfire when one neighbor executed another on Tuesday, deputies said, as the victim kneeled in his own front yard begging for his life.The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office said the execution, which took place ju...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Career Q&A: Sharpen interview skills to overcome impression of shyness

Career Q&A: Sharpen interview skills to overcome impression of shyness

Q: At the end of a recent interview, the manager told me that I would not be getting the job. He said I wasn’t a good fit for the position because I was shy. As a naturally introverted person, I found this very discouraging. How can I avoid similar p...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Lawmakers call for additional investigations into Tampa Bay’s two CareerSource boards

Federal and state lawmakers are calling on Congress and the Florida House of Representatives to investigate whether two regional workforce centers inflated the number of people they helped find jobs. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D–St. Petersburg, and sta...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Undersea quake causes fear of tsunami in Alaska; Kentucky teen kills 2 classmates in shooting; ex-gymnast tells Nassar: ‘You didn’t heal me. You only hurt me’; more in U.S. news

Undersea quake causes fear of tsunami in Alaska; Kentucky teen kills 2 classmates in shooting; ex-gymnast tells Nassar: ‘You didn’t heal me. You only hurt me’; more in U.S. news

AlaskaUndersea quake causes panicA powerful undersea earthquake sent Alaskans fumbling for suitcases and racing to evacuation centers in the middle of the night after a cellphone alert warned a tsunami could hit communities along the state’s southern...
Updated: 7 hours ago
MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

MacDill crews shift from Islamic State battle to join winter fight against Taliban

Now that the fight against the largely defeated Islamic State is winding down, the U.S. Air Force is turning its efforts toward the Taliban and moving aircraft and crews to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.Crews and a KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refue...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

Deputies identify 11-month-old who drowned, no other details released

BRANDON — The 11-month-old girl who drowned in an apartment complex pond on Monday was identified as Deleah Morgan by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday.Deputies released no other details about the incident or the ongoing investigation....
Updated: 7 hours ago