ST. PETE BEACH — Voters will be asked in November to change the city's comprehensive plan to preserve the historic character of Pass-a-Grille's commercial district.
If approved, voters would create a special redevelopment district along all of Eighth Avenue and on the south side Ninth Avenue.
The city would subsequently develop a series of specific design and zoning standards to preserve the historic uses and architectural styles found in Pass-a-Grille.
"The existing regulations actually are an obstacle to preserving the area. It's very important that people understand that these changes are only being made to bring the city's regulations into consistency with what exists on the ground," said Karl Holley, the city's development director.
The 3.14-acre area is characterized by dense, multiuse buildings that often have street-level stores topped by a combination of residential and tourist living spaces. Cantilevered arcades shade sidewalks.
"It's a pretty good mix of things," Holley said.
He stressed that if a hurricane were to damage or destroy the area, current development and zoning regulations would prohibit rebuilding existing uses and styles.
"We cannot rebuild anything that approximates what is actually built there now. It would look completely different," Holley said. "If we want to maintain the character of area, we are going to have to change all these regulations."
To accomplish that, the city wants to increase allowable residential and commercial densities and allow both residential and commercial uses on the same plots of land.
Residential density would be set at 24 units per acre, compared to 15 units per acre in current zoning.
Transient tourist accommodations would be limited to no more than 30 units per acre. Some existing hotels that now exceed that limit would not be able to replace all their transient units, Holley admitted.
Proposed higher floor area ratios would allow commercial buildings to cover more property area than in other commercial districts in the city.
The referendum on the change to the city's comprehensive plan will appear on the Nov. 3 election ballot.