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Parties in SOLV lawsuit can't agree on what's what

Plenty of questions remain about how the city should handle six proposed ordinances dealing with growth sought by the Save Our Little Village political group.

Monday's hearing before Circuit Judge David A. Demers did little to clear things up.

The hearing was set after a March 13 order from Demers requiring that the city hold an election to decide the fate of the proposed ordinances, which deal with amendments to the city's comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances.

But the attorneys representing the three parties involved in the lawsuit still have differing opinions on what the residents would approve or disapprove with a vote.

Demers has given the attorneys for St. Pete Beach resident William Pyle, who has intervened in the case, until this weekend to file for reconsideration of the order.

The judge will also draft language to clarify his March 13 order.

"This thing has gotten so complex attorneys can't even agree on what's going on," attorney Thomas W. Reese said. "That's why the judge thought he needed to clarify."

Reese, who has represented the city through two lawsuits stemming from the petitions, has questioned how a comprehensive plan could be approved before going through the state-mandated Growth Management Act process.

Representing SOLV, attorney Robert K. Lincoln said the voters first would have to approve the ordinances, which then would go through the Growth Management Act. Finally, "the City Commission would have the right to vote it up or down."

SOLV's interpretation doesn't allow for any changes if voters approve the plan, unless they are required by the state. Those who oppose the plan have argued that leaves inadequate chance for public comment.

Lincoln said that those arguments are unfounded since SOLV's proposal is the same one "that was adopted in 2005, with a lot of extra provisions that were put in there to address complaints" and, therefore, has already gone through extensive public hearings. The 2005 plan was approved by the commission and later rescinded by residents after the Citizens for Responsible Growth political group petitioned to have a referendum vote.

While the city attorney, Ralf Brookes, has been working on a settlement agreement with SOLV, Pyle, known for funding Citizens for Responsible Growth, has taken a more hard-line approach.

Attorney Ken Weiss, who is representing Pyle, said that SOLV's positions "are so defective that they shouldn't even be presented to the voters." By Friday, Weiss said he will file a motion asking Demers to reconsider his March 13 order, on behalf of Pyle.

Nick Johnson can be reached at nickjohnson@sptimes.com or 893-8361.

Parties in SOLV lawsuit can't agree on what's what 03/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 25, 2008 4:46pm]
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