ST. PETE BEACH — After eight months with no director, the city's community development department will have a new leader April 30.
George Kinney, City Manager Mike Bonfield's choice to become the new director of community development, will get his first experience with the city's diverse views about redevelopment Thursday at a workshop regarding a proposed rerouting of traffic in the downtown core.
That workshop will be at 6 p.m. in the Community Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Ave.
The Corey Avenue traffic plan has not been approved by the commission and if approved would take about 18 months for implementation.
Bonfield said Kinney will be expected to help guide that process, as well as focus on developing ordinances to implement the city's redevelopment plan.
Among the regulations that will need to be developed, Bonfield said, are rules regarding affordable housing, improvement fees and public art.
"His first priority will be to get to know the staff, focus on customer service and the operations of the department, and identify the department's strengths and weaknesses," Bonfield said.
Kinney was picked from a field of 70 applicants.
"He is energetic and has the right personality," Bonfield said Tuesday.
Most recently, Kinney served as planning manager and is currently the interim executive director for the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council. The council focuses on Orlando and its surrounding cities.
Previously, Kinney was planning director for Palmer Township in Pennsylvania and served in a variety of planning administrative positions in Ohio. Kinney has worked in the planning and development field for 18 years.
In his new post, Kinney will supervise the city's planning and zoning, building and code enforcement divisions.
Kinney's predecessor, Karl Holley, resigned in November after working for the city for more than seven years.
During Holley's tenure the city went through a series of political battles over the future of redevelopment. Those battles included multiple citywide referendum votes dealing with the comprehensive plan.
There were more than a dozen lawsuits and legal challenges to each iteration of the city's development plans and regulations —- costing the city more than a million dollars on legal fees.
Holley found himself repeatedly called to testify about those plans and often became a focal point in related development issues, drawing praise and criticism from residents, businesses and commissioners.
One major lawsuit is ongoing. If the city loses, implementation of the current comprehensive plan could be adversely affected. If the city wins, the doors will fully open for redevelopment.
In either case Kinney will be dealing with height and density issues as well as anticipated hotel and business redevelopment proposals — and, just like Holley, find himself in the middle of the city's continuing disputes over its future character.