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St. Pete Beach rejects settlement in suit over development plan

ST. PETE BEACH — Efforts to settle the last development-related lawsuit collapsed Tuesday when the City Commission refused to negotiate and told its attorneys to take the fight to court.

The commission recently settled several lawsuits filed by resident Bruce Kadoura that involved the city's earlier comprehensive plan, and won a related appeal.

A settlement offer from Ken Weiss, attorney for resident Jim Anderson, who is challenging the city's current comprehensive plan, was sharply rejected by a unanimous commission.

"His proposal is nothing more than what it has been for the last couple of years. He is trying to change our comprehensive plan," Mayor Steve McFarlin said.

"We are done doing this (negotiating). I see no point in even thinking about it," he said. "What they want from us is to make legislative changes, and that is wrong."

According to Weiss, the plan needs to be amended to more clearly guarantee beach access, proper setbacks, restrictions on height or density increases, and requirements that developers pay infrastructure costs.

"The city is right back where they started two years ago and is still unwilling to negotiate a compromise," Weiss said.

Susan Churuti, one of the city's attorneys, told the commission she will seek a summary judgement.

Weiss said he will do the same.

The issue may be decided during a Jan. 27 hearing before Circuit Court Judge David Demers.

In a related case, Demers ruled against the city when he said referendum ballot language did not meet state requirements.

The ruling invalidated the 2008 referendum in which voters approved a previous version of the comprehensive plan.

Last spring voters repealed a charter requirement that changes to height and density regulations be approved by voters.

The city then lobbied the state Legislature to pass a law that allowed the city to reapprove the invalidated comprehensive plan.

Weiss argues that because of Demers' ruling, that plan never existed in law and therefore could not be reapproved under the new state law.

Anderson is asking Demers to now invalidate the reapproved comprehensive plan.

The city's battles over development regulations began a decade ago and so far have cost more than $1 million in legal fees.

St. Pete Beach rejects settlement in suit over development plan 12/17/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 17, 2011 3:31am]
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