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St. Pete Beach voters to decide on land development

ST. PETE BEACH — A proposed comprehensive plan and several changes to the city's land development codes will go before voters June 3.

That was the decision reached during a special meeting Monday night where the commission agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the Save Our Little Village political action group.

The agreement was reached in response to an order from Circuit Judge David A. Demers directing the city to hold an election for the six development-related ordinances the group brought by petition last year.

The city will hold a special election for the proposed items and two state mandated comprehensive plan changes that must also be approved by voters.

Only four of the six proposed ordinances will be voted on in June. The city has agreed to send two other petitions to the county for approval.

The previous commission fought the petitions in two separate lawsuits, citing that passing a comprehensive plan by a vote would be a departure from the process outlined in the Florida Growth Management Act.

But the judge's order and the threat of more attorneys' fees was the determining factor that led the current commission to settle the case.

"I think one of the challenges we have in the city is cutting back on legal charges as much as we can," said Mayor Michael Finnerty.

Satisfied with the settlement, Finnerty said it will be up to the residents to make the final decision about the future of their city.

But the settlement decision still has its detractors, Commissioners Linda Chaney and Harry Metz both voted against the agreement.

The main point of contention has been what process the city will follow before the vote and afterward, if the items are approved.

As agreed, the city's planning board will hold meetings before the vote on the comprehensive plan and land development codes to help explain what impact they could have on the city. The board will also be able to field questions from residents, but no changes will be made to the ordinances.

The residents will simply vote for or against the proposed items.

If approved, the comprehensive plan will be sent to the appropriate local and state agencies for review and any recommendations will be followed. There will be more public hearings but the commission will not be able to change the ordinances, they will only vote on the final approval at the end of the process.

Chaney opposed the process as laid out by the settlement agreement, citing that the current process doesn't allow for public input.

"I think it's time we all worked together, and by that I mean more than the 10 percent who signed these petitions," Chaney said.

Save Our Little Village supporters denied the request, maintaining that the plan is based on the plan approved by the commission in 2005, later rescinded by voters, and that it has had adequate public input.

Nick Johnson can be reached at

nickjohnson@sptimes or 893-8361.

St. Pete Beach voters to decide on land development 04/01/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 2, 2008 5:29pm]
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