TREASURE ISLAND — It's back to the drawing board for the City Commission if it hopes to come up with an ordinance to allow development on the north end of town.
The city wanted to know whether its proposed planned development district ordinance jibes with recent state law. A legal opinion says it is in violation by requiring a project-specific referendum vote.
Attorney Charles Siemon, who has experience in litigating cases related to the state law, told the city that requiring a voter referendum for a specific project or development order would violate state statutes.
"Municipalities can't require referendums with a development order," said city attorney Maura Kiefer, who had suggested getting the legal opinion from the Boca Raton lawyer.
But the city's land development regulations, which now require that any proposed changes in height and density go before voters, is legally okay, she added, since they don't relate to specific projects.
City Manager Reid Silverboard said the issue will be discussed at a workshop meeting Tuesday, and he expects the commission will go back to the original concept for a planned development district, which doesn't specify a project but instead establishes a zoning district.
The development rules "would be applicable to the district as a whole," he said.
For the past year, city planners, with input from a city board and residents, have been working on a planned development district that would give more flexibility to developers like Greenleaf Capital, which owns 10 acres near John's Pass.
The project has been a focus of the discussion about a north end development ordinance. The proposed ordinance now requires a referendum by voters to approve any changes in height and density.
Kiefer said she agrees with the legal opinion.
Silverboard added: "There is a way to provide for a planned development type of zoning that provides flexibility for the developer and allows for people to have a say and be within state statutes. It would give them a say that would pass muster on the restrictions the Legislature has given local governments."
Mayor Bob Minning said that although more time will be needed to rework a development plan, the city intends to make sure it gets it right.
"We'll have to start from scratch, but we have to do it," he said. "If it is a slow process, so be it."
Minning hopes what he calls "misinformation that has caused some city residents to believe the commission is trying to circumvent the will of the people" will be rectified.
"We have to go back and see how to do the north end development so we can comply with state statues and allow everyone a say," he said.