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Treasure Island planning board head quits; may run for office

TREASURE ISLAND — Longtime city volunteer Heidi Horak resigned as Planning and Zoning Board chairman last week amid a controversy over recommended parking lot rules.

And she is now considering running for mayor or a commission seat in 2012.

"Running is not out of the question," Horak said. "There are two positions I could run for in 2012, the mayor and Alan's seat (District 4 Commissioner Alan Bildz). It will depend on who is running — and I don't have to decide until December."

Horak, 48, served on the planning board for 10 years and as its chairman for the past seven. Previously, she served another eight years on the city's stormwater mitigation commission.

She is a real estate lawyer with a self-described passion for forward-thinking planning.

That passion erupted this month when she sharply criticized the commission, characterizing as "poor governance" the commission's failure to adequately consider her board's recommendations for temporary parking lots.

Those and other comments at the Feb. 9 planning board meeting prompted Bildz to angrily call for her ouster at the City Commission's Feb. 15 meeting.

The commission rejected the call for her firing, but did agree that her comments were inappropriate.

Horak, who was at that meeting, had earlier apologized, but sat silent during the debate over her future on the planning board.

Horak did not give Mayor Bob Minning any indication that she was planning to resign during a luncheon meeting two days later, nor was there any discussion during a planning board's meeting later that day.

But a day after, Horak made up her mind to resign. The actual resignation letter to Bildz was dated Feb. 18, but because of the weekend and a federal holiday on Monday, the city did not receive it until Wednesday.

"It is unfortunate she resigned," Minning said Thursday. "The whole thing just got way out of hand. I had hoped a joint meeting between the two boards would resolve it."

The commission and the planning board are scheduled to meet March 24 to discuss the controversy over temporary parking lots, as well as other parking lot recommendations made by the board, sitting as the city's Local Planning Agency.

Intrusion of commercial parking lots into residential areas has been a growing issue, particularly relating to several lots on Sunset Beach owned by Caddy's beachfront bar and restaurant.

Last year, 15 Sunset Beach residents unsuccessfully sued the city, claiming that lack of enforcement of parking lot rules encouraged crowds of often rowdy beachgoers to flock to the beach near Caddy's.

Caddy's has seven off-site properties providing about 200 parking spaces for patron and valet parking.

"We don't have any rules for commercial parking lots now and that's why we are in litigation," said Horak, who lives on Sunset Beach.

The LPA's unanimously proposed new zoning code not only addresses those lots, but establishes rules for other kinds of parking lots as well (special event, temporary, stand alone, off-site, shared, remote, and accessory).

The proposed code designates the zones where parking lots would be allowed, where they would be banned and how some lots might be permitted by special exception.

When the commission reviewed the LPA's recommendations this month, it agreed with most, but flatly rejected allowing any temporary parking lots in residential zones.

That is what upset Horak.

"You don't just eliminate whole sections of zoning code. We need rules, a framework for temporary parking or we will be right back in litigation," she said.

Horak views the controversy over her remarks and resignation as "fallout" from a politically charged debate over "integral change" to the city zoning rules.

In her letter to Bildz, she said she will continue to be active in city affairs and "will always offer the city the benefit of my experience and hard work, regardless of my position."

As for Bildz, he says Horak "did the right thing" by resigning.

Treasure Island planning board head quits; may run for office 02/26/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 25, 2011 4:42pm]
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