ST, PETE BEACH — The city's mail-in ballot was a success on two fronts: generating some of the highest voter participation of any of the beach communities and validating the city's effort to establish new development rules.
The referendum election was also the latest round in a battle between two rival citizen groups: Citizens for Responsible Growth and Save Our Little Village.
CRG started the fight by winning voter approval of new charter rules that require resident-approval of any changes to the city's comprehensive plan, particularly changes affecting building heights and development and density.
SOLV, a more development-oriented group, then used CRG's rules to get voter approval for a new comprehensive plan opposed by CRG.
Tuesday's referendum was the result of a 2008 settlement between the city and SOLV. Under that agreement, if SOLV was successful in getting voter approval in 2009 for its comprehensive plan (it was), the city would then submit a new community redevelopment area plan to voters.
Tuesday, a solid 66 percent of voters (1,805 out of 2,751 ballots cast) approved the CRA plan that designates a list of projects eligible for a possible $60-million in property tax-generated funding if and when those funds become available.
According to the Supervisor of Elections, up to 50 percent of voters in at least one precinct mailed in their ballots for Tuesday's election.