St. Pete Beach Chronicle joins fight over city's development rules

ST. PETE BEACH — A judge's recent ruling invalidating the city's comprehensive plan will not quell the ongoing battles over development rules.

The latest salvo over building height and density along the city's hotel row on Gulf Boulevard was fired last week with the formation of a new political action committee — the St. Pete Beach Chronicle.

Led by Jack Ohlhaber and Lance Peterson, advocates for more controlled and limited growth, the new PAC will primarily publish a series of newsletters by the same name.

In the process, the PAC will advocate against a city-sponsored referendum on the March ballot.

The referendum will ask voters to repeal a City Charter provision that requires residents to approve changes to height and density in the city's comprehensive plan and development regulations.

The Chronicle is closely associated with another PAC, Citizens for Responsible Growth, which helped author that charter provision, which voters approved in 2006.

Most recently, they were active in aborted settlement talks and formal mediation proceedings in 2009 and 2010 between CRG, a rival PAC, Save Our Little Village and city officials.

Ohlhaber said Tuesday he hopes the new PAC will help residents understand the controversy over development rules.

But it is still unclear how he intends to accomplish that, considering its close ties to CRG.

Ken Weiss, an attorney for CRG and the residents who recently won a court battle that invalidated the comprehensive plan, also represents the Chronicle.

The new PAC's newsletter aims to provide a counter-argument to the St. Pete Beach Insider, a newsletter and website by St. Pete Beach Citizens for Good Government Inc. According to court records, the Insider is financially backed by SOLV supporters.

Ohlhaber, however, says he is mostly concerned with finding a way to end the city's development wars.

"For whatever purpose, the city has been absolutely relentless in trying to ram the SOLV plan down everybody's throat. The cost is going to be enormous and will end right up in our taxes," he said.

The last straw, according to Ohlhaber, was the commission's decision last week to ask voters to give up their right to accept or reject changes in height and density regulations.

"The comprehensive plan clearly seems to benefit large hotels. It's all about money. There are millions of dollars at stake here," Ohlhaber said.

Attempts to reach SOLV representatives for comments were unsuccessful.

The Chronicle also plans to endorse candidates in the upcoming election, most likely those opposed to the most-recent voter-approved comprehensive plan that was recently invalidated by Circuit Court Judge David Demers.

St. Pete Beach Chronicle joins fight over city's development rules 01/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 4:42pm]

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