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St. Pete Beach's city plan okayed

(ran Beach edition)

The City Commission tentatively approved a slightly modified version of its comprehensive plan Tuesday, adding some phrases to please state and county planners and calling it "weasel work."

The City Commission had approved a version of the plan this year. But the state Department of Community Affairs ordered the city to repeal the plan, saying that the city had approved it illegally without allowing the DCA to review it first according to state law.

City staff have been working on a revision to the comprehensive plan, the city's most important statement of guidelines for development, for three years. This is the first time the plan has been revised since it was adopted in 1989.

After Tuesday's tentative approval, the document will be sent to the state for review. State planners will analyze it and report back to the city this summer. Then, the City Commission can take a final vote.

State officials also have objected to the substance of the city's plan. They have concerns about weakened rules to protect beach dunes and historical buildings and the encouragement of greater development. State laws have tried to curb coastal development, which is vulnerable to major storms.

To appease the state in its revised plan, the city now promises to try to restrict public expenditures and limit development because the city is in a hazardous coastal area. Then the city adds the phrase "to the extent practical."

"We would if we could, but we can't, so we won't," said City Planner Jerry Speece. "It says what they want it to say."