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St. Pete Beach has higher hopes for future

(ran Beach, South editions)

Taller buildings could sprout on Corey Avenue and along the city's "Hotel Row," according to land development plans in the works at City Hall.

From the loosened height restrictions, which would affect only those two sections of the city, to a new role for the southern half of Blind Pass Road, city officials are taking a fresh look at what they want for St. Pete Beach.

City commissioners hope their work on land development regulations, which determine how properties can be used in various neighborhoods throughout St. Pete Beach, will promote development and modernize the city's outlook on its future.

The Future of the City Planning Committee will take an in-depth look at the proposed rules at a 2 p.m. meeting today at St. Pete Beach City Hall.

The plan outlines how the city should react to a widened Blind Pass Road and increases the allowable building heights along Corey Avenue.

A key section of the proposed regulations, those affecting the hotel district, are left out of the review for now. City commissioners will consider changes to that district, commonly known in St. Pete Beach as "Hotel Row," sometime next year.

That plan is still being finalized by the city's staff, but preliminary ideas include allowing hotels to build as high as 200 feet and residential condominiums to build as high as 120 to 150 feet. Current regulations allow 50-foot buildings.

Jerry Speece, the city's senior planner, said he has received nothing but positive feedback from the few people in St. Pete Beach who have studied and commented on the plan.

But Ralph Lickton, an architectural designer, Pass-a-Grille resident and frequent critic of City Hall, said individual property owners need to take a close look at the proposed regulations to see how they affect their properties.

"It seems this is slanted toward commercial and multifamily developments," said Lickton, adding that he questions how the added density will affect the city's infrastructure.

Among the changes proposed in the new land development regulations are:

n A building height increase for Corey Avenue.

Current rules allow developers to build up to 50 feet. The new regulations would allow construction up to 75 feet.

n No front-yard setback requirements for buildings on Blind Pass Road.

The city hopes to encourage "main street"-type development, reminiscent of Corey Avenue, by encouraging business to build directly on the roadfront and maybe even provide housing areas on upper floors.

Such design, also encouraged by University of Florida architecture students earlier this year when they studied the city, would provide a pedestrian friendly environment, complete with pedestrians who live there to use the shops, as well as the ones on Corey.

Such a district would affect the southern end of Blind Pass Road, from 80th to 75th avenues. The northern areas along Blind Pass Road remain residential.

John Phillips, the city commissioner who represents the Blind Pass area, said he thinks the changes could help Blind Pass Road redefine itself after the Department of Transportation finishes turning the road into a five-lane highway.

"It doesn't have character," Phillips said. "I don't have a problem with a Corey area creep up Blind Pass Road."

n An extension of the downtown area also might lead the city to consider construction of a parking garage to serve Blind Pass Road and Corey Avenue.

City commissioners have discussed the possibility of building a garage at the site of the current library, but such a project would occur only if the city decided to build a new library elsewhere.

"The way that they're looking at the Corey area, I'm enthused about having that area revitalized," Phillips said.

In another section of its land development rules, the city also will consider new regulations on the types of signs businesses are allowed. But that discussion won't start until next year.

"That will not start until after the election because that will be controversial," said Speece, referring to the March election in which the mayor and two commissioners will be elected. "It always is."

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