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Dade City approves changes to city code

(ran East edition)

City Commissioners on Tuesday gave unanimous initial approval to five ordinances governing growth in the city, covering issues such as landscaping, tree protection and the design of large stores.

A sixth ordinance, a controversial measure that outlines the types of commercial signs that will be allowed, was still being discussed at press time.

The ordinances will form part of the city's land development code, a sweeping document that dictates the direction of growth. It is being written by City Attorney Karla Owens and a board of about 10 residents.

"This is probably the single most important thing the city of Dade City has done in a long time," Owens told commissioners and a crowd packed into City Hall. "(The ordinances) are going to govern all development in the city."

The landscape ordinance outlines requirements for new commercial developments, the entrances to neighborhood subdivisions and industrial sites. It does not apply to private homes.

It sets requirements for buffers between developments and suggests types of trees and shrubs for developers to use.

The tree protection ordinance specifies a list of protected trees and requires a permit before they can be removed. It also loosens slightly the requirements for replacement of trees cleared to make way for buildings.

Another one sets architectural design and landscaping standards on commercial developments of more than 25,000 square feet. Known as the "big box" ordinance, it requires beautified building facades and sets tougher landscape rules, such as tree islands to break up vast parking lots.

That ordinance generated some comments from residents.

James L. Taylor, who lives on Sally Road near U.S. 301, warned commissioners that coming commercial development should not be allowed to disrupt residents' lives by way of traffic and noise.

"There's going to be some squeaky wheels if our lives out there are not protected," he said.

The other two ordinances are technical, dictating the procedures developers must follow and how rights of way should be used.

The sign ordinance is a point of contention because it would prohibit all temporary banners, among other signs. The banners include those that advertise downtown festivals such as the Christmas Stroll and Kumquat Festival.

City Manager Harold Sample said hanging the banners over U.S. 301 is expensive and dangerous to city workers. A special truck must be used, and traffic must be stopped.

But Commissioner Steve Van Gorden, for one, opposed ending the city's role in promoting downtown events.

"I think for us to totally ban the banner signs is the wrong direction to take," he said.

Tuesday was the first public hearing on the ordinances. A final hearing is scheduled for the next commission meeting, at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 24. Residents are given five minutes to speak.