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Plan for growth ready by March?

Less than a month after residents voted for a final say on development on this barrier island, city officials are now wondering if they can get a redevelopment plan on the March ballot that can guarantee a win.

The City Commission and city manager are seeking input from residents on the comprehensive land use plan that was voted down in November in a race that was decided by just 22 votes.

City officials believe they can reach a compromise with voters that will allow them to put a slightly modified version on the ballot in March.

But some residents who voted against the plan said the city needs to start from scratch and shouldn't look to a proposal voters have struck down.

Last week, the city sent out letters to residents urging them to send in comments. A link was set up on the city's Web site that described the repealed plan and compared it with the current plan, which the city has used since 1988.

The city will also host four planning meetings at City Hall starting this week.

"It is really to get people's comments and feedback on what they didn't like," said City Manager Mike Bonfield at last week's commission meeting.

In November, voters said yes to a referendum question that asked whether the city's comprehensive plan should be repealed.

Voters also approved a resolution that gave them approval over any major development changes, which means any new comprehensive plan put forth by the city would have to ultimately get the okay of the voters.

In order for a new comprehensive plan to appear on the March ballot, the city must submit a resolution to the county supervisor of elections by Jan. 19.

If the repealed comprehensive plan is modified only slightly and approved by voters in March, it does not need to be approved by the state again, Bonfield said.

A comprehensive land use plan is a basic blueprint for what goes where in a city. It does not define how tall buildings can be.

The proposed plan would have divided the city into 11 character districts defined mostly by business and residential neighborhoods. It was meant to boost tourism and the economy, but critics said it would only increase taxes and traffic.

The city began crafting a new comprehensive plan that would make the city more tourism friendly in 2002.

After hundreds of public meetings, a proposal was created and sent to state and county officials for approval.

In June 2005, the City Commission approved the plan. But by then, a group of residents calling themselves Citizens for Responsible Growth had begun an opposition campaign against the plan.

They got six resolutions on the November ballot that would restrict the city's power, including the measures that repealed the comprehensive plan and gave residents voter approval of any major changes to the plan.

William Pyle, a founding member of Citizens for Responsible Growth, urged voters to look "really closely" at any modifications made to the plan.

"Will it really reflect any changes?" he said.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

if you go

Four workshops set

The City Commission will be holding four workshops to put together a comprehensive land use plan referendum item on the March 2007 ballot. The meetings will take place in the City Commission Chambers in City Hall, 155 Corey Ave., at 6 p.m. on the following dates: Wednesday, Dec. 6; Thursday, Dec. 7; Wednesday, Dec. 13; and Thursday, Dec. 14.

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