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Indian Rocks Beach seeks to make Gulf Boulevard more green

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — A green, tree-filled canopy along Gulf Boulevard is just one of a number of changes featured in a massive rewriting of the city's development codes.

"We are trying to bulk up the vegetative cover. We want a nice, green Gulf Boulevard," said Mayor R.B. Johnson.

The City Commission reviewed the first draft of the changes Tuesday and referred most to the Planning and Zoning board for further review.

The process is expected to take at least several months before final adoption.

"I visualize a vegetated canyon like in Belleair," Danny Taylor, director of planning and zoning told the commission. "This requirement (to plant trees and shrubs along the roadway) would become effective when a property is developed or redeveloped."

City codes currently require one tree per 50 lineal feet. That requirement would be nearly tripled under the revised code.

To achieve this green "canyon effect" the city would have to change front yard setbacks along Gulf Boulevard to 25 feet (measured from the property line to the front edge of the building structure).

Such setbacks already exist in the city's general business zoning category, but now would be expanded to all zoning districts fronting on Gulf Boulevard.

The only exception would be in the city's downtown and Narrows business districts where front setbacks are now at 10 feet.

Taylor suggested the city could negotiate with property owners to eliminate half of that setback providing the other half would include trees and other plantings.

The actual type of trees and plants preferred by the city will be discussed again by the commission before being sent on to the planning board.

Currently, the city's codes merely reference Pinellas County's list of preferred plantings.

The revised code would specify particular trees and plants, as well as allow developers to use plantings instead of walls or fences to screen parking areas.

Taylor also suggested the city consider allowing zero lot line side setbacks in the downtown area, resulting in more intensive commercial development.

The commission also reviewed suggested changes to city codes that allow mixed commercial and residential development to bar residential units on the first floor of any such structures.

Taylor said there is a concern over the proliferation of condominium development on Gulf Boulevard and that existing commercial space could be squeezed out.

"This restriction is there so that you don't lose all your commercial space," said City Manager Gregg Mims.

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In other action, the commission gave the city manager the ability to negotiate a contract with Advantus Leisure Management Services to provide chair, umbrella and cabana rentals on the city and county beach access parks. The contract is expected to generate about $9,000 in revenue annually.