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Madeira Beach tries again to wrangle development rules

 
A hotel  proposal for John's Pass Village is among the things that sparked more discussion about Madeira Beach development rules. [Times files]
A hotel proposal for John's Pass Village is among the things that sparked more discussion about Madeira Beach development rules. [Times files]
Published Nov. 28, 2018

MADEIRA BEACH — The City Commission majority that ran for office on a platform opposed to large-scale developments is now considering new rules that would allow mixed-use, planned developments anywhere in the city where multi-family, commercial or resort uses are allowed.

Currently planned developments are restricted to zones that allow resort development.

The ordinance, proposed by the city's community development director, Linda Portal, still needs to be finalized and will need to be voted on twice before going into effect.

The commission informally approved revising the existing ordinance Tuesday and is expected to discuss it at another workshop before formally considering the ordinance early next year.

"There is a lot of interest in redevelopment in the city. Three hotel (planned developments) have been requested and we process about 100 permits for new homes or home remodels each month," Portal said.

One proposed development, if approved by the commission, would involve a hotel in the center of John's Pass Village. The two others would be on properties along Gulf Boulevard, one near the Pinellas County beach parking lot and the other north of Archibald Park.

All the proposed projects are designed to be five or six stories tall.

Current regular zoning categories allow buildings that are three or four stories tall, a height which normally is not economically feasible for mixed-use hotel developments, according to Portal.

"I have been talking about the need for more flexible development rules since I got here," Portal said. "We need to amend the code to allow people to develop something reasonable."

During the workshop discussion, the commission made one significant change to Portal's proposed ordinance: they want the new rules to restrict buildings to no more than five stories in height, including parking.

Because of federal rules requiring most buildings to be elevated, most new construction includes parking on the first level.

With a five-story limit, hotels or combined commercial-condominium buildings would be limited to no more than four floors of livable space.

Building height became a major issue two years ago when voters elected a new commission that pledged to fight a proposed 11-story hotel in the city's downtown.

The building height of the now approved Madeira Beach Town Center project was eventually reduced to six stories, as was another mixed use hotel project, the Holiday Isle Marina, which also has been approved.

The revised ordinance would also require all planned development projects to include mixed uses, usually including commercial with either residential or hotel uses, and be located in areas where the city's land use plan allows the intended uses.

"It is important that (planned development) zoning projects offer some benefit to the city and provide added planning value…the designation is not to be used as a mechanism to avoid the code or spot-zone," Portal said.

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Currently, the city's zoning code does now set specific rules for planned development projects outside the Town Center Special Area Plan that includes most of the city's downtown.

In addition, for any project to be eligible for planned development zoning it would have to encompass a minimum of a half-acre of contiguous land, not including roadways, conservation areas or areas west of the coastal construction line.