Monday, May 19, 2008

Beach and Casino - Future Land use Plan Change and Amendment to Comprehensive Plan

Three items appear on the City Commission agenda Tuesday night related to the beach. One is a Stipulated Settlement Agreement with the Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the State of Florida agency that oversees all local government Comprehensive Plans. Then there are two other public hearing items for Ordinance 2008-09 and 2008-10: these are for the creation of the Beach and Casino Future Land Use designation and for assigning that designation to the beach property.

But you ask, Wes, I thought we had done this already last year? The answer is “Yes”, this was passed last year by the City Commission. Whenever an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan is made, copies of the Ordinances are sent up to Tallahassee for review by the DCA. DCA sends back a letter to the City saying whether or not they find the amendment “in compliance” or “not in compliance” with the Comprehensive Plan, applicable State Statutes and Administrative Codes.

Part of the analysis one does when you create a new Future Land Use designation is to look at the most intense development scenario possible under the new designation. In order to perform that analysis, you determine what the density and intensity of that development could be. In this case, assumptions on water use, traffic generation and other impacts were based upon the maximum square footage possible. That was based upon the square footage of building anticipated by the Greater Bay group – 64,714 square feet.

That number serves as the determinant of the "Floor Area Ratio" - the amount of building you can have in relation to the size of the property. Assuming that the beach property is 18.6 acres, that translates into a "Floor Area Ratio" of .08 - a very low number.

At the time of second reading last year, the studies had been done for traffic and water, along with other impacts based on that allowable development. That was presented before the Commission and it passed with the familiar 3-2 vote. The Commission acted with knowledge that this limit was in place and there were studies supporting that level of development.

However, as I reported before, the version of the Ordinance that went up to DCA didn't contain the following highlighted language.

The key line added related to maximum square footage, as discussed. The other items were added that parallel language in the Beach and Casino Zoning District - which is locally determined.

Staff made a mistake and did not send up the Ordinance with this language. So DCA is a stickler for detail and wouldn't look at the traffic report or other data since they thought there was no limit to the amount of square footage on the property. Now what could play more into the hands of the people that want to derail any kind of improvement to the beach than this error? Not much. In fact, the following people joined in as Intervenors in the DCA "Not in Compliance" action:
Do those names look familiar? Two of the names are associated with a separate lawsuit regarding length of the lease on the beach and other items in the development agreement - the other two are involved in the Sunset lawsuit, along with petition signature gathering effort related to a referendum on the Beach and Casino Future Land Use and Zoning designations.

So next time someone asks you why isn't anything happening at the beach, read off these four names. They will be there at every turn to stop redevelopment of our beach park. Until then, we will look at the same sorry, dog-eared facilities.

It's also a lesson that sloppy staff work gives opportunities for people to insert themselves into a process to further their political aims.

Don't be fooled when they make a big deal about the traffic impact and the water impact of the beach redevelopment - it only became an issue when the wrong documents were sent to the State of Florida. Now we have an all clear, but for the lawsuits. Chat with the people above regarding the status of those.

For now, please go and enjoy our nicely refurbished pool. Just know that the State of Florida is fine with this land use plan change and amendment to our Comprehensive Plan.