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Date of Issue: June 18, 2008

City debates zoning to match comp-plan

Should Anna Maria pass new zoning ordinances that will match the recently adopted comprehensive plan’s future land-use map, or wait until a property owner asks for a change?

That was the focal point of the city commission’s June 12 meeting, where Commission Chairman John Quam said he brought the issue to the commission because there “appears to be confusion among many residents.”

Specifically, the confusion reigns over the six lots on the northwest corner at the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection. The property is zoned commercial, but designated as retail-office-residential on the FLUM.

Quam noted that zoning “must be consistent” with the FLUM and the comp-plan “prevails over zoning.” The city can’t issue a development order that is inconsistent with the comp-plan.

Quam asked city planner Alan Garrett if the city should rezone those parcels to ROR.

The question, Garrett said, is a policy decision for the commission.

City attorney Jim Dye added that the city needs to look at “What’s going on in the box?”

The permit process is the key, he said. Is the requested activity in line with the land-use designation. Typically, a city won’t rezone over the objection of a property owner. A city usually waits for a property owner to approach it for a rezone, he indicated.

After nearly an hour of debate, some of which included specific projects for the six-lot parcel such as a motel/guest house, Commissioner Duke Miller said the city was heading down a “slippery slope” by not rezoning properties to match the FLUM.

If the city doesn’t match zoning to land use, everybody will be confused, he said.

 “We’ve been talking about this for an hour and already everybody’s confused. We’re getting into the ‘I thought’ area,” he said, where property owners will say they “thought” they could build on something because of the zoning, only to find out later that the land-use designation is different.

 “You are going to confuse everybody” by not zoning all properties to match the FLUM, Miller claimed. “We’ve been working on this for the past five years. Let’s not screw it up.”

 Commissioner Christine Tollette suggested leaving the zoning as is until a property owner makes a request to change the zoning.

The problem, said Garrett, is that many buyers don’t look at both the zoning and FLUM when purchasing a property. It is “ultimately a good idea” to have both maps match,” he said.

Mike Coleman said he just needs to know the rules. He noted that his ownership group is interested in building the “Anna Maria Guest House” on the property, but just needs to know if any development should be approached as if the lots are commercial property or ROR.

“I just want to find out what the rules are,” Coleman said.

At present, the six lots in question are zoned C-1, but the FLUM indicates ROR.

Commissioners agreed it was confusing and asked Garrett to bring back an answer on what could be built on a property zoned C-1 and what could be built on an ROR-designated property.

 “You see what I mean about confusion,” Miller intoned.

In other commission business, Mayor Fran Barford told commissioners that the Southwest Florida Water Management District earlier that day approved the city’s application for a stormwater drainage permit for Phase I of the city’s long-term plan to combat stormwater drainage problems.

“I really want to know if it’s frameable,” joked the mayor.

She said city engineer Tom Wilcox has indicated that engineering inspection costs might go up with the new permit, but Wilcox and his company, HDR Engineering, have already written off more than $30,000 in fees it could have charged the city.

Additionally, noted Wilcox, the project cost should decrease because the new design will use less pipe than the previously approved project, which had a cost of $569,000.

City treasurer Diane Percycoe said the city has been approved for a matching grant for the $569,000 estimated cost of the original project and has applied to Swiftmud for an additional matching grant of $225,000, in the event the project costs more than estimates received earlier this year.

However, she said, the city is not anticipating it will get the $112,500 and is not considering that in its estimates of money that will be spent.

Percycoe added that the total amount of engineering costs to date will be covered by the Swiftmud grant of $225,000.

Quam said the most the city can get paid back from Swiftmud is $381,500, including the $112,500.

The city must now proceed with obtaining a bid for the project.

Barford also said she will ask some private citizens to be on the project inspection team “when the time comes.” She said there are several residents with expertise in this area.

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