The Longboat Key Town Commission agreed that changes are needed to its Comprehensive Plan, which acts as a road map for the town’s future, at its Thursday, Sept. 23 regular workshop.
After informing the commission as to how the review process works at the state level, assistant town attorney Kelly Martinson said it could embark on “a major overhaul” of its plan.
“Your plan should provide a framework for what you want to see happen,” Martinson said.
But Mayor George Spoll wondered if a major overhaul of the plan is necessary. The plan has been questioned since Islandside Property Owners Coalition attorneys disputed that the approval of the Longboat Key Club’s Islandside project was not allowed under the current plan.
“Are we going back to Genesis or taking some direction from counsel as to what areas need to be modified?” Spoll asked.
Town attorney David Persson told commissioners that a major overhaul is not necessary.
“I am looking for a major discussion but not a major revision,” Persson said. “The elements are still there in the plan, but they just need more clarification.”
Persson said he believes the process will give more clarity to what the town wants to see for both future development and redevelopment.
“This is the vehicle that gives you the framework and gets you where you want to go,” Persson said.
Persson told the commission he would provide guidance for the issues with the Comprehensive Plan.
In the meantime, an initial budget transfer of $85,000 will be made in November to help fund the cost of a review process expected to take at least a year to complete and cost approximately $100,000 for consultant and public meeting expenses.
Once the transfer is complete, the commission will give its Planning and Zoning Board permission to begin the review process and bring back a revised plan to the commission for its review.
Commissioner David Brenner asked Persson what the major issues were with the plan.
For instance, Brenner asked if the document was clear in its definition of open space, which was an issue of debate in the Islandside renovation-and-expansion hearings.
Persson said Brenner’s question was a good example of why the plan needs to be amended.
“We use the term ‘open space’ three different ways right now,” said Persson, who said the document’s land use elements need the most revisions. “We use similar terms to mean different things and we need to avoid that. And we need to be clearer on the uses allowed in our planned unit developments.”
Islandside Property Owners Coalition President Bob White, meanwhile, expressed displeasure with Persson’s suggestion in a recent press release.
“It is most unfortunate that Mr. Persson did not make this point more forcefully at the start of the (Islandside) public hearing process,” White wrote.
“The debate on what is appropriate for the Key’s future could have taken place in an administrative public review of the plan, instead of the courts, as is now the case.”
In a letter sent to the Town Commission dated Sept. 10, town attorney David Persson outlined why he believes changes are needed to Longboat Key’s Comprehensive Plan.
“One of the problems faced by Key Club, IPOC, surrounding property owners and town staff was the lack of specificity within the comprehensive plan,” wrote Persson. “This broad, minimalist plan served the town well when the town had a clear consensus as to how it viewed its future. Times have changed. While it’s still important to remain flexible, it’s also important not to be so general that property owners, constituents and staff members are deprived of clear direction for development or redevelopment. A clear, well-thought out plan will provide property owners and surrounding neighbors with a clear understanding of what can and can’t be constructed or developed within a particular area of town. It will also drastically reduce the number of hours necessary for consideration of site-specific zoning applications. With such clarity, many, many, many, hours of testimony and argument (in the Islandside hearings) could have been avoided, many hours of staff time would have unnecessary and the applicant could have dramatically reduced its costs and expenses associated with its application.” Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org.