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Longboat Key Monday, Aug. 8, 2022 1 month ago

Planning and Zoning Board halfway through revising town's comprehensive plan

The first set of amendments to the plan have been approved by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
by: Lauren Tronstad Staff Writer

Longboat Key’s Planning and Zoning Board is in the process of chipping away at redoing the town’s comprehensive plan, an overarching document designed to provide a vision for the future of the town along with necessary steps to be taken to achieve the goals.

It also acts as a basis for land use regulations, addressing all physical elements of the area for an extended period of time. 

The process, which takes place every seven years, allows for the town to make changes to its plan. The plan is a requirement for each city in the state of Florida. At the seven-year mark, no changes have to be made as long as the plan meets all state statutes. 

“One of the requirements at a minimum is being consistent with the statutory requirements and evaluating whether there’s been any changes to any statues that need to be reflected in the local plan,” Planning, Zoning and Building Department Director Allen Parsons said. “There were a handful of those kinds of changes that are making our plan consistent with statutory requirements.”

Even so, the town is not required to wait seven years. The board is able to go into the plan and continually update it to meet state requirements as needed. 

For example, in 2016, the state adopted the requirement to include conservation and coastal management elements. The town opted to add them that year, rather than waiting for their plan to be evaluated years later. 

Regardless, the plan is still required to go under review by the state at seven-year increments. 

After the town sent its plan to the Department of Economic Opportunity, the department came back with the recommendation for the town to revise its plan. 

Elements missing from the town’s current plan include a long-term planning time frame covering at least 10 years, a future transportation map, a future land use map and the incorporation of the recently adopted property rights element. 

As the board progresses with redoing the plan, the process the board is taking creates the opportunity for the plan to be broken up into chunks of similar information or elements. The board divided the plan into six sections. 

For example, in July, the board reviewed its third element, the infrastructure element of the plan, which included potable water, waste water, stormwater and solid waste subelements. 

The board then went through each objective, policy and strategy to ensure it met state statutes and to update any incorrect or unclear language. 

“We’ve taken the opportunity to look closely at the wording of the existing plan,” he said. “...They look at the wording of every single goal, objective and policy to ensure it is written clearly and it is written in a way that is an actionable kind of language.”

Board members opted to include a glossary of terms at the conclusion of the plan to allow the language to be more easily understood by the everyday person. 

The process, following the board’s conclusion of the amendment process, is extensive and includes numerous back-and-forth exchanges between the Town Commission and Planning and Zoning Board. 

Once each batch of amendments are made, the board must send them to the commission for them to approve. Once the amendments are approved, the plan returns to the board as an ordinance. 

For batch one, the board held a public hearing on the proposed amendments on January 18. The town commission then held a hearing on March 7. Both voted unanimously to send the ordinance to the DEO for review. The town commission adopted the proposed amendments on June 6. 

The first batch of amendments to the plan were approved by the DEO on July 22. In the letter to the town, the department marked the batch one changes as “in compliance” with state statutes and that necessary revisions were made. 

Batch one revisions included the addition of the long-term planning timeframe of at least 10 years to the future land use element. The property rights element was already included in the plan’s document, but was not included in the document first sent to the department as it had not yet been adopted, the letter from the town to the DEO read. 

The second chunk, which is currently being reviewed by the DEO, deals with the future land use element of the plan in greater detail than was included in batch one. 

The remaining elements the Planning and Zoning Board have to revise include the mobility element, conservation, recreation and open space element and the housing, government and capital improvement element. 

Parsons estimates that the board will be done revising the plan by the end of the calendar year. 

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