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Longboat Key Wednesday, Apr. 16, 2014 3 years ago

P&Z members say code stifles creativity

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board members expressed frustration with proposed changes to the town’s Outline Development Process (ODP) Tuesday, and said the suggestions are confusing, unclear and hinder an applicant’s right to have clear direction when submitting plans.

Bill Spikowski, of Spikowski Planning Associates, who was hired to make changes to the town’s codes, presented a proposed ODP change that stated project consideration must include additional uses and structures that “are reasonably similar to neighboring uses in terms of development intensity, building coverage, design, occupancy, access and circulation.”

Spikowski also states additional units and structures “must not adversely affect the quality of life of persons in surrounding or nearby buildings” and “additional units and structures must not be detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the community.”

Planning board member Allen Hixon called the language “anti-creative.”

“That reads to me that you can’t build a high-rise because it will block my view of Sarasota,” Hixon said. “You can’t be creative in your land and design plans under this straight jacket.”

Planning board member George Symanski Jr. also expressed frustration.

“I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole every time we review this,” Symanski said. “It’s the antithesis of inflexibility. It seems to be ratcheted down so it’s in cement and nothing will ever happen.”

Planning board member Leonard Garner said the suggestions only made the ODP process more confusing, especially for Ocean Properties officials, who are watching this process closely before they submit a new Longboat Key Club project application.

“Let’s get a code here where if someone comes in, they know what they are being confronted with,” Garner said.

Planning board Chairwoman B.J. Bishop said the “language makes me shudder” and urged staff to come back with more clear examples.

Ocean Properties Vice President Mark Walsh, son of Ocean Properties founder Tom Walsh, told the planning board it needs clearer direction before it will submit a project.

“We would like to add something to the club that the town and neighbors can support,” Walsh said. “We can’t build something unless we have clear direction and know what the town and neighbors expect.”

Ocean Properties consultants presented proposed language for the board to consider that states:
“In order to encourage clustering on larger tracts of land where design flexibility can be more readily achieved, an ODP application shall be entitled, to an assignment of units for a proposed development parcel, subject to the ODP application not proposing to utilize more than 50% of the available units not previously designed and that the proposed parcel for development complies with all other requirements of the code.”

Planning staff also proposed language that stated the ODP application “must be consistent with the intent of the district and uses within the overall development.”

The planning board agreed to meet again in May to review potential ODP changes. The board also reached a consensus that it believes unused residential and tourism units in a planned development such as Islandside stay with the land and not the former owners of the land.

“It’s not as complicated as we’re making it out to be,” said Sarasota attorney John Patterson, who is representing Ocean Properties. “The remainder of the units left that weren’t used is what a developer has a right to build.”

Also at its meeting, the planning board agreed to take back the site plan authority process from the Longboat Key Town Commission. While the site plan process was returned to the Town Commission in 2008, Planning, Zoning and Building Director Alaina Ray noted that recent “clean applications,” such as the Longboat Key Hilton Beachfront Resort and the Aria/Villa Am Meer projects, did not have any departures and took more time to review with two boards.

“This will cut six weeks off the approval time for applications that meet the code,” Ray said.

The commission will continue to review applications that require departures or special exceptions on the site plan level.

P&Z forms subcommittee
Planning and Zoning Board Chairwoman B.J. Bishop suggested and received support for a subcommittee that will meet a few times in the next two months to discuss the planning role of the board and how it can better serve the town.

Board member Jack Daly, who submitted a memo regarding the role of the board, will chair a subcommittee that will discuss the board’s role and any items planning board members suggest should be brought up during a future joint meeting of the planning board and the Longboat Key Town Commission.

Contact Kurt Schultheis at


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