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Longboat Key Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019 6 days ago

Town rezones property for Grant's Gardens

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Landscaping business has remodeling plans but more approvals must happen first.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

The owners of Grant's Gardens have big plans for their Longboat Key property at 524 Gulf Bay Road. 

A new two-story building with parking underneath for landscaping trucks and equipment is tops on the list, along with more screening from the street to better hide the property from passers-by and residents of the eastern two-thirds of the street. 

But because the commercial use, which evolved over decades from a cash-and-carry retailer of potted plants to a wide-ranging barrier-island operation, outgrew its permitted uses, it's not as simple as merely seeking building permits. 

With a pair of final approvals on Monday from the Town Commission, the company is on track to make the property changes it seeks. But before improvements can begin, further approvals from the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Planning and Zoning Board are required. 

Commissioners Monday first voted to amend the town's Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use map, changing the .61 acre property's designation from Limited Commercial to General Commercial, a generally more intense classification that better matches the work that is actually there. Then commissioners approved the rezoning of the land in a similar way. 

Planner Tate Taylor explained that such a rezoning wasn't possible without first changing the underlying land-use map. Had the amendment to the map failed, the rezoning would not have been possible, though both measures were approved 7-0. Vice Mayor Ed Zunz, though voting to support the two changes, questioned the sequence of commercial uses moving east on Gulf Bay Road from Gulf of Mexico Drive, with a more-intense commercial zone sandwiched between residential and a lesser-intense zone. 

"The Grant's people do a fine job, and they are the victim of their own success, doing so well,'' Zunz said, directing a question to Taylor. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but if we were starting from a blank sheet on a vacant street, we wouldn't lay it out C1, C2, residential, would we? "

"In a perfect world, probably not,'' Taylor said. "But in my planning history, it happens all the time. This particular situation is remedying a situation that has evolved, and I think the comp plan does support it, and the applicant is going though that process to remedy it through the public hearing process.''

Further town consideration of a special-exception use in the new zoning category is still needed, and variances to site-plan standards might also be needed before final approvals are in hand. Donald Neu of NeuMorris LLC, the company's land use consultant, said the company plans to move ahead with the further applications as early as possible in the new year. 

"Certain things don't fit well within codes, and that's why you do have a special exception, so it is a special case, that's why they allow you to file for a special exception, which takes a lot more scrutiny,'' Neu said, adding the layout of the current building is "willy-nilly" and the new property would flow much better and allow for more efficient use of the space. 

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