Planning & Zoning Board Member David Green wants the group to focus a bit more on the “planning” part of its title.
At the close of Tuesday’s P&Z meeting, Green proposed a bit of a shift from how the board currently does its work. In essence, he said it should be more proactive than reactive in responding to issues on Longboat Key, specifically in relation to climate change.
The agenda item belies something more substantial: “Discussion to include potential educational presentations and role of Planning & Zoning Board considering Planning and Zoning recommendations.”
Part of Green’s idea is also to educate more recent P&Z additions in an attempt to contextualize the items they face now.
“There a lot of new members on the board, so I suggested that maybe we have the city attorney and our planning staff present some Longboat-specific topics related to land use, such as the fact that we down zoned the island back in the 80s, and now we have a referendum anytime we rezone property or increase density, what the implications of that are both intended and unintended.”
P&Z Chair BJ Bishop is supportive of Green’s ideas for education and long-term planning.
“Florida does not do that kind of ongoing education,” Bishop said. “David is suggesting that we try to have some sort of ongoing education and discussion on a regular basis at the Planning & Zoning Board."
In particular, though, Green sees an opportunity for P&Z to get in front of issues related to land use on the island, as opposed to just waiting for applications to come in front of the board or for specific direction from the Town Commission. He wants the board to look at certain elements of the comprehensive plan to make sure they’re relevant and consistent with its current goals.
Green believes it’s time P&Z became more actively involved in climate change-related issues such as sea level rise, flooding and other recommendations from the Urban Land Institute. He said the board must consider the ramifications of its decisions through this lens.
“The height of sea walls would be an example,” Green said. “Placement of pools, placement of structures, that may be vulnerable to that kind of change, building standards in terms of strength and elevation of structures are things that we may want to take a closer look at.”
Leading up to his announcement at the P&Z meeting, Green attended a training session where one of the top planners in the state of Florida came and made a presentation to barrier island planning organizations about the role of local government in land use in Florida.
“It got me thinking about the role that the Planning & Zoning Board has,” he said, “and I really feel like we could bring value to the town to look at things on a more proactive, long-term planning basis, as opposed to just reacting to things as they come to us.”
He met with Planning, Zoning & Building Director Allen Parsons, who encouraged Green’s thinking and for him to discuss the possibility of an altered vision at the next meeting.
All that said, Green is adamant that this would not be a transformative change in the general duties of P&Z, which is primarily an advisory body.
“That’s not what I intended, I just want to make sure we’re getting the education that will help us to make better decisions by looking at the history of land use on Longboat Key,” he said. “And secondly, let’s take a look at some issues on the island that have long-term impacts that we could study and make recommendations on a proactive basis to the Commission.”
Town Manager Tom Harmer agreed with Green: The scope and role of P&Z as an advisory board to the Town Commission won’t change. He said the education initiative is a smart one.
“One of the things I heard I thought was good was, is there an opportunity for more training for board members?” Harmer said. “I take it the comments were received favorably, and we probably should have more training and discussion.”