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County schedules January public hearings
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CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners will get a busy start to the new year with at least six public hearings scheduled for January.

Commissioners approved advertising for the hearings Dec. 10 during the last meeting of 2013.

County Attorney Jim Bennett advised the commission to move the public hearing on proposed amendments to the Animal Services from Jan. 14 to Jan. 28 due to the number of hearings set for the first Tuesday meeting of 2014.

The commission will consider changes to code Jan. 28 for dangerous dogs, neglect, hold times and mandatory sterilization paid for by the owner for animals found running loose and brought to Animal Services shelter two times within 24 months.

Countywide Planning Authority hearings

The first of two public hearings by the commission sitting as the Countywide Planning Authority is set for Jan. 14 with a second hearing on Jan. 28 to consider proposed amendments to the countywide rules for preservation of industrial lands.

The Pinellas Planning Council approved a resolution, 10-0, Nov. 13, recommending that the Countywide Planning Authority amend the countywide rules to convert industrially-designated land to another category and highlight the desirability of incorporating additional criteria into the Countywide Plan

Changing the rules would assist the PPC and CPA in making decisions regarding the conversion of industrially designated land, according to a staff report. The PPC and county staff believes it would be beneficial to have such criteria adopted as part of the Countywide Rules. The proposal also includes definitions of four new terms that are used in the criteria.

In a separate but related matter, the CPA will conduct a final hearing Jan. 14 on a proposed amendment to the Countywide Future Land Use Plan for 34.6 acres in the city of Safety Harbor.

The commission, sitting as the CPA, denied the request May 7, saying it was important to preserve the county’s industrial land.

Approval of the rezoning, which was backed by the city of Safety Harbor, would have allowed redevelopment of the property and construction of a 246-unit apartment complex that would have fronted S.R. 590 and an office building that would have fronted McMullen Booth Road.

However, approval would have resulted in the loss of 15.8 acres of land that could be used by an industry to provide much-needed jobs in Pinellas. The approval also would not add to the county’s affordable housing inventory.

The Richman Group of Florida had planned to build high-end apartments, with a one bedroom renting for $1,000, a two bedroom for $1,300 and a three bedroom for $1,500. The Richman Group subsequently sued the county. The Jan. 14 public hearing is in response to a recommended order from an administrative hearing.

County Commission hearings

Amending the county code on false alarms is the subject of a Jan. 14 public hearing by the board of county commissioners. According to a memo from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the amendment is needed to address failure to pay assessed fines for allowing false alarms and to lower the fine for seven or more false alarms. The amendments also would remove the fee to appeal of the notice of a false alarm. If approved, the ordinance would add a fee for cancellation or rescheduling of hearings with less than three days’ notice unless the reason is that the fee was paid.

The commission also will conduct a public hearing on unanticipated carry-forward of grant funds from fiscal year 2013 to FY 2014 for $270,310 to the Justice Coordination program within the Department of Safety and Emergency Services.

A second hearing on allowing the dispending of alcoholic beverages within the M-1 Zoning District also will be conducted Jan. 14. The hearing is in response to the growing popularity of craft beer. A code change would allow local breweries to serve their products on their premises within the guidelines set forth by code.

Public hearings scheduled for the first meeting of the month begin at 9:30 a.m. in the fifth floor Assembly Room of the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater. The agenda will be posted Thursday prior to the meeting at
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