CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners had a full plate of public hearings for the first commission meeting of 2014.
Commissioners unanimously agreed Jan. 14 to changes to the false alarm ordinance recommended by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, including fee changes.
PCSO Chief Deputy George S. Steffen said the ordinance first enacted in 2009 due to an excessive number of false alarm calls that were taxing resources at the sheriff’s office had proved successful with a 37 percent drop in incidents.
But, the ordinance had no way to enforce payment of fines. Steffen said it had never been the intention to collect fines; the goal was to reduce false alarms and to get people to register. Those who register are allowed two false alarms annually before fines are charged. Fine amounts go up with the number of false alarms.
Those fined for a false alarm can either pay or request a hearing to dispute it. But there was nothing in the ordinance to enforce payment or a hearing request.
The amendment allows for issuing of an ordinance violation, after a show-cause hearing, when people don’t pay the fine or request a hearing. The amendment also removes the $20 fee to request a hearing to dispute a fine. People would be charged only if they cancel a hearing or request to continue a hearing without notice.
The fee structure was changed for registered and non-registered alarm-owners. Those registered will pay $30 for a third false alarm, down from $74. The fee for four false alarms in one year remains at $100. The fine for five false alarms is reduced by $50 down to $200; six drops $50 as well, down to $250 and more than seven false alarms will cost $300 each.
Unregistered alarm-owners will pay $80 for the first false alarm, $160 for the second one, down $40 from the original fee schedule. The third false alarm would cost $320, up from $250, and the fine for four or more is $500.
Alcohol in M-1 zones
Pinellas County Administrator Bob LaSala told commissioners that the growing popularity of craft beer was behind a proposed change to the land development code to allow dispensing of alcohol in an M-1 (light manufacturing and industry) zoning district.
Commissioners approved the amendment during its second and final public hearing. The first hearing was Jan. 14.
Commission Chair Karen Seel pointed out that the current code allowed retail sales; however, dispensing of alcohol was allowed only in areas zoned C-1, neighborhood commercial district; C-2, general retail commercial and limited services district; C-3, commercial, wholesale warehousing & support district; and IPD, industrial planned development district.
According to a staff report, amending Pinellas County’s code to allow dispensing of alcohol in an M-1 district is consistent with adjacent communities in the county that allow for on-site dispensing and consumption for craft beers in industrial areas.
Unanticipated fund balance appropriated
Justice and Consumer Services will receive an additional $270,310 for its Justice Coordination Program, thanks to the recovery of disputed charges from the state regarding past payments to the shared county/state juvenile trust fund.
The additional money will help fund an electronic monitoring pilot program designed to reduce juvenile detention days and truancy, implement a pilot mentoring and re-entry support program to reduce recidivism rates and other activities.
Countywide Planning Authority
Sitting as the Countywide Planning Authority, commissioners unanimously approved three of four Countywide Future Land Use Plan amendments. The first case was an amendment on property at 3211 Alt. 19 in Palm Harbor for a change from residential urban to residential/office general.
The second was for a change from residential low to residential urban for 0.4 acre of land at 1569 and 1571 Sunset Point Road in Clearwater. The third amendment involved 9.8 acres at 5465 126th Ave. N. for a change from industrial general to industrial limited.
Commissioner denied a request from the city of Safety Harbor to change zoning on 34.6 acres. The amendment would remove the industrial designation from a portion of the property.
The final public hearing of the day was the first for a proposed ordinance amending the countywide rules for preservation of industrial land. The second public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 28, 6 p.m. at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St.