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County approves Harbor Ridge rezoning
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Pinellas County Commissioners’ approval of a zoning change for the 2.58 acres north of Alt. 19 outlined on this map allows the developer to continue the process toward building 16 duplex units in Palm Harbor.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners approved, 5-1, a rezoning request June 18 that would allow single family and multi-family development on 2.58 acres of land on the west side of Alt. 19 north of Harbor Ridge Drive in Palm Harbor.

Commissioner Norm Roche voted no. Commissioner John Morroni was absent.

Majestic Real Estate Investment requested the zoning change from R-3, which only allows development of single-family homes, to RPD-5, Residential Planned Development, five units per acre. The applicant also owns an adjacent site and proposes to transfer three unused units from that property to the south of the proposed site, allowing construction of 16 units.

According to a staff report, RPD zoning also would allow “clustering of units to preserve desirable vegetation rather than the typical platting of 60 feet by 100 feet lots having 50 foot wide subdivision streets, which does not encourage preservation of trees.

The proposed development also will share an access point to Alt. 19, just one of several points neighboring property owners oppose.

The Local Planning Agency approved the plan May 8, despite receiving 20 letters and a petition with 107 signatures in opposition. The LPA concluded that the requested zoning change was compatible with surrounding zoning and land uses in the area and should pose no adverse impact to the adjacent single-family development to the north and west.

Staff did note that approval of the rezoning request did not ensure that the site could meet county development regulations.

George Stamas, secretary/treasurer for Pioneer Developers of America Inc., spoke for the applicant. He said Pioneer was currently building townhomes on a parcel of land south of the property. The plan is to build duplexes that are “consistent with the present community,” he said.

However, the neighbors weren’t so sure. Residents from Baywood Village and Harbor Ridge Villa talked about increased traffic problems and declines in value for their single-family homes. They expressed concern about excessive activity and noise during construction, loss of green space and privacy. Some said the proposed development would affect the safety of the Pinellas Trail and the primate sanctuary located across the street.

Others objected to sharing a driveway and said the developer did not have consent of the property owners to use the road to access another development, meaning the site plan would need to be changed to accommodate ingress and egress off Alt. 19.

Some requested that a developer’s agreement be in place prior to approval of the rezoning. County Attorney Jim Bennett said a developer’s agreement was not relevant to zoning issues and would only be required if the zoning was not compatible with the community.

John Cueva, zoning manager for the Pinellas County Planning Department, said use of the road was an issue between the homeowner’s association and the applicant and did not affect the rezoning request.

“Staff and the LPA believe this is appropriate zoning,” he said.

Commissioner Susan Latvala encouraged the developer to meet with those in opposition to explain what was happening before construction starts.

“Rumors spread much faster than the facts,” she said. “You really need to be good neighbors.”

Latvala also said while she understood the concern about a potential increase in traffic.

“But it is easier to get out of your neighborhood than mine, because you have a light,” she said. “I’ve given this a lot of thought and see no reason to deny. … I have no reason not to support a zoning change.”

Roche, who cast the only no vote, said he had “a lot of concerns.”

“We just went through this in East Lake,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues and we’re not supposed to address it.”

Rezoning matters have specific criteria to be considered for approval or denial.

“We’re missing something – the big picture,” he said. “… We’ve got to fix this process.”

Roche made a motion to deny without prejudice to allow the applicant to reapply after the issues had been resolved and a developer’s agreement was available. The motion died without a second.

Bennett explained again that a developer’s agreement was not appropriate for the zoning application.

“Staff says the zoning is OK,” he said.

“They have to have egress and ingress before they can develop the land,” Latvala said. “They’ll either resolve the issue or it won’t be developed.”
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