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Development district allows flexibility
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TREASURE ISLAND – City commissioners moved forward Jan. 29 on a proposed ordinance that would create Treasure Island's North End Planned Development District.

Speaking before a packed house during a City Commission workshop, Community Improvement Director Paula Cohen explained the lengthy process the ordinance would establish before a proposed development project or redevelopment could take place.

The proposed district consists of property next to John’s Pass. It includes an area on the east side of Gulf Boulevard south to 126th Avenue, the entire Gator’s Café and marina property on the east side of Gulf Boulevard and the Rockhouse site on the north end of Sunshine Lane, west side of Gulf Boulevard. Altogether, it encompasses about 10 acres.

The purpose for creating the district is to give potential developers flexibility by allowing a combination of uses and to give the City Commission the authority to make decisions regarding site plan approval and adjustments to the site plan.

However, the permitted uses have limitations. They are limited to tourist dwelling units, multiple family housing including townhomes, a marina and certain commercial uses.

The maximum height would be five stories above one level of parking. The maximum density would be 15 residential or 50 tourist dwelling units per acre.

Any increases in maximum height or density would require voter approval.

The proposed district is currently zoned Commercial General, which allows for five stories over one level of parking (100 spaces) and 22 tourist units per acre.

The site is owned by HCI Holdings Inc., of Tampa and is managed by Greenleaf Capital, the real estate management arm of HCI.

However, Brent Von Horn, assistant general counsel for Greenleaf, said the company would not be developing the site any time soon.

“We do not have any plans,” Von Horn said. “We contacted an architect who created a model and we’ve shown that model to some people. That is not what we are doing or what we want to do.”

He said Greenleaf conducted a feasibility study and decided against a resort concept that initially included two high-rise buildings.

“As far as what we want to do, we don’t know,” Von Horn said. “That’s as clear as I can say it. We are focused on operating our properties to the best of our abilities, trying to work on Gator’s and John’s Pass Marina, trying to clean it up. We’ve made some strides and we hope to make more.”

But he left the door open for a possible development at some point in the future.

“We haven’t said we don’t want to develop,” Von Horn said. “We just don’t have any plans at this point.”

He said Greenleaf is just keeping a close eye on how the city formulates its redevelopment ordinance “because we’re property owners and any property owner would have interest in it.”

Should the ordinance pass and Greenleaf comes back with a redevelopment proposal that includes boundaries outside the height and density maximums, Commissioner Alan Bildz expressed questions about whether a voter referendum would be legal.

“When I see the section that says any changes in land development regulations that will allow an increase in density or an increase in height must be approved by the electorate of the city, I’m concerned,” said Bildz. “Add that to the state law that says you cannot require development orders to go in front of the voters. Yet that’s what the (Treasure Island Local Planning Agency) has done. They’ve given us development orders to go in front of the voters.”

City Manager Reid Silverboard said it would not be an issue.

“We set a definite height and definite density that would be allowed,” Silverboard said. “We then stated that a text amendment could be made for height or density. If it’s approved, it would have to go before a vote of the electorate. That is not a development order. That is a development regulation and that’s how we solve that problem. So your concern that we’re running afoul … we’ve alleviated that.”

First reading on the ordinance is tentatively set for the Feb. 18 City Commission meeting.
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