ST. PETE BEACH – City commissioners have deferred action for 90 days on three applications for temporary use permits at sites along Gulf Boulevard currently being used for parking lots.
St. Pete Beach Commissioners voted 4-1 on May 27 to “pause” making a decision until the city’s planning board can better define a number of issues surrounding temporary use. Mayor Maria Lowe cast the lone no vote.
“It sounds like we’re approving this temporary use for 90 days, not pausing,” said Lowe.
“We’re pausing code enforcement until we know what the codes are,” said City Attorney Susan Cheruti. “You’re not approving temporary use. You’re just not enforcing the laws until you have clarity what the impact is.”
The applicants are Beth Morean of Sungold LLC at 3855 Gulf Blvd., James Kotsopoulos of Grand Plaza Resorts at 5030 Gulf Blvd., and Greg Nicklaus of the Sirata Beach Resort at 5195 Gulf Blvd.
According to certified planner David Healey of Calvin, Giordano and Associates of Clearwater, each of the three sites present a different set of circumstances that require more definition than current city policy provides.
Two of the locations – the Sungold and Grand Plaza sites – were previously issued temporary use permits. Both permits have since expired.
The application for the Sirata site is a first-time application to be used as a lot for resort employees.
Of the two that received a previous permits, one was granted by the City Commission and another by former City Manager Mike Bonfield, who also gave approval to Nicklaus for the Sirata site, before a temporary use permit was issued. Residents living near the Sirata site have complained that the lot is ugly drives down their property values.
There have been no complaints about the two other sites.
“My concern is that our code enforcement is complaint-driven and we haven’t had complaints on two,” said Commissioner Melinda Pletcher. “We’ve had complaints on one. So we’re putting a moratorium of 90 days on a complaint-driven code enforcement issue in our city.”
During the 90-day period, code enforcement action will be suspended while city staff reviews the temporary use process to determine who should approve the permits, what uses are eligible, what zoning districts can accommodate what types of temporary uses, the duration of permits and what conditions, such as site improvements and insurance, should be stipulated.
Healey also suggested taking the questions to the city planning board and for the board to bring a recommended course of action back to the City Commission.
“My concern is that this is something probably every municipality in the country deals with and it can’t be that hard to come up with a temporary use application process and make a recommendation,” said Pletcher. “It could be done in 60 days instead of 90 days. It seems like an easy fix.”
“It’s just the opposite,” said Commissioner Greg Premer. “It’s very complicated. This gentleman (Healey) is an expert and I would also recommend 90 days if that is what it takes to get it done for the final time.”
“We need to show compassion to the property owners, as well as the residents,” said Commissioner Rick Falkenstein. “We need to get this thing done. Maybe 60 days.”
Lowe said she believed the current legal challenge of the city’s comprehensive plan was part of the problem.
“I don’t believe any of these properties would be used for parking if we had a comprehensive plan in place because the price and value of the property would make it more conducive for development,” said Lowe. “One of the applicants stated that the reason they want it temporarily and part of not wanting the conditional use for perpetuity is because the intent and the price of the property precludes it from being a parking lot. That’s just a construct of how to solve it in the meantime because we are constricted by not having a comprehensive plan.”
Most property owners don’t want to consider redevelopment until the city’s comprehensive plan issues are settled.
In other action, commissioners:
• Approved a motion to move forward with bid process for a new city attorney. Interim City Attorney Susan Cheruti will fill in until a replacement is found. The vacancy came about recently by the July 1 retirement of Mike Davis of Bryant Miller Olive.
• Voted 3-2 to pay $9,000 for the demolition of a Pass-A-Grille home at 107 28th Ave. The owner of the home, Gisela Garcia-Leyva, is in bankruptcy and will sell the property as part of a bankruptcy court settlement. When the property changes hands, the city will be repaid the $9,000 from the proceeds. Terri Finnerty, Premer and Pletcher voted yes. Lowe and Falkenstein voted no.
• Authorized a traffic signal maintenance and compensation agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation. FDOT will pay the city $19,341 this budget year for its share opf maintenance on 12 traffic signals in the city.
• Approved a street closure on 30th Avenue from Sunset Way to the beach for a neighborhood block party that is planned for Friday, July 4.