BELLEAIR BLUFFS – The City Commission agreed by consensus at its Monday workshop to increase the percentage of buildable area for single family residences. The plan will raise the Impervious Surface Ratio (ISR) from 40 percent to 45 percent, and to allow further increases to 55 percent for homeowners who take steps to provide mitigation of storm water runoff.
The action came after the commissioners heard a report from the Pinellas Planning Commission (PPC). Mike Crawford of the PPC said that, while Belleair Bluffs had the most stringent ISR in Pinellas County at 40 percent, the average ISR on residential lots in the city is currently only 24 percent. Crawford explained that this is because most homes in the city were built 25 to 30 years ago and are smaller than contemporary houses. Most also have single car garages.
The PPC recommended that the city leave the ratio at 40 percent, and allow coverage of up to 50 percent for residents willing to install gutters that direct runoff to pervious areas or use other techniques for intercepting stormwater on their property. Areas of the city have experienced drainage problems and several projects have been initiated to control stormwater runoff.
The commission decided to increase the ratio to 45 percent and allow up to 55 percent with stormwater mitigation. That ratio, which is still the lowest in Pinellas County, appeared to satisfy most residents in the audience who have been seeking an increase in the ISR.
Commissioner Robert Russo argued that keeping the ratio low would preserve the unique look and green areas of the city. Mayor Chris Arbutine had suggested raising the ratio to 50 percent and up to 60 percent with mitigation, citing current trends toward bigger homes. The decision reached represented a compromise between the two points of view.
The commission’s intentions will now be framed into an ordinance, which will undergo two readings before becoming law. To expedite the process, the commission discussed scheduling a special meeting in July for the first reading, with the second reading in August.
Emergency operations plan
Largo district fire Chief Frank De Francesco presented the city with an emergency response plan that can be activated should a hurricane or other major disaster strike the city.
Described by De Francesco as “a very simple plan,” the program allows the city to declare a local state of emergency and to bypass local rules of order, such as going through a bidding process for needed items and services, in the event of a disaster.
Under the plan, the mayor would initiate the action after consultation with the city emergency management officials. The decision must be confirmed by resolution within two working days. The state of emergency would last for seven days, and may be extended beyond that time for up to 72 hours.
The state of emergency would allow city officials to take actions such as ordering evacuations, setting curfews, declaring certain areas off limits, regulation of water, prohibition of price gouging and restriction of sales of alcohol, firearms and explosives.
The city commission would promulgate the plan, render public policy decisions, and issue needed resolutions and proclamations. An emergency operations center would be set up, likely at city hall or the fire department building.
Largo fire Chief Carroll Williams urged the city to adopt the plan, saying, “You may never use these ordinances, but they need to be in place if they are needed.”
Emergency vehicles converged on businesses at the intersection of Temple and West Bay Drive early Monday afternoon after lightning struck electrical wires in the area. De Francesco reported that an electrical smell in the area after the incident resulted in two fire units being dispatched to the scene. De Francesco said that no fire damage occurred and that the businesses, which included the Century 21 office, were able to return to normal operations.