CLEARWATER - On April 7, 2011, the Clearwater City Council empanelled the Business Task Force to explore ways to make Clearwater more business-friendly by streamlining the rules and regulations regarding businesses and business development. On Aug. 29, 2011, the task force reported its findings to the council.
“The report consisted of 71 recommendations to change public perception about being business-friendly, streamline development application processes and enable greater signage flexibility,” a staff memo to the council said. “City staff reviewed each of the recommendations and presented to City Council ideas as to how some of them may be adopted as well as a prospective timeframe for these adoptions to occur.”
On Dec. 20, 2011 and July 17, 2012, the council adopted some of the task force’s recommendations, as well as some other changes suggested by city staffers. On Feb. 21, the council unanimously voted to adopt five more changes to the Community Development Code in an attempt to make the city even more business-friendly.
The first would allow balconies to encroach into setbacks and rights-of-way as long as they are attached only to the building, and not to the ground, are at least 8 feet above ground level and do not come within 2 feet of the curb. But it would apply only to indoor recreation or entertainment facilities with a seating capacity of at least 650.
The second amendment is “corrective in nature,” according to a Community Development Board report to the council. A previously adopted amendment to the sign code made reference to an incorrect method of calculating the allowable size of freestanding signs under the Comprehensive Sign Program.
“This amendment replaces that incorrect reference with the correct calculation method, which is consistent with the means previously included in the sign code and as was intended to be referenced,” the CDB memo explains.
The third amendment “makes clear that building permits will not be issued for unlawfully created lots,” the staff memo says. That means that any lot that has not been created by a plat or other legal means will not be issued a permit for the construction of any improvements on that lot.
The purpose of the fourth amendment, which is related to the third, is to prevent unscrupulous developers from subdividing nonconforming lots in hopes of creating lots that conform to the code. It also prohibits lots that conform to the code from being divided in such a way that creates nonconforming lots.
The fifth amendment gives a plan review fee discount to developers who hire professional plan review services instead of having city staffers do it. The task force originally suggested a 50 percent discount, but city officials felt that was too much, and cut that amount in half. But the city council last week decided that 25 percent wasn’t enough and raised the discount to 33 percent.
A sixth amendment, not directly connected to the Community Development Code, deals with members of various city boards who can be removed from the boards for “excessive absences.” The council adopted a new policy, saying that National Guard or other military-related commitments will not be counted as unexcused absences.