REDINGTON BEACH — Town commissioners approved a controversial land development ordinance May 1 that residents protested as too restrictive. Even as they voted unanimously, commissioners hinted that a more acceptable change would soon be coming.
Passed on second and final reading, the ordinance affirms the area of a house lot that can be hard surfaced at 40 percent. That percentage, known as the impervious surface ratio or ISR, had been set in 1989 as the community established its comprehensive plan, according to Redington Beach building officials.
Commissioners had attempted to raise that ratio to 65 percent in 2016, but the procedure they used was later determined to be invalid. Commissioners wanted to approve the 40 percent ratio to bring the ordinance back in line with the comprehensive plan.
Many residents who filled the assembly hall that evening said previous building officials had led them to believe the ISR was as high as 65 percent.
Realtor Steve Redman, who spoke at length, said he has used tax records and aerial photos to calculate that 70-90 percent of existing homes were over the 40 percent limit. He charged that the ISR had been enforced at “well over 40 percent” for more than two years.
“I don’t want our community go the wrong direction for no reason whatsoever,” he said. “I feel like this is almost no reason whatsoever.”
“What we can do here is determine what general direction we’re going and come up with something reasonable. Forty percent is not doable,” he added.
Redington Beach has applied for a $75,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund to fix storm drainage issues, and building officials maintain that raising the ISR could affect whether the grant is received.
Redman said the town’s issue was not storm drainage, but the drain system. He said standing water is caused when high tide and heavy rain occur in tandem.
He maintained that imperviousness is not mentioned in the grant process and that local beach communities with ISRs as high as 75 percent have gotten grants for storm drainage issues.
Another resident, Steve Wotovich, agreed with Redman’s statement. He previously served on the finance board for the nearby town of Redington Shores, where the community did flood mitigation work that lowered the community’s insurance rates. That town’s impervious surface ratio is 70 percent, he said.
“Maybe it’s the plan that needs to be changed, just to be consistent with the ordinance,” he said.
Several other residents spoke; one, Joyce Drew, noted that many of the earlier town residents had been retirees, but people with larger families now lived there and needed bigger homes. The proposed ISR, she said, “is not practical.”
The packed auditorium sometimes became boisterous, and commissioners repeatedly assured that the ordinance was a temporary measure. Mayor Nick Simons said the ordinance must comply with the comprehensive plan. Future discussions, he said, would include ordinance review, possible change and amending of the comprehensive plan.
He noted at one point that at a previous meeting he had asked Town Planner Bruce McLaughlin to evaluate an ISR of “something greater than 40 percent.”
“What that means is, we’re listening,” Simon said. “Let’s just call this a work in progress.”
“I feel there’s a number that can be reached right now,” Commissioner Fred Steiermann told the audience members. “We’re not trying to take anything away.”
In an exchange with Redman, Steiermann said “I don’t want to get adversarial. We’re hopefully on it. We’re solving this problem as we go.”
Commissioner Tom Dorgan noted that the proposed ordinance did not cite a specific ISR. The ordinance states the ISR “shall not exceed the allowable impervious lot coverage established in the Future Land Use Element of the Adopted Comprehensive Plan.” Once the ordinance is passed, the commission can “quick step” changes in the comp plan, he said.
In a written report to the commission, McLaughlin said the process of amending the comprehensive plan would, by law, take about four months. However, once the proposed ordinance was approved, variances could be granted from the 40 percent ISR. Because the current limit was not “in alignment” with the comp plan, no variances could be given.
McLaughlin recommended a joint meeting of the commission, the Planning Board and the town’s recently hired storm water engineering consultant to discuss possible changes in the ISR. That meeting is scheduled for June 5.
In other action, commissioners approved on final reading an ordinance to reduce the number of public notifications about meetings of the commission and Planning Board.
The new ordinance replaces the requirement for meetings of those boards to be advertised twice, once no more than 14 days before a scheduled meeting and another no less than seven days before the meeting. Those requirements will be eliminated for the commission, which will still be bound by state open meetings laws. The Planning Board now can post a single notice between seven and 14 days before a meeting.
Commissioners also appointed James Hinman to the Finance Advisory Committee and Shawntay Skjoldager to the Parks and Recreation Board. Skjoldager replaces Melody Lee, who recently resigned.