MADEIRA BEACH – The Madeira Town Center on Madeira Way is moving forward, but proposed traffic changes due to the development have been put off.
City Planning Director Linda Portal gave an update on the development’s status at the Sept. 25 City Commission meeting. She said the city had reviewed all site plan requirements and approved the site plan. The plans for the first building, a hotel that had been reduced in height from 11 stories to 5, have been submitted and are being reviewed, Portal said. That hotel would be where the Bronze Lady shop is now.
Julia Mandell, a special counsel hired by the city to review the Madeira Town Center site plan and development agreement, said the site plan approval “was done legally and properly.”
“There is nothing that would provide an opportunity to recede from approval as long as the parties are proceeding forward under the provisions of the code,” Mandell said.
Portal said the city had done “a lot of extra work” on the site plan approval, but could only charge the $300 fee in effect when the agreement was first submitted. Processing fees have since been raised. She said the city could bill for the additional hours required for the review, but only at the lower fee rate.
Mandell said the city “has captured as much fees as is proper.”
Commissioner Deby Weinstein said the biggest question concerns the changes to the traffic patterns in the area. They are the elimination of the red light at 150th and Madeira Way and the narrowing of Madeira Way from four lanes to two, while traffic is expected to be increased from the proposed development.
Portal said the city had been working with the Florida Department of Transportation on the traffic issue. “The traffic changes would be a serious blow to existing businesses” on the south side of Madeira Way that would be impacted by the construction activity, she said.
For that reason, “a conscious decision was made to delay road changes for three years to protect the existing businesses on the south side until they are replaced by development,” Portal said.
Neighborhood meeting requirements
The commission also looked at expanding the requirement for neighborhood meetings for all major developments.
Currently, all residents living within 200 feet of a proposed development must be invited to a neighborhood meeting where they can hear about and comment on the plans. That had been a serious concern for the commission, brought up last month in connection with a proposed hotel at John’s Pass Village, Portal said. Some commissioners pointed out that limiting the meeting notification to the 200 feet rule would reach only a few residents because of the commercial properties surrounding the site.
Several commissioners had recommended expanding the notification zone for major developments, and, in certain conditions, notifying the whole city. Portal pointed out that all residents can go to the informational meetings, even if not invited.
Commissioner John Douthirt said everybody in the city as well as other communities will be affected by the Madeira Way development.
Mandell said the 200-foot limit “is relatively small.” Most communities of Madeira Beach’s size had a 250 to 300 feet neighborhood meeting notice boundary, she said. “That is more reasonable for an area of this density,” she said.
Mandell also said a “tiered” boundary could be used, with the number of feet adjusted to the size and impact of the development being proposed.
Going too broad, with a limit higher than 300 feet “could create more problems than it solves,” she said. Mandell reminded the commissioners that there are stringent legal requirements the developer must follow in notifying residents within the stated boundary. Legal challenges could arise if some people within the boundary do not receive proper notification by mail.
Mandell recommended that the required notification area could be 300 feet or so, but then the city could have a policy that people in a much wider area should be informed about the neighborhood meetings. In the broader area, residents could be notified by means other than mail, such as a televised notice on the city’s public access channel, on the website, or using a digital sign.
Resident Marilyn Hafling said the residents need to be notified of proposed development projects “before they get into the real formal development stages.” Hafling said many of the problems with developments have been due to a lack of notice.
Weinstein said she liked a 500-foot requirement. Douthirt said he prefers a tiered system “based on the size of the project.”
The location of the meetings was also discussed. City Manager Jonathan Evans said City Hall “is really proximate to anybody in town,” and also makes sense for space and video recording capabilities, which he said is a big issue. The developer would pick up the costs, he said.
Mandell also said public meetings should be held in the City Hall chambers. Locations such as restaurants are not good, she said. She also said the meetings should always be held in the evenings so residents who work can attend.
Commissioner Nancy Oakley said every available means, including electronic media, should be used to notify residents of the meetings.
The commission agreed to set a number, larger than the current 200 feet, that developers are legally required to notify. And then to have a policy of including a larger number of residents if the development size or other issues make it of interest to a wider area.
Rental/lease agreement for city vehicles considered
The city could save a lot of money by leasing rather than buying its fleet of vehicles, City Manager Evans told the commission. The savings are substantial with a rental/lease agreement being proposed by Enterprise Fleet Management.
Jeffrey Harbaugh of Enterprise said the rental agreement offers the city the opportunity to modernize its fleet and save money. He presented a plan to gradually replace the existing 17 owned vehicles with leased inventory.
By 2024, when the entire city fleet would be replaced, the city would pay about $106,000 a year in lease payments for all 17 vehicles, compared to a typical budget now of $150,000 a year to replace four trucks.
The program provides newer vehicles with safety features, lower fuel and maintenance costs, “and in most cases, you’ll spend less than what you’re spending now,” Harbaugh said.
The age of the vehicles is reduced, which reduces maintenance costs by 70 percent or more, in most cases, “because the only maintenance needed is to change the oil,” Harbaugh said.
Commission members liked the rental/lease agreement.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mayor Maggi Black. “We save a lot of money over the years, and everybody will end up with a new vehicle.”
“And the maintenance is taken care of,” said Weinstein.
“Good project,” said Black. She told Evans to “move forward with it.”
John’s Pass kiosk fate uncertain
An agreement for the rental of the kiosk at John’s Pass Village is up for renewal. Both the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, the current occupant, and the Treasure Island/Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce are bidding for its use.
But the commission may decide, “None of the above.”
Renovations will cost about $20,000, but Evans said the kiosk has “extreme value” in promoting the village and the city. But it must be “brought up to code, modernized and have a staff presence,” he said.
Black said she would “flatten it,” leaving the roof only, and provide some benches “to sit in the shade and enjoy some ice cream.”
“That would save the city a lot of heartache and a lot of money,” the mayor said.
Oakley said, “Absolutely, I agree.”
Weinstein said she thought it is important to have the chamber presence in the village but felt renovations to the kiosk “should not be at the expense of the taxpayers.”
Evans said the kiosk “has always been our responsibility. We need to maintain it or remove it.”
Evans said he would invite the John’s Pass merchants to a future commission meeting and “look at getting a partnership with the business community to get the kiosk where we want it.” He said what is really important to the businesses at John’s Pass is pedestrian walkways, better restrooms, lighting, parking, better signage and trash receptacles.
The commission agreed to the meeting with the merchants, if, Oakley said, the majority of merchants who do not belong to the Merchants Association agree to attend.
A decision on the kiosk will be made at a commission meeting and could depend on what the merchants have to say.