Indian Rocks Beach approves plans for townhouse development

An artist’s concept of the planned development on vacant land at the north end of Indian Rocks Beach.

INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — At a packed City Hall auditorium Sept 10, city commissioners voted 4-0 for a zoning change that will allow Taylor Morrison of Florida Inc. to build 32 townhouses at 2501 Gulf Blvd.

Residents were divided in their opinions during a public hearing, which lasted more than hour. Those in support of the project expressed satisfaction that a property which had been vacant for decades was finally going to be productive.

Additionally, several residents from The Cove, another Taylor Morrison development similar in style and located near the proposed development, spoke enthusiastically in favor of the ordinance.

Residents opposed to the project cited height and green-space issues and the potential for the developer to add to the short-term rental difficulties prevalent in beach communities. They were concerned about the loss of the small beach-town character of the city.

Alexis Crespo, senior vice president of planning for Waldrop Engineering, spoke on behalf of the project. Crespo confirmed that modifications had been made to the design to accommodate the majority of the City Commission’s requests, including changing the setback from 25 feet to 50 feet, providing for three parking spaces per residence and installing both bicycle racks and sidewalks that the city would not have to pay for.

Hetty Harmon, the city’s planning consultant, recommended adoption of the ordinance. When the units go on the market, they are expected to range from $500,000 to $600,000 each.

A major point of contention was the building height of 42 feet when 39 feet was the standard maximum for construction in the city. Commissioners indicated that the change of the setback from 25 feet to 50 feet was an acceptable concession for granting the height variance. Commissioners agreed that an additional limitation of two floors over garage should be incorporated into the ordinance. Also, in consideration of the city’s wishes, the complex would have some design and color tweaks that would give the construction a Key West-style rather than a more urban look.

Commissioner Edward Hoofnagle reminded those in attendance that growth was inevitable but that it could be managed responsibly. Hoofnagle provided statistics on how the United States, Florida, and Pinellas County have all changed in the last 50 years.

“Since 1979 the U.S. has grown (in population) by over 100 million people,” he said.

Mayor Cookie Kennedy reiterated the positives. Like many of her constituents who have long-term and even multi-generational connections to Indian Rocks Beach, Kennedy reminded the residents of the commissioners’ intentions.

“The City Commission has the town’s best interest at heart,” said the mayor.

Although Commissioner Nick Palomba was not present, he was listening to the meeting by phone.

The commission’s final approval changes the zoning classifications for the property from business and medium-density residential to a planned unit development.

City commissioners had unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance at an Aug. 13 meeting with the understanding that adjustments needed to be made to the height, setbacks and parking as well as installing bicycle racks and sidewalks. Further concerns dealt with deed restrictions for the property’s condo association to avoid the spread of short-term rental problems.