CLEARWATER — Forward Pinellas Board members said yes to a request from the county to amend the countywide rules to return a land map category that was removed in 2015.

New board member, Connor Donovan, Tarpon Springs commissioner, voted no.

Principal Planner Linda Fisher explained that changes were made to the countywide rules in 2015 and nine residential categories were consolidated into four.

The change eliminated the residential estate category with a maximum of one unit per acre and the residential rural category with a maximum of .5 unit per acre and replaced them with residential very low with a maximum of one unit per acre.

However, the county commission has since found that the removal of the residential rural category has had negative impacts on low-density communities.

The commission approved a resolution on Feb. 25 requesting that the residential rural category be added back to the countywide rules.

If the request is granted, it can only be used upon request by a local government.

If the category is added back to the rules, the county would like to request that the Countywide Plan Map also be amended to include residential rural on the future land use map in unincorporated areas of Pinellas.

Other changes included in the amendment include updating the purpose and traffic generation characteristics of the residential very low category to recognize the distinction from residential rural; add residential rural to applicable references throughout the countywide rules; update section numbers and references changed by the amendments; and make housekeeping amendments to correct inconsistent wording and other typos, which Fisher said was common when updating such a large document.

The county wants to restore the category to be able to pass a resolution reaffirming the intent of the East Lake overlay due to recent annexations that the county says are undermining the intent of the overlay, according to Linda Fischer, principal planner.

She said the approval of the category would allow a future request for a map amendment.

Donovan asked if the rule would apply to voluntary annexations. He also said he understood the county’s desire to protect the overlay, pointing out that developers had come before the Tarpon Springs Commission to ask for a voluntary annexation of property in East Lake.

He said the area was appropriate for what was being considered and not truly low density without consideration of the golf courses in the area. He said the request was just the county trying to control future voluntary annexations.

Fischer said if the category was approved, it would only be applied when requested by a local government.

The matter was scheduled to be heard by the Countywide Planning Authority (County Commission) on June 23 and July 21, but those dates may have changed due rescheduling during the pandemic.