ANNA MARIA — Plans for a two-building, two-story mixed-use project at 216 Pine Avenue were approved by a 4-3 vote at the Planning and Zoning Board last week.
This was the second time the members of the city’s P&Z heard the site plan application. The project is being constructed on two lots. Last month, the plans showed the two buildings joined across the middle property line. Under city code, when a building straddles the line between two properties, the side setbacks have to be adjusted.
Rather than make that adjustment, Pine Avenue Restoration, Inc., opted to construct two mixed-use buildings with space in between them.
Board member Frank Pytel questioned City Attorney Jim Dye, Planner Alan Garrett and Building Official Bob Welch.
“Does this site plan meet with all the city codes?” Pytel asked.
All three said it does, with the caveat that the plan is in compliance with existing city codes.
The codes and ordinances governing the city’s residential/office/retail district are being revised.
At this point, a site plan application in the ROR district is reviewed by staff and then sent on to the P&Z Board where, if approved, the owner moves forward with the project.
If it had been denied, the owner could appeal the P&Z Board decision to the City Commission.
The site plan application approval process ordinance is being revised with all final approvals soon to come under authority of the City Commission. That ordinance is in the works, but it’s not yet law.
“I think we should deny this since we’re the final authority now and the site plan approval process and parking regulations are changing,” Pytel said. “That way, it can go to the city commission and they can decide.”
Dye advised that the approval or denial had to be based on the application and not on pending legislation.
Jeremy Anderson, an attorney with Lobeck and Hanson, represents Anna Maria property owners William and Barbara Nally at most city meetings. He contended that the application doesn’t meet city codes.
“This doesn’t meet the density requirements spelled out in the comprehensive plan,” Anderson said. “You can’t allow more than six units per gross acre.”
Anderson also took exception with the parking on the plan. He said there have to be driveways and curb cuts to direct traffic onto the property.
Dye said his interpretation of the comp plan, with which Garrett agreed, is that the density requirements apply to the entire district and not to individual lots.
Anderson’s firm has lodged a legal challenge on behalf of Bob and Nicky Hunt and the Muzzys concerning the density question lodged against the city with the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
Two attorneys, Ricinda Perry and Valerie Fernandez and Engineer Lynn Townsend Burnett, represented PAR. All three testified that the site plan met city codes. Townsend pointed out that in many ways, the plans exceed codes.
Perry said the buildings would be 27 feet high, when the code would allow them to be 37 feet high. She added they would be built with a 30 percent lot coverage, which is significantly less than allowed under the codes.
In making his summation statements, Micheal Coleman, PAR’s managing partner, said he had talked to each member of the board, and all had said they favored the project.
That could be a violation of Florida’s open government laws, which prompted Dye to poll the members of the board. Under the Sunshine Laws, members of boards and committees may not have conversation with each other outside of a public meeting. The site plan approval process is a little more formal and it’s considered quasi-judicial. That means that board members may not discuss the matter before them with anyone unless they reveal that the conversations had taken place and they reveal the content of those conversations.
Coleman clarified his statement, saying he had talked to the board members before PAR had any specific projects in mind, which at the time, Dye told him was OK.
Board member Margaret Jenkins said she had talked to her neighbors.
“But they don’t know anything,” she said. “They ask me things. They want to know what’s going on up there at city hall.”
Dye said that was a fine answer.
However, during a break in the proceedings, Jenkins had private conversation with fellow board members Randall Stover and Frank Pytel. She also had a private conversation with Tom Turner, a resident. (See related story.)
In the end, the vote was 4-3. Stover, Bob Barlow, Sandy Mattick and Mike Yetter voted in favor of the approval. Jim Conoly, Jenkins and Pytel voted against.