HOLMES BEACH – Despite some concerns from the public, city commissioners voted unanimously to allow an increase in intensity of use at the 3101 Gulf Drive office of Michael Norman Realty, rezoning the C-1 commercial property to a C-2.
As a C-1 commercial property, the location could primarily only house an office. With a C-2 designation, future generations of the Norman family may choose to turn it into a coffee shop, café, or retail space. The use of the building will be held back primarily by the lack of onsite parking and lack of space to expand the 1,200 square-foot building, according to city planner Bill Brisson.
Though a majority of planning commissioners voted that the rezoning project is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan, the decision wasn’t reached without some serious discussion. Planning Commissioner Barbara Hines appeared at the Nov. 13 city commission meeting where the rezone was undergoing a final public hearing and vote to voice her concerns as a resident.
Hines said her concerns are that allowing an increase of intensity at the property will cause problems for an already clogged intersection at East Bay and Gulf drives. She also expressed concern that allowing more than an office in the spot could compromise the adjacent conservation lands which are a part of Grassy Point Preserve. Hines encouraged commissioners to deny the request for rezoning at this point and reconsider it when the property owner has plans for how to utilize the property.
Holmes Beach resident Robin Rouse, who owns a condo overlooking the property at 3100 Gulf Drive, said she’s concerned about the future of the real estate office and wants her neighborhood to remain “calmer and more quiet.”
Commissioner Rick Hurst questioned Brisson’s approval of the rezone, asking if he would still be comfortable with it if the property was turned into a Starbucks or other popular café.
Brisson said he doesn’t envision a company like Starbucks wanting the property because of its small size and few parking spaces. He did say that he’s comfortable with the location having some intensity of use and that any future use of the property would need to be approved by the sitting commission at the time the site plan request comes up, not now when no plans have been made. Right now, he said the property owner meets all of the requirements for the rezone which is all commissioners should consider.
“Everything else is a later decision,” he said.
“If the applicant meets the requirements for a rezone and it is consistent with the comprehensive plan it should be approved,” city attorney Patricia Petruff said. She didn’t recommend waiting for future plans to consider rezoning the property.
Planner Darenda Marvin, speaking on behalf of the property owner, said her clients have no plans to change the use of the building at this time, they just want options for future generations who may not want a real estate office or for the day that having a physical location is no longer needed.
“I see C-2 as a viable request and support it wholeheartedly,” Commissioner Judy Titsworth said just before the vote was cast in favor of the rezoning project.