Proposed height code changes to allow units at Hilton and other Tourism properties

Longboat Key town commissioners approved changes to the town regulations controlling the height code that will allow expansion at the Hilton property and other tourist zoned districts to accommodate additional tourism units.

Town Manager David Bullock said the change allows additional height to be granted through a site plan process rather than an outline development plan process, which the town currently and has previously used to consider development at the Hilton site.

Bullock said currently the town’s comprehensive plan allows the 250 units in T-6 zoning (tourism/6 units per acre) using only the outline development process and a maximum of 65 feet.

Bullock said the town would be adding a third process to be able to allow additional stories and height through site plan approval.

He characterized it as a simple and straight forward change to the comprehensive plan.

Vice Mayor David Brenner said that the proposed language allows the additional height only if its going to be used for the tourism units, not for any other application such as residential height.

Resident Gene Jaleski spoke out against the measure at the March 20 workshop.

Jaleski opened with a definition of circular reasoning and asked that the commission “Does not put us back in court with a process that has been found faulty in courtrooms already,” said Jaleski.

Resident Larry Grossman said the town is weakening its position in dealing with a  developer. He said the town is taking something that is now discretionary and not an automatic approval or a right to an additional story and giving it as an entitlement. He added that the town currently requires an outline development plan review. He said that an ODP review is discretionary, whereas if the town changes its method, it will simply be an administrative review of a site plan application.

“I do not know why the town is taking a legislative decision and discretion from the citizens and legislative body away,” said Grossman.

Grossman added, “you should reserve to yourselves the right to approve additional height and make it a discretionary approval not a by-right process.”

Town Attorney David Persson agreed with Grossman that the town, if it made the changes, would “allow a lesser process in my view than an outline development plan.”

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