Who should approve LBK site plans?

Editor & Publisher

The Longboat Key Town Commission is looking to remove itself from one of its primary responsibilities: the approval of development site plans.

The Commission will consider at its Monday, April 21 workshop whether to grant site plan approval authority to the town Planning and Zoning Board and reverse the policy that has been in place for the last five years.

From 1999 to 2008, the consideration and final approval of site plans was made soley by the Planning and Zoning Board.

Back in 2008, the Town Commission took away that authority, leaving the Planning and Zoning Board acting in an advisory capacity. At the time, the consensus on the Town Commission was that since they were the elected body and accountable to voters they should take full responsibility for the outcome of the approval process.

Former Mayor Hal Lenobel who voted for the ordinance in 2008 to strip the Planning and Zoning Board from the site plan approval process told Longboat Key News, “It should be up to the commission, not the planning board to decide that (site plan approval). The voters chose the Commission. Has there been any reason to bring it back? It’s worked well; why change it?”

Over the past few years, several of the Planning and Zoning Board members who previously sat on that board when the site plan approval was stripped from them, now serve on the Town Commission. Several commissioners recently have expressed frustration in spending time hearing and approving plans that meet code regulations and they have opined that the Planning and Zoning Board should simply be handling the approvals as a matter of efficiency.

Commissioner Lynn Larson is in favor of allowing the Planning and Zoning Board to have site plan approval and said, “Let them do their job. It seems to me if the application doesn’t have any departures, if they’re not asking for anything except what’s in the code, then why should the Commission get involved in it? We have a Planning and Zoning Board, let them do their job. When we’re dealing with something that’s in the code, we’re creating an expense and a delay if we make them go through both. It’s one more hassle that people shouldn’t have to go through when they’re just following the law. It’s a waste of the person’s time and money if they’re trying to build within the code.”

The desire to put the subject on the agenda in the form of an ordinance to change was initiated on March 3 by former Vice Mayor David Brenner. Brenner, a former Planning and Zoning Board member, has said that it is a function the Planning and Zoning Board.

On the present commission, three commissioners are former Planning and Zoning Board members who either served before or during the time when the site plan removal was approved. They are Mayor Jim Brown, Commissioner Phill Younger and Commissioner Pat Zunz.

To accomplish returning the authority to Planning and Zoning Board, town staff drafted an ordinance that states that while the Planning and Zoning Board has final approval, any site plans that require departures or special exceptions will continue to require approval by the Town Commission.

Last week, the Planning and Zoning Board itself considered the draft ordinance and unanimously recommended approval. Several members of the Planning and Zoning Board expressed a desire to have absolute final decision-making including granting departures in the Planning and Zoning Board. Town staff told the Planning and Zoning Board members, “This is a good first step.”









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