Zoning Longboat’s and the Key Club’s future

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Following the town’s defeat in a series of lawsuits pertaining to its approval of the Longboat Key Club redevelopment plan several years ago, major revisions to its zoning code and approval process were ordered by Circuit Judge Haworth.

The changes came about after the Judge ruled that the town used too much discretionary power and lacked clear objective criteria in its outline development plan process, which was used to accomplish the proposed Islandside redevelopment.

The town staff, the town attorney and code writing consultant Bill Spikowski have spent the last 18 months making revisions and drafting new codes. The new rules will be presented for consideration by the town commission at a special meeting on Monday, June 16 after the town commission’s regular workshop.

In a June 6 memorandum, consultant Spikowski wrote that the changes were prepared in response to the final order of Judge Haworth.

Spikowski said, “The outline development plan process was designed for the incremental development of large, master planned communities. At this juncture on Longboat Key, the ODP process has outlived its usefulness and is due for replacement with zoning techniques that focus on improvements and redevelopment. However, a Key Club expansion proposal is imminent; and the comprehensive plan should be amended to set the direction for larger code revisions before actual drafting begins.”

Spikowski is saying that the rules to be considered at the Monday workshop are limited to making the town’s laws compliant with Judge Haworth’s decisions.

One of the key elements of the new proposed language is to put in code that additional density can be requested in the Islandside and Harbourside development areas but the units are not guaranteed and must be approved by the commission.

Town staff and the Planning and Zoning Board in the construction of this new language had to decide whether additional units actually exist in those areas. The argument centers on the fact that the original underlying zoning allowed for far more units at Islandside and Harbourside than were eventually constructed in the built-out developments. The so-called residual density, has never been legally challenged, but has been historically maintained as a right the town commission has that it can exercise in its discretion in a development application.

The town could also take the position that there is no residual density, and the density expired when the various site plans were approved and the desired density assigned. In that scenario, additional density would have to be approved through a public vote of the residents.

At the opposite end of the entitlement spectrum, the town could maintain that the units are a vested right that are intrinsic to the property and a developer has them automatically without town discretion.

In the approach proffered by staff and Spikowski, the town is taking the position that the theoretical density exists and it can approve and allocate it up to, but not above, the total calculated amount that was originally allocated to the Key Club properties.

In the case of Islandside, the overall density prior to construction was 5.05 units per acre. That translates into 1,588 potential units. Of that, 845 units were actually built, leaving 743 possible dwelling units that the town can allocate at Islandside. At Harbourside, the total is even greater, with 725 acres originally zoned at 3.26 units per acre. That total comes to an original potential unit count of 2,363 of which less than 1,300 units were actually built. The total number of units that could still be constructed and assigned total 1,112.

It is through the outline development plan process that such additional units can be applied for, but as stated, must be approved by the town commission.

The town’s discretionary criteria in the proposed ordinance is that any additional development must be in harmony or match the historic land use pattern and be consistent with current development principles and percentages.

The new rules also set “departure standards,” which were necessary for the town to make more objective and clear to meet legal muster.

In the proposed new ordinance, departures must: preserve a larger percentage of open space than required by zoning code, reduce traffic impacts or improve traffic circulation, enhance the project’s character and compatibility with the development and adjacent developments and add to or improve on-site amenities and recreation opportunities.

The commission will workshop the proposed ordinance on Monday, June 16, and give staff and Spikowski direction and desired modifications.

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