Code talk leads to Town Hall kerfuffle

Associate Publisher

Planning and Zoning Director Allen Parsons found his presentation regarding the zoning code update had turned into a debate by commissioners whether to bringa Ordinance 2016-32 back before the commission.

The ordinance in question, Ordinance 2016-32 is currently being amended and re-written by town staff, and has been discussed by the Planning and Zoning Board. The Commission tabled the ordinance in June 2016, after it directed town staff to amend and re-write some of the language and specifically how the code deals with non-conforming properties on the key as well as voluntary and involuntary reconstruction.

Commissioner Irwin Pastor felt that the ordinance should be brought back before the commission in the event a hurricane were to come toward Longboat Key.

“If an event happened we still have this one thing that we’ve worked very hard on. We’ve done some extensive work on Ordinance 2016-32 that was passed on first reading…I’m asking the town staff: Are there any legal reasons that — as is — 2016-32, that we couldn’t go forward with a second reading to put this in place before a storm happens?” asked Pastor.

Town Attorney Maggie Mooney-Portale responded that Ordinance 2016-32 did not pass on first reading, and that the only way to move it forward would be to put it on the agenda for first reading again, or to bring it to a workshop and then send it to first reading.

Mayor George Spoll noted that although Pastor had some points well taken and said they were worth discussing, that the ordinance itself was not up for discussion and that it was out of order to be talking about it.

Pastor insisted that the matter was worth some discussion and that is what a workshop is for.

“If something happens, you’re dealing with claims adjusters and on top of it the height, having different zones and everything; you would have chaos. The good will and ill will would go south in the wrong direction. It’s unconscionable to think that if something were to happen we would have to deal with this. This would be devastating if something were to happen. We need to protect the properties, time is of the essence” said Pastor.

Commissioner Ken Schneier who had served on the Planning and Zoning Board during the zoning code changes said, “I don’t think anyone has been more interested in moving the non-conforming issues forward than I have. I think we had a meeting that came out with six bullet points for discussion. The separate meetings with staff and (Town Manager) Tom (Harmer) was that I would like to see the redevelopment portion that there’s something in place following the guidelines from our last workshop, for next summer. I think the dye has been cast for this summer,” said Schneier.

Commissioner Jack Daly agreed with not bringing the zoning code ordinance back to the commission right away.

“Personally, from my viewpoint, we’re fleshing that out again with those issues. My view is 2016-32 is the vehicle to start dealing with the issue and I’m hopeful that that’s what staff is doing. I think we’re to the point that we continue to hope that we don’t have that issue (hurricane) this summer and that we have time to come up with the redevelopment ordinance. Should we have a Category 1, 2, or 3 occur, with a massive need for redevelopment, then we can quickly have it done on an emergency basis to implement Ordinance 2016-32 on an interim basis,” said Daly.

Mooney-Portale clarified that the adoption of an emergency rebuild ordinance is possible in the event of a hurricane this summer.

“One other thing is by statute, Florida law allows for the adoption of emergency ordinances in the event of a hurricane so we could expedite an adoption of an ordinance if we have to,” said Mooney-Portale.

Mooney-Portale also said it was important for the commission to remember what Ordinance 2016-32 did, “It created a zoning to make non-conforming properties conforming.”

Planning and Zoning Board Chair BJ Bishop spoke before the commission and admonished the board for waiting until hurricane season to try to bring the ordinance back in a rushed manner.

“When you make re-writes of the zoning code in an emergency manner, you’d better make sure you know where the history of that code came from. Parsons has told us we need this summer. If you want to prepare for hurricane season you come in January, February or at least Spring. You don’t come to late June and decide, ‘What if we have a hurricane?’ and do piece meal ordinance writing. Good land use code is not written on – ‘Well, if you want to rebuild because it’s a hurricane and so it’s more important’ than if ‘You want to rebuild just because, then its not as important.’ You make good land use code based on planning. So stop talking about conforming and non-conforming and let them (staff) do their job,” said Bishop.

Pastor took umbrage with Bishop’s statement, “That is not accurate at all, and I still maintain our job as commissioners is to the health, safety and welfare of the electorate. If this was a referendum how do you think they (residents) would vote? I’ll tell you how they would vote is ‘Protect my property, and don’t wait for an emergency situation,’” said Pastor.

Schneier and Daly agreed they would pass an emergency ordinance if a hurricane were to occur this hurricane season.

Spoll said the commission should give staff direction since the item was not up for discussion and asked Parsons what he needed from them.

“I think what we’re looking for is just allowing us to continue to work on what we’re doing. So no action is necessary,” said Parsons.

Parsons informed the commission that town staff was moving forward with some amendments and with a version of the ordinance that includes a new zoning district that would remove non-conforming status. Ideally, Parsons added, when staff gets to the first reading of the ordinance, they will also have something to share regarding floating zones as well.

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