Mayor Blames Lawsuits for Delays

Three St. Pete Beach properties – the Grand Plaza, the Sirata Beach Resort, and a private lot owned by Beth Morean – all have approved temporary uses as parking lots. The problem is that the city doesn’t have, according to the commission, a clear, consistent process for issuing a temporary use permit.

The city’s land development code states that “all applications shall be submitted to the city manager in a form specified by the city” and that “after an application is determined sufficient and after the appropriate staff review and approval process, a permit will be issued.”

Commissioners want to outline the process to which the code refers and also qualify what “temporary use” means. They used the example of the Nicklaus family, who own the Sirata. The Nicklauses own an undeveloped lot on the east side of Gulf Boulevard and use it for parking. Greg Nicklaus has permission in the form of an email from the former city manager.

Because some felt that an email was not the best way to issue permission, and in response to requests from residents and business owners for a clear process that allows for transparency, at the commissions meeting May 27, planning consultant David Healy told the board he could create a more specific process in three months.

Mayor Maria Lowe apologized both to the businesses and the residents for the difficulties, then chastised the people suing the city.

“I don’t believe any of these properties would be used for parking if the comprehensive plan was in place,” Mayor Lowe said. The city still faces a lawsuit from resident and former candidate for commission, Jim Anderson, over its comprehensive plan. A comprehensive plan serves as a rule book for what can be built, in what area things can be built, and how many things can be built in certain areas of the city. Lawyers have advised the city that anyone who attempts to build anything on St. Pete Beach until the litigation ends could face legal issues themselves.

“I hope those who are litigating, that they recognize what they are doing to our city,” Lowe said. “This entire conversation is ludicrous. There’s an injustice greater than any discussion occurring right now; this is every resident in our city being affected by this.”

While Vice Mayor Melinda Pletcher asked Healy to create a process in 60, not 90 days,that pressure came up against the practical realties of being unable to get the planning commission to meet and vet the process before mid-June.

Over the next three months, the planning board, city staff and the consultant will review and draft a process. In the interim, the city will put a moratorium on code enforcement on these three properties over the next 90 days.

Lowe asked Healy to update the commission every 30 days.

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