The Community Development Code of the City of Clearwater was adopted on January 21, l999. Prior to that time, City Manager Mike Roberto brought in a consultant, Charles Siemon, to revise the city's land development code. The revision was more flexible to new development.
Mr. Siemon, also, evaluated the 7-member Planning & Zoning Board (P&ZB) and the 5-member Development Code Adjustment Board (DCAB), which dealt with variances. The consultant suggested combining the two into a 'super board'. Both recommendations were accepted by the City Commission.
The new Community Development Board (CDB), composed of non-elected officials, was designed to alleviate some of the commission's workload. Seven members and one alternate, experienced in the fields of architecture, engineering, construction, land use law or real estate, were appointed to 4-year terms.
William Schwob, prominent citizen-activist, served a combined 10-year term on the P&ZB and the DCAB including two years on each as Chair. Mr. Schwob recollected, "Although the P&ZB and the DCAB were quasi-judicial boards, they dealt with matters that were more 'nuts and bolts' rather than long-reaching, important matters. The boards served in an advisory capacity to the City Commission."
Schwob states, " I strongly disagree with our present city code, which allows non-elected officials to chart the future of our city." He believes that the code should be amended to ensure that important land use decisions be made by officials subject to our voting process - i.e., the City Council.
Rita Garvey, former Mayor, recalls, "The CDB was not designed to be the ultimate decision maker but to be the initial 'sounding board' for the Commission on variances. The final decision was to remain with the elected officials. The board seems to have more power than was originally intended."
Gerald Figurski was the CDB's first Chair. David Gildersleeve, selected as Chair in November 2004, was a charter member as was Alex Plisko, now serving as Vice-Chair. Shirley Moran, a member since 1999, has recently resigned.
Ed Mazur, Jr., an original member, resigned in 2004. J.B. Johnson, City Commissioner from 1995-2001, was appointed to fulfill Mazur's term. Mr. Johnson said, "The P&ZB and the DCAB did not have full autonomy. The boards' advisories went through the city's Planning and Zoning Department to the Commission for approval."
Johnson further stated, "Whereas matters dealing with annexation, city land development, buildings and variances can be decided by the CDB, any appeals must be heard by a Florida State official." He added, "In my opinion, appeals should go to the City Council and not to the State for adjudication."
Any politically interested citizen may apply for a vacant seat and is usually recommended and/or sponsored by one or more council members. An applicant is required to be a resident of the City of Clearwater but is not required to be a registered voter. In addition to Gildersleeve, Plisko and Johnson, current members of the CDB are Kathy Milam, Dana Tallman, Thomas Coates and Daniel Dennehy, alternate.
Both Coates and Dennehy are involved with plans for condo complexes in north Clearwater. Mr. Dennehy's project, Ashleigh Terrace Condominiums on Edgewater Drive, has been approved by the CDB. Dennehy recused himself when his proposal was presented.
Triangle Development Co. LLC is the developer for Harrison Village on north Ft. Harrison Avenue and Island View on Osceola Avenue's waterfront. In Tampa Bay Business Journal, Jessica Hollingsworth, executive VP of Triangle, acknowledged that all members of the development group are Scientologists, but "the projects are being marketed to everyone."
Thomas Coates, a member of the development group, presented their plans to the Downtown Development Board. The DDB gave approval and unanimously voted to address a letter of support to the City Council. Triangle's request for a height variance of 30 ft. to 150 ft. is on the CDB's agenda.
The Community Development Board works diligently in conjunction with the city staff and serves a useful purpose as a "sounding board" for the City Council. The members are civic-minded experts who volunteer their time and talents to serve the community as its adjudicators.
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