INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – The proposed development of the 2500 block of Gulf Boulevard – which would include a supermarket - has been on a roller coaster ride, but Mayor Bill Ockunzzi greeted the latest news as a “godsend.”
That is what he called a citizens move to put it on the ballot – most likely next March - as a referendum.
There is a very active history this year to this subject.
The City Commission had scheduled for discussion the referendum at its meeting September 13 but then pulled it from the agenda, scheduling a special meeting September 19 instead.
Then, last Thursday, the city sent out notice that the Monday meeting to consider the resolution calling for a special referendum in November had been canceled.
Ockunzzi followed that within hours with news of his happiness that the referendum proposal “reopened the door for the commission and citizens to determine what is best for the city . . .”
The same day, Andy Salzman, the city attorney, issued a memo outlining the steps that must be taken in view of the citizens initiative.
Ockunzzi pointed out that the commission had been barred from considering the development project on the city’s north end because of a law suit.
That suit was filed in May by a city resident, Ricardo Alvarez. The action, which names the city and the developer as defendants, asks that the Circuit Court reverse a variance granted by the commission.
At issue is the property in the 2500 block of Gulf Boulevard on which a developer, Armstrong Village at Indian Rocks Beach Development, proposed putting a mixed use project, including a Publix supermarket.
Alvarez contends that this Planned Unit Development (PUD), as such projects are called, is not lawful at that site.
Last fall, Armstrong applied for a variance to allow a PUD that would consist of a supermarket, retail stores and condominiums.
In January, IRB’s Board of Adjustment took up the variance request and after a hearing recommended that the variance be denied.
The following month, an appeal of that decision was taken to the City Commission with a recommendation from the city staff that the variance be denied.
Alvarez’s suit says “The commission ignored the BOA’s and staff’s recommendations and voted to approve the application.”
The suit says a PUD “is expressly prohibited” at that site and that by granting the variance the city “issued a development order that is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan.”
Alvarez alleges many other violations of the land development code as a result of approving the variance.
The suit seeks an injunction to stop further development.
As a party defendant, the commission could not publicly discuss matters involving the project.
Now, according to Ockunzzi, if the citizens initiative has the required number of signatures and is in proper form, “the commission can consider the project proposal and any alternative proposals that are properly brought before us.”
“Alternative proposals” mean that there could be another, opposing, referendum on the subject. Salzman’s memo explained that “If conflicting ordinances are approved at the same election, the one receiving the greatest number of affirmative votes shall prevail to the extent of such conflict.”
The roller coaster ride could get more complicated.
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