CLEARWATER - The city's Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) was among agenda items brought before the city council at their Tuesday work session. The city planning department submitted the draft for review along with a request for direction. The planning department began the EAR process in 2005 in accordance with Florida Statute (Chapter 163.3191). The EAR analyzes the city's comprehensive plan in order to update it and identify pros and cons. The State of Florida mandates that all local governments review and update their comprehensive plans via a reviewing process every seven years. The process evaluates policies already in place and determines how well they have been working. The end report serves as a basis for the next plan update. Steven Brown, the city's long range planner, explained the process involved in creating the draft and presented results. The council praised Brown and the Citizens Advisory Board (CAC) for their participation in the EAR process and remarked upon the uniqueness of a visual survey the CAC conducted called "Windows of Our Community". CAC members were given cameras and set free to take images of places within the community that they liked and disliked, providing personal commentary and captions. Clearwater's CAC is composed of 23 members who were appointed by the city council. The group represented Clearwater's various neighborhoods and was the primary forum for public input. Forming the public participation program and involving a CAC was the first step the city took when starting the EAR process. CAC members advised and assisted the city's planning department staff throughout the process.
Clearwater's EAR draft was developed after holding nine meetings with the CAC, and nearly 30 meetings with representatives from the surrounding jurisdictions, and the county. A scoping meeting was also held with the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA), as well as four other state and regional agencies.
The Florida Statutes requires assessing eight issues within the EAR. Changes concerning those issues since the plan's last amending are analyzed in comparison to the changes projected previously by the plan. According to the city planning staff report theeight issues are:
-Population forecast analysis
-Changes in land area and annexation
-Vacant land analysis
-Location of development
-Public schools planning
-Water resources coordination
-Coastal high-hazard planning area
Additionally, Florida Statutes call for municipal governments, to identify "Issues of Local Concern" during the development of the EAR to be used as additional guidelines when evaluating the Comprehensive Plan.
According to city planners, the CAC and others working on the EAR concluded after their meetings that the following are five issues of local concern:
- The development of a comprehensive and diversified strategy for the city's redevelopment
- The provision of guidance to enhance community character and promote livable neighborhoods
- The development and implementation of a proactive approach to facilitate attainable housing and assure safety and competitiveness of the aging housing stock
- The development and implementation of a strategy to eliminate enclaves and facilitate annexation
- The implementation of an approach to coastal and disaster management.
The draft will be given to the state's DCA to review June 30. The EAR is then revised based on that agency's comments during the first two weeks of August. After that, it goes back to city staff with the CAC performing a final review. The Community Development Board (CDB) is scheduled to review the final draft on September 19, before the council hold's a public hearing on September 21. The final revised EAR gets sent to the DCA on September 29.
After the DCA makes a final determination of sufficiency, proposed plan amendments based on the EAR will be made within 18 months.
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