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Date of Issue: December 03, 2008

Planning board seeks planner

The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board reached agreement Nov. 13 that the city needs to contract for a planner.

The board, meeting at city hall for a two-and-a-half hour work session, asked building official Steve Gilbert to prepare a recommendation to the city commission. The recommendation would ask for a planner to work with the planning board on updating the city’s land-development code and also to hire a planner for day-to-day issues, such as site-plan reviews.

Gilbert said his goal would be to prepare a recommendation that showed commissioners how fees could cover the cost of a planner.

The most forceful request for a planner came from planning board member Bill Shearon.

“We need help,” he said.

In the next year, the board will review and update the land-development code.

Gilbert said he currently is performing some of the duties of a city planner, as well as those of the building official.

The board reached a consensus on the need for a planner as it reviewed proposed amendments in two sections of the land-development code — one dealing with plan reviews and the other dealing with planning board duties and powers.

Members, during the meeting, first agreed that the board should review all municipal projects, large and small.“I believe the city has to go through the same approval process” as private developers, said planning board chair Rick Bisio. “It has to be fair. We did it with the city pier, and it worked out really well.”

On a related matter, there was some question about when the board would consider city projects — early in the design phase or, as is the case with private projects, when a plan is submitted.

“How much planning should we be doing?” asked Jo Ann Meilner, specifically referring to a city proposal to partner with Ed Chiles for a dunes restoration and parking lot project on the beach across from city hall. “Should they be coming here first?”

Planning board member Joe Garbus said, “We’re a recommendation board. I think that’s getting out a little bit ahead of our expertise.”

Meilner replied, “This is a project that is being planned for city property.… Should we be planning it or should we be reviewing it?”

Gilbert said perhaps the planning board could have a liaison to other city committees, such as ScenicWAVES, but the board did not agree on that.

Eventually, there was general agreement that if the LDC stated that the planning board will review city projects, the details of when and how can be worked out.

“Before it gets approved for construction, it has to go to the planning and zoning board and the commission,” Gilbert said.

Board members also indicated their eagerness to review more private projects — new construction and some remodeling projects — in the city.

Members agreed it is not necessary to review standard size one- and two-family dwellings, but it does want to review such dwellings that would exceed 3,500 square feet in building footprint size.

“Once it goes over 3,500 square feet, it’s a monster house, and we can review it,” Meilner said.

Board members also agreed they want to review all new developments seaward of the established coastal construction control line, as well as remodeling activities exceeding 2,000 square feet or 25 percent of the footprint.

The next planning meeting was not scheduled.