Holmes Beach residents speak out on rezoning

A Holmes Beach planning commission agenda April 2 brought an outspoken gallery, confusion and a continuance to the chambers at city hall.

On gaveling the meeting open, Commission Chair Sue Normand and her fellow board members noted the confusion surrounding two public hearings — one on an issue of rezoning and the other on a small plan amendment, both for property at 214 54th St. at the corner of 54th Street and Holmes Boulevard.

It was noted that the commission members had not been briefed on either the application or the staff report submitted March 26 by city planner Bill Brisson. They had not been furnished backup materials.

Some commission members were unaware the applicant had filed for a continuance, which was sent to city hall and the planning commissioners via email.

According to Brisson, building department clerk Robyn Kinkopf was advised not to send the background materials to the commission because of the continuance. Brisson called the move “possibly bad information.”

The commission discussed how to proceed, including options to hold a brief recess, postponing the hearing and continuing the hearing.

The city attorney was not present.

“I would strongly recommend you do not try to understand this material in 15 or 30 minutes,” said Brisson.

Commission member Barbara Hines initially suggested postponing the hearing but, in consideration of the large number of attendees — about 30 people — she instead moved to conduct the hearing on the condition no decision would be made and the hearing would be continued.

Adjacent and nearby property owners had been sent certified letters by the applicant notifying them of the hearing.

The commission passed the motion 3-2, with Normand and member Gary Hickerson dissenting.

The board was told by Brisson the applicant was changing its proposal.

“I question the wisdom of taking testimony on an application that is going to change,” Hickerson said.

Monica Simpson, agent for the applicant Lizzie Lus Island Retreat LLC, owned by Benjamin and Keren ten Haaf, requested the continuance to amend the application.

Brisson briefly explained his findings and his recommendation that the application be denied. He cited multiple concerns, but emphasized the ten Haaf’s proposal is not compatible with the adjacent residential zoning.

The home is in the Residential 2, or duplex district.

The applicant asked to rezone the property to C3, which is the heaviest commercial land-use zoning.

The rezoning would extend the mixed-used overlay district to the property, which is adjacent to commercial property to the east and the south.

The applicant is seeking development of two resort-housing units on the second level, and two commercial units on the ground level.

Brisson said that while the applicant’s proposed use is most likely not going to make a significant impact on the community, the problem comes with the allowable uses in the future. The requested zoning category would allow up to six resort-housing units on the duplex lot.

Brisson continued, saying the downtown commercial area was rezoned to include a mixed-use overlay in 2012 to invigorate it, but was never intended to encroach on residential areas.

Simpson said she planned to submit the amended application to the city by May 7.

“What’s unfortunate tonight is that you don’t have the benefit of seeing the big picture plan, total redevelopment plan, the side plan and the plan that goes with mixed-use overlay. It would show you the applicant’s request fits in the area,” she said.

Simpson argued the proposed land use would not be much different from how it has previously been used. The property had been used as a residence and an accounting office. However, the legality of the home business was in question.

Simpson asserted the applicant’s proposed use would create a buffer zone between the highly commercial use and the residential area, saying, “As it is, the line is very abrupt.”

Holmes Beach resident Richard Motzer of 56th Street was the first of the residents to speak at the hearing.

“What the applicant is asking for is a far cry from what the property has been used as,” he said.

“If the city approves this, it would be setting a terrible precedent…. If the applicant wanted commercial property, they should have bought commercial property. Please, leave our residents’ areas alone.”

Nancy Deal of 56th Street also testified. She said: “I do have a question, what is the big picture we’re missing here?”

David Phillips who owns a duplex just north of the subject property grew up in the neighborhood. He said he has watched the area transform, becoming more intensely commercial.

“I can sit on my porch and see a dumpster,” he said. “If you make that property commercial, you might as well make mine commercial, too.”

The public hearings were continued to 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Normand told the gallery that the planning commission bases its decision on the land uses provided in the city’s comprehensive plan. While testimony from residents is considered, the comprehensive plan holds the most weight, she said.

The planners could vote on a recommendation regarding the application at the May 21 meeting.

A planning commission recommendation, along with recommendations in the staff reports prepared by Brisson, then goes to the city commission for a final determination.

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