The plans for a change in zoning in Holmes Beach got a no-go reaction from the planning commission.
The Holmes Beach Planning Commission met May 21 for a continued public hearing on a small plan amendment and a rezone application for 214 54th St.
Emily Anne Smith, the conceptual designer for the applicant, Lizzie Lus Retreat LLC, delivered a plea for her design to the commission. Agent Monica Simpson argued her case for the application, as did contractor Greg Ross, and Lizzie Lus owner Ben ten Haaf addressed the commission. All sought approval.
City planner Bill Brisson also addressed the commission, outlining his staff report. He recommended denying the application.
While commission members said they were impressed with the presentation, four of the five members agreed with Brisson that the application does not align with the city’s comprehensive plan.
Simpson argued against Brisson’s points, saying the application works with the city’s comp plan, providing commissioners with visual aids and information in booklets.
“I’ll admit your presentation was very good, and I was swayed,” said Commission Chair Sue Normand. “However, we’ve all put a lot of time into reviewing this and I just don’t think it aligns.”
One part of the application sought to extend the mixed-use overlay district that exists within the commercial district, which is east and south of the property at the corner of Holmes Boulevard and 54th Street, to the residential site. Simpson argued the corner lot is unique, in that in could create a transition from the high-density commercial area where it meets the residential area.
She said the proposed plan could reinvigorate the commercial area in a positive way, while also blocking residents’ views of businesses and dumpsters.
Brisson said the mixed-use overlay provision was intended to invigorate the commercial district, and was not meant to encroach into the residential area.
The property is in the Residential-2 duplex zone, not in the commercial district.
But extending the mixed-use overlay is necessary for the applicant to create resort housing and office space on the site.
Ross of Ross Built Construction in Holmes Beach, the ten Haaf’s contractor, also addressed the commission concerning the second part of the application, which seeks to rezone the area from residential, R-2, to low-density commercial, C-1.
Ross said the property’s current zoning allows resort housing at a higher density than what the applicant is seeking.
The current R-2 zoning would allow a three-story “mega-duplex” of two units with multiple bedrooms on each side.
“That could be done right now, with just a building permit and not a public hearing like this,” Ross said.
Brisson agreed with Ross as to what could be built in the R-2 zone, but cautioned commissioners about combining commercial businesses with resort housing.
“I think most residents are willing to accept the devil they know now, than the one that may pop up in the future,” Brisson said. “You have to be afraid of what could happen when you rezone an area.”
Residents’ comments at the May 21 hearing were more muted than at the first hearing April 2, but the sentiment was the same.
“We want no commercial zoning in our residential areas,” said neighborhood resident Dick Motzer. “Please heed the advice of Mr. Brisson.”
Residents listed their concerns: an encroaching commercial district, the loss of annual rentals, increased traffic and more commercial rezones in the future.
“I believe when Jack Holmes had the idea for developing this area he wanted it to be a middle-class community where people could live and play and enjoy themselves and be middle-class. This isn’t Longboat Key,” said Nancy Deal, a residential neighbor of the subject property.
Deal argued developments such as the applicant’s proposal drive annual residents off the island, adding “share our dreams, don’t shatter them.”
Ross, Simpson, Smith and Ben ten Haaf addressed the residents of the neighborhood in their presentation and also during public comment.
“People look at us and they call us investors. We are a small business. We don’t have anyone backing us,” said ten Haaf. “We want to be part of the community. We think it’s the perfect spot for an office — if it’s something the community wants.”
Smith took to the podium a second time and expressed surprise that residents were against the proposal.
Normand responded, saying, “We base our decision on the comprehensive plan. We would make the same decision if neighbors loved it.”
The commission voted 4-1 to recommend denying the small-plan amendment, with Don Ferguson dissenting. The commission voted 5-0 to recommend denying the rezone request, which was dependent on the passage of the small-plan amendment change.
The application and recommendations from Brisson and the planning commission will go before the city commission for another hearing and a vote.