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Date of Issue: December 06, 2007

HB board resumes comp plan work

The Holmes Beach Planning Commission breezed through the first review of proposed amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan Nov. 29.

But board members and city planning consultant Bill Brisson expect some tough issues will be tackled in future meetings, specifically in regards to affordable housing.

The planning commission, meeting last Thursday at Holmes Beach City Hall, is at work preparing an updated comprehensive plan based on the evaluation and appraisal report the city commission approved April 10.

The EAR summarized the successes and failures of the city’s comp plan, identified key issues and recommended changes to the plan, a future guide for the city - through 2011 for short-term goals and 2016 for long-term goals.

Now the planning commission must work the EAR into the comp plan. The update process, required by the state, is expected to take at least five months, with the planning commission meeting once a month.

“Most of the material we’ve already gone over in discussing the ERA,” Brisson said.

The consultant said he hoped the planning commission would complete its work in April “so that the proposed amendment can be reviewed by city commission and forwarded to the DCA during the summer.”

The Florida Department of Community Affairs will then review the amended plan and either OK the document or request changes.

Last week, in an hour-long meeting, commissioners reviewed proposed changes to the comprehensive plan’s future land-use and transportation sections.

Most of the proposed changes, according to Brisson, eliminate language no longer required by the state in comp plans or outdated information.

The commission, however, did spend time discussing whether to remove from the comp plan a provision calling for the city to prepare a “streetscape” study.

A provision in the current comp plan calls for the study - a review and recommendation for the city’s main streets - by 1999. Brisson said the language should either be removed or updated.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to keep the provision for a streetscape study in the comp plan and change the date to initiate a review by 2010.

“I’d like to see it done,” said Commissioner Gary Hickerson. “I would leave this in with the hope that they’ll get around to streetscaping.”

Commissioner Michael Snyder added, “I’m very positive, high on this concept.”

Commission chair Sue Normand said such a study might help beautify the city as interest in eco-tourism and environmental preservation increases.

While last week’s meeting went quickly, Brisson cautioned the commission that some difficult issues will arise. First and foremost, will be tackling affordable housing.

Anna Maria city officials are at work on an affordable housing policy at the urging of DCA. Holmes Beach should prepare for needing a policy as well, Brisson said.

“When we adopted the last comp plan, we got away with policies that don’t really address affordable housing,” Brisson said. “We don’t really have anything in our plan now. But we’ll have to look and see if there’s something we can come up with.”

Some options may be to accommodate “mother-in-law” or accessory apartments on larger housing lots, requiring affordable housing in “mixed-use” areas and requiring developers to contribute to a county housing trust fund.

“It’s food for thought,” Brisson said.

In other business last week, a new board member, Edward Kerr, was introduced. Kerr has replaced Mike McCaleb, who resigned from the commission for personal reasons.

Kerr, who is retired, previously owned a small retail chain and served as a Sears & Roebuck executive, as well as on civic committees in Illinois.

The board re-elected Normand as chair and elected Hickerson as vice chair.

The planning commission will meet next in January, but a specific date has not been set.