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Date of Issue: February 24, 2010

Stoltzfus pushes for building moratorium

Anna Maria City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus again asked the commission to declare a moratorium on site-plan approvals, fearing that plans already submitted to the city will be approved before the site-plan ordinance currently under review is amended.

Stoltzfus made his plea at the commission’s Feb. 18 special meeting that was called to review changes to the site-plan procedures and discuss the city’s traffic circulation ordinance.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, however, said the commission should “think long and hard” about a moratorium.

She said Stoltzfus has singled out Pine Avenue Restoration LLC and, because the company has applications under review for retail-office-residential projects, it could spell trouble for the city.

Placing a moratorium that targets one company could subject the city to a major lawsuit, she said.

A previous effort by Stoltzfus at an earlier commission meeting to have the commission declare a building moratorium failed when there was no second to his motion.

However, Commissioner Dale Woodland said he was concerned that, in his opinion, the city has been ignoring its traffic circulation ordinance, particularly by allowing vehicles to back out across a sidewalk.

But city planner Alan Garrett and city attorney Jim Dye disagreed.

“I don’t like the word ‘ignore,’” said Garrett. “We don’t ignore.”

Dye said, “Nobody is ignoring any city ordinance.”

But Woodland said the city has been “cherry-picking” what should be applied or not.

“You can’t go both ways,” he insisted.

Dye said those are policy issues. The ordinance has not been ignored, but the commission might not like the results. If that’s the case, the commission can change its policy.

“But be careful stating that the city has been ignoring ordinances. That’s not accurate,” he said.

If the traffic circulation ordinance were applied everywhere, even single-family homeowners who back out of their driveway across a sidewalk would be violating the code, he indicated.

Commissioners took no vote on a moratorium, but agreed to further discussion at a special meeting March 4.

Site-plan review

The commission did agree to major changes in the site-plan review ordinance, particularly to require that projects in the ROR go to the commission for approval, rather than to the planning and zoning board.

Eliminating the P&Z board from site-plan review makes this a two-tier process, said Garrett.

Stoltzfus asked to have developers show in the site plan if buildings are joined by one roof and if a setback has been transferred from one location to another because of the attached roof.

While Garrett agreed, Dye cautioned that the commission should avoid looking at the architectural style for elevation.

“It’s very tricky to change architecture,” he said.

Webb suggested that each site plan should have a time frame for completion of the project, but that the commission could grant an extension if the applicant justified the delay.

“I just don’t want to get into another Villa Rosa,” said Webb, noting that Villa Rosa is still empty nearly eight years after the site-plan was approved.

Commissioners agreed to a six-month time frame for completion of a project, with a six-month extension if necessary. If a project is not completed during the time limit, the applicant has to start anew.

The commission also agreed that any applicant requiring a variance would first have to receive that variance before applying for site-plan approval.

“Get the variance first,” said Webb.

Dye, Garrett and Welch said they would have those changes incorporated and return the amended ordinance to a special commission meeting at 6 p.m. March 4, just prior to a joint commission-P&Z work session at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.