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Date of Issue: April 14, 2005

Holmes Beach planners want mixed use in comp plan

The Holmes Beach planning commission intends to include a section on mixed-use zoning in its upcoming draft revision of the city's comprehensive plan.

Planning Commission Chairperson Sue Normand reminded committee members at their April 5 meeting to review land development codes that the committee had drafted a mixed-use ordinance two years ago at the request of the city commission, but the commission never put the ordinance on the agenda.

"We passed it on to the commission in 2003 and asked if they wanted to meet, but it was never put on a commission agenda," Normand said. Planners at that time had recommended mixed-use zoning in the city, similar to the retail-office-residential zoning in place along Pine Avenue in Anna Maria.

Planning commission members unanimously agreed with Normand to place a recommendation for mixed-use zoning in the comprehensive plan draft that will eventually be forwarded to the city commission for public hearings.

"The concept," said Normand, is "to increase residential space in the city, increase the tax base while keeping overall taxes down, and to encourage redevelopment of commercial areas. A downtown Holmes Beach ‘town center' was also envisioned, much like other Florida communities have achieved with old Florida charm combined with a feeling of community."

Among LDC changes the commission agreed upon were to define "hardship" and "practical difficult" in the variance procedure, and give examples of practical difficulty.

Commission members agreed that "financial" or "aesthetics" is neither a hardship or practical difficulty for a variance.

City planner Bill Brisson, who is writing the drafts of the LDC and comp plan, noted that "practical difficulty" is more lenient than a "hardship," but needs to be defined in the city code.

The commission also discussed increasing the city's current height restriction of 36 feet because of possible increases by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to the base flood elevation of the first floor (distance from ground to the first-floor elevation).

Commission member John Monetti said he didn't want houses to go any higher, but "the time may come due to circumstances beyond our control where we need flexibility" in the ordinance.

The commission agreed and Brisson said he would include a section on height in the comprehensive plan that would give the city commission such "flexibility" in the event an outside governmental agency changed the base flood elevation.

He said it would be better to place such a provision in the comprehensive plan rather than an ordinance because the ordinance can't go against the comprehensive plan.

When the commission finishes its review of the draft land development codes, it will tackle the comprehensive plan review and future land use element and accompanying map.

When completed, the land development codes, comprehensive plan, FLUE and FLUM will head to the city commission for public hearings and further revisions.

Eventually, all the documents will be forwarded to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for approval or corrections.