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Date of Issue: May 26, 2005

City attorney draws ire of Anna Maria City planners

Anna Maria's planning and zoning board took shots at City Attorney Jim Dye for a Feb. 18 opinion he gave that will allow five single-family homes to be built along Pine Avenue in the city's retail-office-residential area, without accompanying retail-office space. The lots are on the site of the former Island Marine.

P&Z vice chairman Doug Copeland said at the board's May 23 meeting that Dye's opinion from a request by attorney Scott Rudacille, representing Island Marine purchaser, allows homes to be built there on less than the 7,500 square feet required for the ROR district, as stated in the city codes and in the comprehensive plan. Dye's original opinion two years ago was that the lots were all undersized for a single-family home development.

The comprehensive plan is "very clear," with a maximum density in the ROR district of five units per acre, said Copeland. All of the five lots in question are less than 7,500 square feet, he said, and the city codes, regardless of Dye's opinion, can't supersede the comp plan.

"Did the city pay for the opinion that screwed us?" Copeland asked.

Board member Randall Stover agreed. "You can't adjust the comprehensive plan from a Jim Dye opinion."

Former P&Z board chairman Charles Canniff said there have been several cases where Dye has "unilaterally changed our ordinances and that's wrong. Jim Dye's opinion doesn't change our laws."

 Stover said Dye should have brought the problem to the board or commission before rendering an opinion because "the impression is that he's speaking city law."

Board member Fran Barlow was upset that Dye didn't show up for the meeting to discuss the issue with the board. "I have a problem with Dye not being here. He knew we were bringing this up and I wanted to know what we can do legally and right."

The board unanimously passed a motion requesting that the city commission change the ordinance to "reflect" the intent of the comprehensive plan and inform Dye of the language in the comp plan. Dye's opinion is allowing single-family homes on 5,000 square foot lots in the ROR district and that's not what was intended for the district, the board said in its motion.

"The intent of the residential-office-retail district was not to have a row of houses on Pine Avenue," added Stover.

Efforts to reach Dye for comment were unsuccessful.