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Date of Issue: June 02, 2005

Pine Avenue battle escalates, commission sets special meeting

Anna Maria's planning and zoning board has come under fire from an attorney representing a home builder who has purchased two lots of the property on Pine Avenue formerly occupied by Island Marine.

The board at its May 23 meeting had questioned a Feb. 18 opinion by City Attorney Jim Dye that five single-family homes could be built on the five lots representing the former Island Marine, despite the fact that none of the lots are a minimum 7,500 square feet as required by the city code. The board had recommended the city commission amend the ordinance pertaining to lot size in the city's residential-office-retail district and have Dye look at language in the comprehensive plan regarding lot size in the ROR district.

Attorney Scott Rudacille, representing Centurion Home and "other clients in the city who could potentially be affected by the proposed amendment," claimed in a letter to City Commission Chairperson John Quam that one issue raised by the P&Z board "is the potential liability the [board's] proffered amendment would create for the city."

While he said the proposed amendment is about Pine Avenue, a number of other properties in the city could be adversely affected by changing the code.

In his opinion and that of "other attorneys" in his law firm's land use department, the amendment would "potentially create an immediate cause of action" under Florida's Bert Harris Property Rights Act.

He also claimed that the city charter allows for lots that became nonconforming because of the city charter to be "grandfathered."

Comprehensive plans, said Rudacille, are "broad land-use planning tools," and "single policies cannot be taken out of context and applied rigidly on a lot-by-lot basis."

Rudcacille also blasted the board over its "treatment" of Dye, saying such "criticism" is "inappropriate."

The city charter, said Rudacille, a former Island resident, states that the city attorney will provide legal advice to all city departments.

Dye's Feb. 18 letter to the building department that gave the opinion that Rudacille's clients could build five single-family homes on the five lots was just Dye doing his job.  "His proactive approach in issuing the opinion in a timely manner has likely protected the city from unnecessary liability to this point," said Rudacille.

Peter Petres of Centurion Homes, who has a purchase contract for two of the Island Marine lots, added to the fire by asking what assurances Dye could give them "that we can close on these two parcels and proceed with our plans to build residential construction on them."

The P&Z board, said Petres, "does not share your thoughts. It appears they are vehemently opposed to residential construction on these particular lots," and that's obviously a cause for concern as "we plan to permit and construct residential homes."

Petres asked Dye for assurances and Dye forwarded that request to Building Official Kevin Donohue.  

Special meeting tomorrow on Pine Avenue-Island Marine

Anna Maria City Commission Chairperson John Quam has scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 2, to consider the request from the planning and zoning board that the commission review and amend the city ordinance pertaining to residential homes in the retail-office-residential district.

The P&Z request also notes that it disagrees with City Attorney Jim Dye's opinion that five single-family homes can be built on the five lots that comprise the former Island Marine property on Pine Avenue.

Since Dye's Feb. 18 opinion letter, at least two of the five lots are under contract for purchase.