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Date of Issue: September 08, 2005

City to ponder fate of Pine Avenue development - again

Nearly two years after first buying property at 303 Pine Ave. in Anna Maria with dreams of turning the vacant lot into their piece of paradise, Robert and Nicky Hunt should be facing the last obstacle in their odyssey tomorrow night at 6 p.m. in a special city commission meeting.

The commission is slated to vote on the final site plan for the retail-office-residential property the Hunts first proposed in April 2004. Approval for that site plan was denied by the commission in August 2004, a decision overturned by Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Marc Gilner just a few months ago.

The Hunts have proposed a three-story ROR unit, with the ground floor and 50 percent of the second floor occupied by retail space and the remainder by their residence.

Controversy erupted when a majority of city commissioners decided at the August 2004 site plan hearing that the city's comprehensive plan meant only two floors of habitable space could be built in an ROR unit.

Experts and legal advisers, however, had advised the commission that the application met the city's development requirements because the comprehensive plan did not clearly limit an ROR structure to just two stories. The Hunts took the commission to court and won.

The commission is now faced with the decision of whether or not to approve the site plan, as ordered by Gilner, or deny the application once again. Such a move would likely result in further legal challenges.

At the same special meeting, commissioners will also reconsider the final site plan for the Waterfront Restaurant, which was closed by fire in March 2004.

Owner Jason Suzor has already received one final site plan approval, but several modifications to that order require him to resubmit the final plan.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8, and will be followed by a commission workshop session.