Belleair - Like everywhere in Pinellas County, the town of Belleair is experiencing growing pains. The town's planning and zoning board members are working to control them along with the town commission. .
The challenge for elected officials is to control the town's growth and keep distinctive features intact. In order to maintain the town's unique setting, it is important for the community to plan ahead to create their future town environment; and promote the interests of the citizens at-large.
Every seven years Florida cities and towns are required to review their comprehensive plan through an Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) per the State Growth Management Act of 1985.
The comprehensive plan is a valuable tool for town government and the private sector because the plan acts as an articulation of policy from the town commission, a description of the vision for the future, a catalyst for policies and as a guide for development.
Town Manager Steve Cottrell said when he addressed the planning and zoning board Monday, "The EAR process is an audit of the comprehensive plan. We need to amend it, enhance it and analyze it for its effectiveness."
Cottrell told the board that the town intends to hire a consultant to assist with the report which must be completed by August 2006.
Before that deadline, a letter to the Department of Community Affairs defining what major issues were agreed upon is due mid January 2006. Cottrell asked the board to concur with the major issues identified by his committee or make modifications.
Previously at the December 6 town council meeting, Mayor George Mariani and the town council agreed to all four major issues up for audit: historical preservation and redevelopment of the hotel; the impact if redevelopment of the hotel and golf course land occurs; quantity and quality of water, and the infrastructure.
Planning and zoning board member Gloria Burton stated she felt that the impact of re-development of the hotel was the utmost major issue. "I don't see how this town can evaluate any development whether on the hotel land or any other property unless we conduct a study on the serious impacts on the infrastructure, services and transportation."
Efforts to amend the plan to allow for rezoning are purported to protect the town's open space and limit land use. Said Cottrell, "Developers will come here as they are throughout the county picking off parcels---every golf course, every trailer park and apply pressures to get them. Future buyers may petition the town to have the course re-zoned to be consistent and in keeping with the zoning around it."
Board member Brian Bataglia said, "It's unrealistic to think it [De Bartolo type development proposal] could not happen again. The town needs to anticipate and prepare for it."
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