City Loses Sand Key Zoning Appeal
By Carl Wagenfohr
CLEARWATER - The D. A. Bennett Company won what may have been the final round in its challenge to a 2008 Clearwater City Council decision to deny Tourist zoning to the Shoppes at Sand Key property.
The property owner applied in 2007 for Tourist zoning to replace the Commercial zoning that had expired after being in place for twenty years. Sand Key residents opposed the Tourist zoning, fearful that it would permit construction of a 100-foot tall hotel in place of the only retail district on the island.
The City Council decided to deny the Tourist zoning and instead applied Commercial zoning to the property, effectively limiting the height of any redevelopment to fifty feet.
The Bennet Company appealed the Council's zoning decision, and they prevailed. In December, 2008, the Circuit Court reasoned that because the property's land use designation was Resort Facilities High, Tourist was the only zoning consistent with the city's Comprehensive Plan at the time Bennett's rezoning application was made. "This case is remanded back to the Clearwater City Council to amend the Shoppes zoning district to Tourist," the court ruled.
The City appealed the Circuit Court decision, arguing that Clearwater's land development code requires that a zoning category not be in conflict with "the needs and character of the neighborhood and the city," and that the city's Comprehensive Plan permitted the Council to apply Commercial zoning to the property.
But the city's arguments were apparently not strong enough, and the appeal was per curiam denied on April 24 without further explanation by the court.
While Mayor Frank Hibbard, Vice Mayor Paul Gibson and Councilmembers John Doran and George Cretekos were united in their disappointment with the outcome, any decision on pursuing further appeals will wait for a briefing by City Attorney Pam Akin at their May 4th worksession.
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