Home / Government / City Commission ties design incentives to larger setbacks

City Commission ties design incentives to larger setbacks


The Safety Harbor City Commission was unanimous in asking city staff to amend a proposed set of design incentives for builders to require larger-than-required setbacks in order to qualify for bonuses.

The proposal from the the Planning & Zoning Board as part of its “Small Town Charm” mission had recommended that builders be rewarded with a choice of faster permit reviews or reimbursement of some impact fees if they agree to incorporate a number of design features deemed to foster “small town charm.”

After a lengthy discussion, Commission decided that builders will qualify for both fast-track review and reimbursement of some impact fees if they earn enough points by adding design features, but their project must include setbacks that are larger than required under city code. Setbacks have been a consistent topic of discussion in the city for the past few years, including setbacks recently being increased in the R-2 (residential) zoning classification.

City staff will rewrite the proposed ordinance and bring it back to Commission for approval at it Aug. 20 meeting.  


Commission decided to address possible changes to impervious surface ratios, setbacks and legal non-conforming lots later, and spent the the rest of the discussion on this agenda item discussing the maximum height for buildings in the Community Town Center zoning classification, which covers an area of roughly five city blocks east and west between Philippe Parkway and 3rd Avenue and north and south between Second Streets.

Commissioner Nancy Besore had previously asked Commission to reduce the maximum height from 45 feet to 35 feet, but after a lengthy discussion that included the fact that modern construction practices make it difficult, if not impossible, to build a quality, three-story building with commercial space on the ground floor in 35 feet, Commission indicated its support for city staff to draft language to limit the height to no more than three stories and no higher than any current building in the zone, which is believed to be around 40 feet.


Employee of the Quarter Rachael Hales says her daughter wants to be a fire chief when she grows up. (Kim Nicholls)

Christopher Palmieri Employee of the Quarter award: Human resources specialist Rachael Hales had her fiance and daughter, who wants to become a fire chief someday, on hand as she was the first employee honored with the award since it was renamed in honor of District Fire Chief Chris Palmieri, who passed away in June.

Audience to be Heard: The beginning of the meeting, when residents are free to address Commission on any issue not on the agenda, was particularly heated. Diane Lebedeff of Clearwater, who has bought one of the condos in the Harbor Place at Safety Harbor building under construction across from the marina, said she didn’t think it was appropriate for a commissioner to have made a Facebook post calling her future home “ugly.” Diane Boudia, who has previously said she was harassed by residents when her home on Iron Age Street was under construction, also said she was upset about the post, which Commissioner Andy Zodrow posted on his personal Facebook page and was later shared to the Saving Safety Harbor Facebook page. Vice Mayor Carlos Diaz sharply criticized the post in light of the city’s recent anti-cyberbullying resolution, and Mayor Joe Ayoub agreed. Later in the meeting, Besore said it wasn’t a post she would have made, but Zodrow should be free to express his opinions, and Commissioner Cliff Merz said the city still has some work to do in terms of cyber-bullying. Zodrow said there was nothing wrong with the post, as it was made on his personal Facebook page and that the building is not a home yet.

Tree ordinance Land Development Code amendment: Commission unanimously approved on first reading a number of changes to the city’s tree ordinance suggested by city staff, with two additional changes: Residents can avoid a fee if they decide to replant a tree that is cut down, and residents and builders can’t replace a shade tree that is cut down with a palm tree.

Sales and outdoor display of motorcycles: Commission voted 5-0 to allow T’s Toy Box Inc. to sell and display motorcycles outside at 915 Harbor Lake Court, Suite B. City staff also will look into what can be done, including better signage, to address parking concerns in the area that we shared by residents during the hearing.

Renewal of July 4th Celebration sponsorship agreement: Commission voted 3-2, with Zodrow and Besore opposed, in favor of renewing the sponsorship agreement with Blake Real Estate.

Extension of restrictions in the Coastal High Hazard Area: Commission voted 5-0 on first reading to approve changes to the city’s land development code suggested by Forward Pinellas, Pinellas County’s metropolitan planning organization, to make them consistent with countywide rules.

Code change for fire protection standards: Commission voted 5-0 on first reading to approve strengthening the city’s fire protection standards and fire hydrant requirements, as recommended by the Fire Department.

Lien reduction request: City Manager Matt Spoor added this agenda item, as bank J.P.  Morgan Chase, who recently foreclosed on 2165 Bow Lane, requested a reduction in code enforcement liens that had been piling up for years under the previous owner as it has an agreement to sell the property. The liens were in excess of $420,000, and Chase requested a reduction to $20,000. Diaz suggested making a counter-offer of $35,000, to which Commission unanimously agreed.

Zoning assignment: Commission voted 5-0 on second and final reading to assign the R-2 (single family residential) zoning classification to recently annexed property at 1709 Main St. and at the intersection of Main Street and Pine Avenue.

Budget amendment: Commission had a lot of questions, but ultimately approved 5-0 the transfer of monies from various funds.


Watch the video of it on the city’s website here: http://safetyharbor.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=6&clip_id=2019


7 p.m., Monday, Aug. 20.


  1. Sharon, If you look at old photos of Safety Harbor from the 1920s, you will see we had numerous three and four story buildings on Main Street and Philippe Parkway including: the St. James Hotel (currently the Senior Living Facility), the Alden Apartments, and the Silver Dome building. Safety Harbor was being built to be a grand city with large Mediterranean Revival inspired buildings. However, when the Great Depression of the 1930’s came, land values crashed, and Safety Harbor’s economy did not recover from the economic devastation for at least three decades.
    As low land values existed on Main Street for decades after the Great Depression, cheaper one-story buildings replaced our grander Mediterranean Revival buildings. The one-story commercial buildings of this era, some of which still exist on Main St., resemble the strip mall buildings that were popular in the post-World War II era. However, if you look at older historic cities in the U.S. and Europe, the buildings on their historic “Main Street” were not one-story buildings. They had businesses on the first floor and often living spaces on the floors above their businesses. Having additional floors above their first-floor businesses allowed for interesting buildings to be built with attractive architectural features that were meant to be viewed and appreciated from the street level.
    One recent example that shows multi-level buildings are more attractive than a one-story building is the Sandwich on Main building. This building used to be a one-story strip mall looking building until the owner added an additional floor. This additional floor allowed for interesting architectural features to be added to the outside of the building and now it is a much more interesting and attractive building. In summary, two and three-story buildings with interesting architectural features, would be more appropriate for our historic Main Street than our one-story strip mall looking buildings. Also, as Safety Harbor becomes a more desirable and prosperous community and land values are continuing to rise, it is not appropriate to force land owners to build only small buildings on Main Street as if we were still living in the 1940s or 1950s when Safety Harbor was a much smaller and less prosperous community.

  2. Residents need to let the Commission know if they are ok with 3 story, 40′ high buildings on both sides of Main Street between 2nd Ave & 3rd Ave. Personally, I think this is too high. Looking from Phillippe Pkwy, west on Main, it will create a claustrophobic, bowling alley look because Main St is too narrow to handle several blocks that high. The mayor ran on a platform to lower the height on that block from 45′ to 35′. Unfortunately, he did nothing before his friend, Joe Faw of Bay to Bay Builders, requested a building permit for a 40′ high building on Main & 2nd Ave. Nothing can stop that now but the Commission can act quickly to stop any others. The mayor is now back peddling on his promise of 35′ and saying that it’s too difficult to build a 3 story building with only that height. So…who says there have to be 3 story buildings on that block?? It would be more compatible with the rest of the town & more aesthetically pleasing to have a mix of only 1 & 2 story buildings on Main Street. A 2 story limit is not going to dissuade builders from doing business here. Please email your Commissioners and let them know what u think.

    • I think you are a person with too much time on your hands and have no clue what a successful downtown needs. Mixed use, density and diversity. Do you live downtown?

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