Going against the recommendations of the city’s Technical Review Committee and Planning & Zoning Board, the Safety Harbor City Commission voted 3-2 at its Aug. 5 meeting to deny a site plan for a proposed medical arts complex at the corner of State Roads 580 and 590.
After a lengthy discussion during the quasi-judicial hearing, which mimics aspects of a courtroom process, including the applicant, city staff and anyone who proves they have “affected party” status being sworn in, providing evidence and cross-examining witnesses, Commissioner Andy Zodrow made a motion to deny the application based on compatibility with surrounding uses and traffic concerns. Vice Mayor Cliff Merz and Commissioner Nancy Besore voted with Zodrow, while Mayor Joe Ayoub and Commissioner Carlos Diaz voted against the denial.
Much of the discussion focused on the number of trees that will be cut down for the project, as well as concerns about increased traffic on State Road 590/Philippe Parkway and those cars turning in and out of the complex.
The city’s staff report showed 114 trees on the property, of which 67 are protected species under city code and 47 that are not. Of the 67 that are protected species, 23 were deemed hazardous and in need of being cut down. The applicant had agreed to replace 23 of the 53 trees needing to be replaced, and paying $5,766.60 into the city’s tree fund for the remainder. During the hearing, Zodrow advocated for some of the hazardous trees to remain and said a number of the trees in the calculation were on adjoining property, so the applicant was only keeping five protected trees.
Neighbors of the La Playa Estates subdivision, which is across the street from the proposed project, were concerned about traffic issues and whether the driveway to the complex could be built elsewhere to make it more safe for residents.
An Institute of Traffic Engineers estimate showed the complex would generate an additional 766 daily trips, with 61 of them in the peak morning traffic hours and 76 in the peak afternoon traffic hours. Prior to the meeting, the applicant, 9 Guys Realty LLC, and City Engineer John Powell met with Florida Department of Transportation officials, who said an access point on State Road 580 was not possible and the proposed entry on State Road 590 was the best possible place for it.
While this was the one and only hearing before the Commission for the site plan, the issue may not be settled. While a number of residents spoke against the site plan, Commissioners were bound to make their decision based solely on “competent substantial evidence” presented by witnesses during the hearing. Since the project met all city codes and approval was recommended by the Technical Review Committee and Planning & Zoning Board, the applicant could challenge the reasons for the decision and sue the city if it believes those reasons were not proper.
OTHER ACTION TAKEN
Public art pieces: Commission voted 5-0 to approve the artists recommended by the city’s Public Art Committee to create art pieces to honor local business owner Brady Fisher and philanthropist George Weiss. Clayton Swartz will create the art to honor Fisher at the Safety Harbor Community Center, and Gus and Lina Ocamposilva will create the art to honor Weiss at Baranoff Park.
Waiver request: Commission voted 5-0 to grant a waiver to the property owner of 226 Third St. N to reduce the back setback from 20 feet to 5 feet and the front setback of the second story from 20 feet to 15 feet when the house is renovated. A third waiver request concerning the maximum lot coverage was not addressed as there was a mistake in the public noticing, and will be considered at a future Commission meeting after the public is notified of the correct numbers.
Updates to code enforcement and open burning regulations: Commission voted 5-0 on second and final reading to approve eight changes to the city’s code enforcement regulations, including ones involving recreational vehicles, open burning, inoperative vehicles and abandoned structures.
Candidate notifications: Commission voted 5-0 on second and final reading to approve posting a note about election qualifying on the city’s website 30 days before qualifying begins, as well as in a newspaper and on social media.
Firefighter swearing-in: Zachary J. Simon was sworn in as a firefighter/paramedic.
Code amendment discussion delayed: With the meeting running late and few audience members remaining, Commission agreed to push a discussion of additional code amendments to a future meeting.