Monday’s Safety Harbor City Commission meeting may have a courtroom feel, as four quasi-judicial hearings are on the agenda, including a rehearing for a proposed medical office complex that Commission had previously rejected.
“Quasi-judicial hearings” have many more requirements than the regular public hearings Commission conducts. They mimic aspects of a courtroom process, including the applicant, city staff and anyone who proves they have “affected party” status to be sworn in, provide evidence and be able to cross-examine witnesses, if desired. A court reporter may be present. While the public gets the opportunity to speak prior to the vote, Commission is bound to make its decision based solely on “competent substantial evidence” presented at the meeting. In short, that means facts and opinions from experts may be considered, but only facts and not opinions from residents not deemed experts may be considered.
The last of the four hearings scheduled for Monday is expected to garner the most attention. The applicant wishes to build a medical office complex on land at the intersection of State Roads 580 and 590, which would consist of two, two-story buildings with a total of 22,000 square feet.
The city’s Technical Review Committee, made up of department heads with relevant experience, has said the site plan meets all city codes, and the Planning & Zoning Board approved it unanimously on July 10, though recommended moving the only access point to the development so it aligned with La Playa Court, which is the only way in and out of the La Playa Estates subdivision across the street from the development on State Road 590. City Engineer John Powell met with the Florida Department of Transportation, which maintains State Road 590, after the Planning & Zoning Board meeting and FDOT said the proposed entrance south of La Playa Court was the only suitable place for it.
On Aug. 5, Commission voted 3-2 to deny the site plan, with Vice Mayor Cliff Merz and Commissioners Andy Zodrow and Nancy Besore voting to deny, citing compatibility and traffic concerns, and Mayor Joe Ayoub and Commissioner Carlos Diaz voting against denial. An attorney representing the owner of the land filed a legal claim against the city in September and requested a rehearing, which Commission voted 3-2 to schedule, with Ayoub, Diaz and Merz voting in favor and Zodrow and Besore voting against.
Monday will essentially be a do-over of the first Commission hearing on the proposed development, and no changes have been made to the site plan since Commission first considered it. However, a condition of the rehearing was that the applicant would provide additional traffic study numbers that were not presented at the first hearing, and that additional traffic information is included in the agenda item backup at the link above. In short, RAYSOR Transportation Consulting, which performed the study, said it did additional reviews and analysis of the direct impact on La Playa Court, especially at peak traffic times, and has concluded that the required addition of a turn lane on State Road 590 for the new development will reduce the length of cars backing up during those peak times from one-third to one-fifth of current levels and that drivers turning left out of La Playa Court will not have their view obstructed by the cars waiting to turn left into the new development.
OTHER QUASI-JUDICIAL HEARINGS
Outdoor storage at 901 Harbor Lake Court: Davidson Commercial LLC is requesting approval to store signs and equipment outside behind a fence. City staff says the request meets all codes and the Planning & Zoning Board unanimously recommends approval.
Commercial recreational facility at 855 Main St.: Gabriella Falkenbach intends to buy the property and is seeking approval to operate a yoga studio there. City staff says the request meets all codes and the Planning & Zoning Board unanimously recommends approval.
Countryside Cancer Center major site plan modification: Team Rad One LLC is requesting approval to increase the building footprint at 3155 McMullen Booth Road from 7,962 square feet to 9,734 square feet and to add four vehicle/bicycle parking spaces. The city’s Technical Review Committee says all concerns have been addressed and the Planning & Zoning Board unanimously recommends approval.
COMMISSION WORKSHOP ON RECYCLING FEES
Faced with a sharp increase in the rate the city is being charged for recycled materials, Commission had previously voted to award a contract to Stantec Consulting Services to review the city’s entire recycling program and make recommendations.
At the workshop prior to the regular meeting, a representative of the company will present its findings to Commission, which will hold its first public hearing on any possible changes to the city’s recycling program on Dec. 16, with the second and final hearing scheduled for Jan. 6.
In 2018, China banned importing recycling materials, sharply reducing the market for such materials. The City of Clearwater processes Safety Harbor’s recyclable material and has started charging the city $100 per ton, when it previously didn’t change the city anything. At the same time, Pinellas County, which processes Safety Harbor’s solid waste, has increased its fees 6 percent to $39.75 per ton.
Stantec estimates that without a residential rate increase, the city’s sanitation fund balance will run out of money by 2024. The city last raised sanitation rates in 2010, and Stantec said to cover all of its costs and reserve obligations without making any changes, the city will need to raise rates 6 percent every year through 2024 and then raise rates 5 percent every year after that through 2029.
Stantec’s recommendations to Commission include approving a 6 percent per year rate increase from 2020 through 2024, to begin charging non-residential customers a fee for recycling, to combine its sanitation and recycling fees for better comparison with nearby communities and to conduct regular reviews of the numbers that the recommendations are based upon and make changes accordingly.
ALSO ON THE AGENDA …
Annexation request for 2450 Madrid Avenue: Candy and Brent Barnhisel are seeking approval to annex their single-family home into the city. The Technical Review Committee has no objections.
Holiday Parade Grand Marshal selection: Commission will be asked to select a Grand Marshal for the city’s annual Tree-Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Parade. Nominations include Karen Errico from WHO (Women Helping Others), City Poet Laureate Steve Kistulentz and Safety Harbor Public Library Foundation President and Clearwater Chamber of Commerce Ms. Clearwater Debbie White, though Commission is free to select anyone it wishes.
Consent agenda: Items expected to have little debate, such as approval of the last meeting’s minutes and most contracts, are included en masse in the consent agenda, though any Commissioner can ask for any item to be considered separately. This meeting’s consent agenda includes approval to buy a high-lift truck and a contract for security assessment and consulting.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
Attend the meeting: The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 750 Main St., with the workshop beginning at 6 p.m. Meetings typically run from 1.5 to three hours. Residents are given the opportunity to speak on all agenda items, except for presentations and consent agenda items. Come forward when asked by the mayor, state your name and address, and you’ll be given three minutes to address the Commission. For any issues not on the agenda, or any item that is on the consent agenda, residents get three minutes to speak at the beginning of the meeting during “Audience to be Heard.”