Home / Government / P&Z board unanimously approves dozens of ordinances with little fanfare

P&Z board unanimously approves dozens of ordinances with little fanfare

Downtown resident Mick Elliot speaks out at the planning and zoning board meeting on Wednesday night.
Downtown Safety Harbor resident Mick Elliot speaks at the city’s planning and zoning board meeting on Wednesday night.

That latest meeting of the Safety Harbor Planning and Zoning board was expected to be a blockbuster, with the seven board members scheduled to vote on a couple of issues that had become hot-button topics in town over the last year.

But like a disappointing superhero flick, the actual event rarely lives up to the hype, and that was the case on Wednesday, as a number of amendments to the city’s tree ordinance and downtown master plan were passed in near unanimous fashion and with barely a protest from the public, aside from a few impassioned pleas.

And in a somewhat surprising turn, the item on the agenda that received the most attention from the board and the residents wasn’t the city’s polarizing tree ordinance, but one that dealt with the issue of legally nonconforming lots in the downtown district.

Ordinance 2016-13 states that “if two or more nonconforming lots of record are adjacent and developed with one structure over more than one of…the lots of record, the lots shall be combined and replatted,” meaning, essentially, lots that were previously considered to be split in two would be combined into one, leading to property owners losing a potentially valuable piece of land.

The Safety Harbor P&Z board approved a number of ordinances that affect the downtown district.
The Safety Harbor planning and zoning board approved a number of ordinances that affect the downtown district on Wednesday night.

The proposal didn’t sit well with some downtown property owners.

“My concern is, somebody has a piece of property, and they’ve had it for years, and they’ve known it’s two lots, it’s always been two lots,” Desayna Daly said. “They go to sell, and you change this, and make it to one lot, they’ve lost value in their investment. Major value.”

“As long as the two new homes (built) on those two nonconforming lots are built within the city’s code, then they should be approved,” she added. “There should not be any reason they cannot build on a nonconforming lot.”

Daly wasn’t the only resident to speak out about the item.

“I understand that there is a need for housing here in Safety Harbor, but I wonder about that kind of density,” downtown resident Mackenzie Smith said. “I’m just concerned that this is going to change the community.”

After another resident spoke out houses being too close together in the downtown district, Mick Elliot had the last word before the item went to vote.

“I’ll be brief,” Elliot said. “It’s downtown living. Downtown is density.”

“Homes are side by side by side in down towns. If you want big area yards and greenspace, that is where the subdivisions are for.”

Following the public comments, the board voted to approve the ordinance by a vote of 6-1; it was the only item of the night that did not receive unanimous approval.

Wayne McKinney was the only resident who spoke out about the City of Safety Harbor's tree ordinance at the planning and zoning board meeting on Wednesday night.
Wayne McKinney was the only resident who spoke out about the City of Safety Harbor’s tree ordinance on Wednesday night.

Other amendments of interest that were passed included a redefining of the city’s temporary use permit requirements; regulating the maximum lot coverage requirements for single and multi-story structures; amending the fence requirements for single and two-family residences; redefining the difference between fast food and sit-down restaurants; and regulating the space between tables at outdoor cafes so there is a clear pathway between the tables and the business.

The board suggested the recommended 3-foot buffer be in a straight, continuous path.

“Last night was the first meeting for two board members, and they did a great job participating in the discussion,” Community Development Director Marcie Stenmark said via email after the meeting.

“The Board came prepared and had a thoughtful deliberation. They did an excellent job in handling some complex code discussions.”

As for the tree ordinance, the main change was to the replanting requirements for lots with many trees, allowing property owners with more trees to replant fewer if they meet certain requirements, and the inclusion of a mandatory notification of the city whenever a dead tree needs to be removed from a yard.

Following a year of back-and-forth discussions and a few notable complaints, only one resident—Wayne McKinney—spoke up about any of the 29 proposed amendments to the ordinance.

Each one of the 29 passed by a 7-0 vote.

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  1. Jeff neglected to mention the biggest and maybe only win for property owners was from the Tree Ordinance updates. There is now a density measure which will help homeowners who already have more than their share of protected trees on their property. If over the required density, they would not have to replant and the permit is a flat fee of $100. The tree canopy is a shared amenity for which the responsibility is not equally shared. I have 21 protected trees on my 1/3 acre lot. My neighbors to each side have one. Though I happily planted the first replacement tree under this new ordninance last April.

  2. We moved to Safety Harbor partly because we saw the sensible investment that was being made in the downtown district. Namely the townhouses behind Sandwich on Main, the Bay to Bay properties and Iron Age; homes that fit today’s market while also adding variety and replacing distressed homes. We are now concerned to see so much energy going into preventing these homes instead of encouraging such needed reinvestment and maintenance. Sharon, you and others claim you want to save Safety Harbor but your actions will actually do the opposite. If we want to save Safety Harbor, shouldn’t we arm ourselves with knowledge from 35 yrs of research by experts in Community Planning.
    I urge everyone to read up on New Urbanism to learn about the WIDELY accepted strategies, from experts in the field. They are not local neighbors sharing opinions about big houses.
    These experts say that we should be focusing on increased density in the walk-able core districts of Safety Harbor, NOT limiting density or increasing lot size and setbacks.
    The experts say that the increased density is required to revitalize and maintain a healthy Main street, town center, and successful community. The experts recommend mixed use, mixed income, and homes that range in type, size and price -in closer proximity. Our town is set up for success, but it is our lack of density and our abundance of poorly maintained properties in the walk-able district that continues to foster a struggling retail district, empty storefronts, and large vacant lots in prime Main Street locations. No healthy community would allow a parking field on a prime Main Street lot. We need to be honest and acknowledge our current conditions and not be satisfied with the status quo, or make changes that move us backwards.
    According to the experts, this means reinvestment and density at the core. Some of the proposed zoning changes may hinder this needed reinvestment. We should not ignore current market trends and current home sizes. We don’t want to tie the hands of our homeowners who want to invest in their own properties (via maintenance and improvement). Nor do we want to prevent someone who wants to invest in and support our community. And we need to ensure that this investment is economically feasible. The lot coverage restrictions might make this impossible for some lots resulting in continued decline of existing properties. Maintaining the status quo will not save Safety harbor. Moving back to 1974 will not save Safety Harbor. Listening to the experts, embracing proven strategies and moving forward WILL save Safety Harbor.

  3. Sensible Safety Harborities: The next Mayor/Commission Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 2. Every individual attending the meeting has the right to stand up for a few minutes and speak up their thoughts to the Mayor/City Commissioners. I am hopeful you will make this meeting that starts at 7:30pm.
    Best Regards, Susan

  4. Responding to Sharon:
    I read your comment and digest your argument with great fascination.
    Particularly interesting is your statement that “most of us are not here to make money … only want to enjoy our quaint, small town without having it ruined by greed.”
    In that case, to you and anyone else who might share similar thinking, I make this offer: If benefiting from hard work and investment risks are not important, and you do not care about property values, I will gladly buy your home tomorrow for $70,000 under appraised value.
    Any takers?
    It is not greed to have pride in ownership. It’s not greed to care for property and improve its curb appeal for yourself and the neighborhood. It’s not greed to seek planned growth that will benefit downtown merchants, attract additional shops, and bring new residents and money into city coffers (hence, improving city services and quality of living.)
    If ever a community needed those exact things, Safety Harbor is the No. 1 draft pick. You talk and talk about keeping Safety Harbor status quo, but quite honestly, Safety Harbor’s status quo is way too many downtown properties whose conditions Seffner wouldn’t even accept.
    Also, I feel comfortable saying that with the exception of Joe Faw (who a year ago I had never met) and his Bay To Bay Properties team, no one other than me knows more about the two new homes that upset you so. I watched every day of the construction process and can vouch that the workmanship put into the construction process is exceptional and appealing. Both are beautiful improvements to the site where an uninhabitable dump with a ton of unpaid city code violation fines had previously stood.
    Even more important, the homes were built around and precautions taken to protect two large oaks — at added expense and time for the builder. Throughout the construction process, Safety Harbor City arborist Art Finn’s input was welcomed and honored. Even Mayor Steingold, at a recent commission meeting, offered kudos to Bay To Bay for extra effort taken to exceed city requirements in protecting the trees.
    And finally, in regard to your displeasure with the size of the homes, both are at the 2,500 square foot range — SMALLER, according to the most recent national building survey, than the AVERAGE new home being build in the United States.

  5. Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes made of ticky-tacky
    Little boxes on the hillside
    Little boxes all the same
    There’s a green one and a pink one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
    And they all look just the same

    I hope we don’t “conform” too much! Why do you want all of the homes in Safety Harbor to look the same??? This is the beauty of downtown – BIG homes, small homes, shacks, modern cottages – it’s called downtown! If you want conformity – move to Huntington with the mayor! Leave my city alone please!

    • Good Afternoon, Downtown residents who care about where they live, the property they either rent or own, take pride in ownership with whatever they have and want the best for Safety Harbor, I ask you to please contact me directly. There is a lot of information out there that is happening to move the downtown area in the totally wrong direction and there are many wrong spins on the information. Jeff Rosenfield has always presented the correct information during his reporting and I am grateful to him for being a reporter in our community.

      I moved to Safety Harbor two years ago and absolutely love this downtown neighborhood. Six individuals stood up at the meeting and spoke against an item on the agenda which is indicated above, one woman, Sharon McAuley stood up and the Commission voted in her favor. After the meeting, I thanked each of the Planning and Zoning Commission members for their work on the board as I know it is a difficult job. While outside, multiple Commission members went up to Sharon McAuley and another woman who was at the meeting, not even sure she lives in the downtown area, and were kissing and hugging these Commission members. A majority of these Commission members do not even live in the downtown community. They are agreeing with and proposing items to the Mayor and City Commissioners (May Meeting) that don’t even affect them. I am saddened by what a small group of individuals are trying to do to our downtown community.

      It’s not about money here, its about ensuring sensible decisions are made for the downtown community to help our businesses on main street and outlying streets thrive and survive.

      Sensible Safety Harborites, Thank you for listening and I hope to hear from you soon. Best Regards, Susan

  6. Really Jeff? Diminishes homeowners property rights? If you would read the Land Development Code you will see that the intent of the code is to bring all lots into conformity according to current required size. The lots you refer to are undersized, non-conforming lots which need to be combined to meet today’s lot size standard. Mr. Smith reflected the opinion of the 130 other downtown residents who presented the City with a petition last year to stop the destruction of our quaint homes by replacing them with huge houses that leave no room for gardens or trees. Desayna Daly and her husband Mick Elliot are residents who are also in the business of purchasing homes and converting them into vacation rentals. After purchasing all of the homes on one side of 3rd St. South, they demolished the corner house, divided the conforming lot into two non-c lots and sold them to Joe Faw, Bay to Bay builders. We now have two gigantic 4 bedroom 3 bath structures on each small, non-conforming lot that received setback “exceptions” from the City for alleyway, front porch and large tree. Exactly what residents wanted to prevent. Most of us are not here to make money. We only want to enjoy our quaint, small town without having it ruined by greed.

    • Sharon,
      What downtown have you been to that does not have a variety of homes? Small, large, old, new, retail/residential mix??? That is what a proper downtown planning should be.

      The nicest compliment we get is when a homeowner copies are paint colors! We have had many come to us and ask if we would buy the home next to them because they know we would do a beautiful renovation and take care of it. We bought probably on the worst 1/2 block on the south side, got rid of a drug dealer, an alleged pedophile, and uninhabitable house. And you think we are bad for the community? You are one crazy loon. Who thinks like this? We truly do not understand your reasoning???

      We were going to build our home on the corner of 7th and 3rd but decided against it, so yes we sold to the builder we knew would build 2 new homes with integrity and beautiful design. And that is crime?

      There are only a few double nonconforming lots left that can be divided. So you are suggesting the city change a code for only those few? Somehow I bet these homeowners will be upset when they find out 130 people out of 18K citizens signed a petition that will devalue their property. They have the potential to lose over $100k. That is just wrong and should be illegal (maybe it is).

      On another note, what you call our vacation rentals are actually corporate extended stay rentals. And we are proud to say that 9 of our past guests have actually bought homes in Safety Harbor! And thank you for the promotional plug. Have a nice day.

    • Maybe people ARE moving to downtowns because they do not want a garden or have to worry about lawn maintenance? They want a beautiful new or remodeled home without the fuss. Once again, your argument is to impose your opinion onto fellow residents. This news just in, not everyone agrees with you.

      Mr. Smith who shared his opinion is a renter. He pays no property taxes, insurance or has to worry if his property value is going to decrease. Homeowners have to worry every day.

  7. Gotta love STRONG government! Even little old Safety Harbor’s politicians are learning how to control your household! What a nightmare – these folks have zero respect for property rights.

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