Citizens Sue Treasure Island to Stop Tall Buildings


Last month, two Treasure Island residents filed suit against the City alleging that the City intentionally failed to comply with comprehensive planning laws, known as the Community Planning Act or the CPA. If the lawsuit is successful, and I firmly believe it will be, it will stop increased density and increased height in Treasure Island, at least temporarily.

The lawsuit challenges the adoption of parts of the City’s Comprehensive Plan which is essentially the overall blueprint of what can be built in Treasure Island. In essence, when the City amended part of its comprehensive plan (the Coastal Element of the plan) the City knowingly refused to provide information required by the CPA to regulate future development affected by flooding and sea level rise.

As all of us who have lived in Treasure Island for awhile know, flooding like we recently experienced is relatively new. Big hurricanes caused flooding but a high tide and a storm in the Gulf never did. Whether climate change is man made or a natural cycle, those of us who live on the beaches are now faced with the consequences of rising sea levels.

In 2015, the Legislature amended the CPA to require municipalities like Treasure Island to “outline the principles that must be used to eliminate inappropriate and unsafe development in the coastal areas”. The purpose of the new provision also was intended to provide discounts for flood insurance for coastal residents, like us.

The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) suggested that the City postpone the legislation in order to get the information necessary to bring the City into compliance.The city refused to postpone the adoption.

Instead, the City, led by the City Manager Reid Silverboard, advised the Mayor and the Commission to adopt the legislation. At the meeting at which the Commission approved the legislation, I advised the Commission, in no uncertain terms, that the legislation did not comply with the statutory requirements of the CPA. The Commission ignored that warning and the lawsuit was then filed on behalf of Noel Johnson and Shelley Eckert.

The lawsuit challenges the adoption of parts of the City’s Comprehensive Plan which is essentially the overall blueprint of what can be built in Treasure Island. Because the City has no information (the statute calls it “data”) to support the legislation, we have filed a preliminary motion for sanctions against the City. If the court determines that our allegations are correct, i.e. that the City had no data,the City will have to pay the residents’ attorneys fees.

I’ll update this further after I take the depositions on Tuesday, September 27 of Reid Silverboard, the City Manager and Paula Cohen the Director of Community Improvements. If you have any questions you’d like me to ask, just click on the contact link or at citizens@tampabay.rr.com

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VOTE NO on all Referendum Questions…Here’s Why…


Treasure Island residents will be voting on November 8 whether or not to increase height by 60% and triple the density in the City in Referendum Questions 1-6. The purpose of the vote is to permit an increase of another 1000 hotel/condos in our City at an increased height to almost 100 feet. The current height limit is 60 feet.

If you’re new to Treasure Island, you should know that we had this vote in 2003 when the voters rejected tall buildings by a margin of 70%. Developers argued then that they couldn’t build without increasing height and density….yet, as soon as the developers lost the vote, they immediately started building.

All of the Referendum Questions ask for increases in both height and density. So if you are opposed VOTE NO.

The titles to the referendum questions don’t explain that. Instead, the City has attempted to hide the fact that not only will buildings be up to 40% (26 feet) taller than currently permitted, but an additional an extra 10 feet will be permitted for rooftop bars, pools, and entertainment facilities. That is a whopping 60% increase. Density increases from 22 to 60 units in some areas, almost a 300% increase.

Question 1 increases the height to 86 feet from the current limit of 60 feet. The ballot title, however, doesn’t explain that. Instead the City misrepresents that question as a vote to “limit height”. Nice try but it’s a lie.

To put the issues in perspective, the City wants to add about 15 buildings the size of the new Treasure Island Resort but about 60% taller. The question is why. It’s a lie to tell us the developers can’t build without the requested increases.The TI Resort and every other building since 2003 was built under current height and density standards.

The City argues that the buildings will be taller but narrower. That’s just another lie. There is no requirement to build narrower if the height increase is approved. In fact, the City ignored the requirement to build narrower when it authorized the TI Resort to be a full 50 feet (20%) wider than the city code permitted. How can you trust city officials who won’t even follow the law now?

More importantly, do you even know where the Planned Development zoning District is? The City didn’t bother to tell you that. Why? Because after the vote to increase height and density in the “PD District”, the City expects that developers will ask for taller and denser buildings all over the island. Even the City’s legal opinion confirms that.

Want proof that the City is lying to you? Look at the ballot titles. A vote “Yes” on the Referendum Questions will increase height and density…yet, does any ballot title explain that? NO

If you don’t want another 1000 hotel/condos on the beach towering above what we have now, vote NO, because increasing height and density benefits no one except developers.

 

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