Below is the latest settlement offer that was sent to the City in an attempt to end the litigation and begin redevelopment. It was not a surprise that the City’s Commissioners refused to retain a consultant to clarify the language in the plan drafted by SOLV’s attorney. They like it just the way it is. Benefits to the large hotels, sticking the residents with the bill for redevelopment.
Tellingly, the mayor’s comment stands out for its inaccurate representation of the offer saying it required a rewrite of the plan. The citizens’ offer consisted of having the City retain a consultant to clarify the language in the plan so that the plan actually included terms that the City and SOLV told the residents they were getting when the voted on the plan. The judge wasn’t fooled by their deceptive ballot language. After he read what was actually in the plan he ruled all four of the ballot summaries deceptive and misleading and ruled that all of the ordinances were void ab initio. That means they never existed. Still, the commission wants to make sure that no one changes the plan put in place by the hotels. Apparently, they like the deception just fine.
Here’s the offer. You make up your mind and let the commission know what you think.
To the City:
In accordance with our prior discussions this letter sets out the basic framework for a proposed settlement of the Anderson case dealing with the City’s comprehensive plan. As you know there are an additional 3500 units or so which have been aggregated from throughout the city and allocated to hotel redevelopment. In its plan, the city has relied on infrastructure studies that were done over 10 years ago and were based on density spread throughout the city. Because of the fact that the density is now concentrated along Gulf Boulevard there is a very real risk that the costs of any new infrastructure will result on increased taxes imposed on the residents. My clients recognize that the City and the hotel owners have stated that this allocation of tax burden was not intended and the City has offered to retain a consultant to ensure that does not occur. We wholeheartedly agree with that suggestion.
To that end, I was referred to Charles Gauthier of Morris Depew to inquire whether he would be interested in assisting in this matter. Please see his letter to me and resume indicating his interest. Note that he is familiar with the City’s plan and was, in fact, retained by the City as an expert in earlier litigation. He has come highly recommended and we would certainly welcome his participation if the City would agree to retain him.
There are other issues to clarify as well. They include many of the items which were included in my January 11, 2011 letter (attached) in response to Commissioner Shavlan’s request to understand my clients’ objection to the plan. The letter, as you know, was discussed in a shade meeting but never in a public meeting.
1) Beach access is not necessarily required for buildings of 146 feet. A height increase to 146 feet is permitted if the new construction exceeds 67% of floor area of the actual buildings being constructed. (Page 76) However, beach access is only required for 3 acre parcels and then only if new construction that exceeds 67% of the buildable lot, i.e the entire site.(Page 74) While it is a small difference in wording it has enormous impact. For example, a 3 acre lot would require beach access only if new construction exceeds 2.01 acres. This would only happen if the entire site is demolished. The Plan should have been written to require beach access in exchange for any increased height. Instead, it was intentionally written to limit beach access.
2) There are no increased front or side yard setbacks for the Large Resort District where the SOLV hotels are located. There are increased setbacks for other districts but not the large hotel district.
3) The CRA funding may have the effect of draining increased ad valorem taxes from increased value of redevelopment from the tax base. The CRA funding by the county only applies if there are matching funds from the City. Those matching funds from the City come entirely from the ad valorem taxes that the City would otherwise collect and use for the entire City. Those matching ad valorem taxes must be used strictly in the CRA and for limited purposes. In essence, the CRA reduces the taxes that the City can use to offset infrastructure costs related to the redevelopment of the City. All of the increase in ad valorem taxes that result from the increase in the value of the large hotels and everything else in the CRA must go into the trust fund and not to the City. Then those taxes which go into the trust fund can only be used for very specific projects in the CRA, not the rest of the City. So, the CRA takes all of that extra revenue from increased value of the hotels away from the city government and it can only be used for the rest of the City.
4) Owners of property whose density was reallocated were never notified of the fact that their property was rezoned. Property owners on the east side of Gulf Boulevard had their density and transient hotel use allocated to other property owners without receiving the proper notice of rezoning. They may be able to sue the City for taking away their property rights, zoning classification and density, and giving it to the large hotels. The Commission should request a written legal opinion on this issue to protect the Commission and the City from future litigation from the hotels and property owners on both sides of Gulf Blvd.
5) Businesses on the west side of Gulf Blvd. will have to be part of the SOLV hotels’ mixed use development. All of the commercial uses on the west side of Gulf Blvd in the CRA are required to be part of a mixed use project, meaning part of a hotel. Small business owners will not be able to buy and develop on their own and will have to rent from the large hotels.
6) The Plan grandfathers large hotels but makes small hotels non conforming. It appears that the plan took the density from properties on the east side of Gulf Boulevard, gave it to the large hotels across the street and, in the process, and made some of those properties from which the density was taken non conforming. This should be addressed.
7) Casino gambling. Now that the Legislature is considering a casino gambling bill, my clients would like the residents to have some protection against the redevelopment being used to support casinos. While we recognize this may be a small risk, it can easily be resolved by including language in the plan to prohibit casino development.
Most of the above issues were included as part of the ballot language by the City and SOLV. Based on the commission’s conclusion that the voters knew what they were voting on, it seems only fair for the commission to guarantee the residents that the plan includes the items there were set out it the ballot language. We believe that Mr. Gauthier can also assist in resolving these seven items, which are, of course, subject to discussion and compromise at a public workshop.
In exchange, Count 2 of the Anderson complaint would be dismissed. That would permit the City to move forward under the Plan which was adopted last year and modified in accordance with compromises on the issues set out above.
As you know, it is my opinion that the plan adopted in 2011 is invalid and that the City is currently operating under the “1998 Plan”. I know you disagree. Thus, we believe that this offer is a very significant compromise of my clients’ position. It would permit the City to begin redevelopment despite the fact that there are serious concerns about the validity of the repeal of the charter amendments and would eliminate the claim that the plan was not validly adopted. Count 1 has nothing whatsoever to do with the adoption of the Plan and can be handled at a very short hearing which can be set without further discovery.
Even if we are unable to reach a compromise, we hope that the City consider retainingMr. Gauthier to assist in clarifying the language regarding infrastructure costs.