Treasure Island voters face a historic vote in November. It’s the residents versus the developers, plain and simple. The developers want you to vote to almost triple density in some areas and increase height by 40%. Why? The hotel owners told the City that they can’t make enough money without the increases. Really? During the last 15 years, at least 10 condo hotels have been built under current height and density regulations. An architect told the St. Pete Beach commission that his Treasure Island projects built under those standards are his best performing in Pinellas County.
Most of us moved to Treasure Island for the small beach community ambiance we love. If we wanted to live in a congested snarl of traffic and tall buildings, we would have moved to Clearwater or Sand Key.
Now, however, our City and the developers have another vision for us, it’s called Planned Development (PD) districts. PD is just another name for a virus transmitted by developers as they move from one from beachfront community to another putting down concrete for cash and then moving on the next beach. It started in St. Pete Beach, then moved to Madeira and now they’re trying to infect Treasure Island.
And, please, please don’t be misled by the City and developers when they tell you that the PD virus is limited to a just few neighborhoods. The way the PD ordinance in Treasure Island is written, it takes only two commission meetings to include any neighborhood in the city. The City Manager admitted to the Beacon that “the commission could expand the boundaries of the PD…it would depend on the mood of the City Commission.”
This exact change in PD just happened in Madeira Beach. After the zoning change, a thousand voters submitted petitions to the City to repeal the PD virus. The City ignored it. And your City will ignore you as well.
The referendum ballot language is intentionally worded to allow the city to claim that a “Yes” vote will apply to any future changes to the PD district. That means that Sunset Beach and Paradise Island are PD targets as well.
Finally, a bit of history on why we’re voting on these issues. A former mayor, wrote a letter last week, supporting the proposed increased height and density. In 2002, she was mayor during the first attempt by developers to force taller buildings on the residents. The citizens had gathered enough signatures for a referendum to adopt ordinances which would prevent increased height and density without a vote of the residents. In one of the more anti-citizen episodes of our City’s history, that mayor and the commission, voted to increase height despite the pending voter initiated referendum to be held the following week. The voters, by an astounding 67%, passed the ordinance requiring voter approval of height and density. Subsequently, a court ruled that the commission vote was illegal the height increase was invalidated. I think that it’s relevant to note that the mayor is now a director of the pro developer political committee despite no longer being a resident of Treasure Island.
And, you know the City propaganda materials you’ve had sent to your mailbox and have seen in the papers? They’re all paid for by you, the taxpayers, without any commission approval or authority. A city employee, , Reid Silverboard, unilaterally appointed himself propaganda minister and spent at least $20,000 on those materials, despite a $10,000 spending limitation. He alone decided what to include in the material and the ads.
On November 8, or for early voters, today, we can vote to retain our beach town ambiance. Do we suffer years of construction and permanent traffic congestion? Do we give up our vision of the future to feed a handful of developers who are the only people likely to profit? You can stop the PD virus before it gets to Treasure Island by telling the developers NO to the increases. It’s too bad if it’s not enough for the developers. It’s enough for us.
Kenneth L. Weiss