Town of North Redington Beach
Changing of the Guard
With the passing of a gavel, an extraordinary period in North Redington Beach came to an end. Harold Radcliffe ended 24 years of distinguished service to the community, the last 12 years as its mayor. He is succeeded by William Queen, a commissioner since March, 2004, and before that chairman of the Planning & Zoning Board. A packed meeting room gave Mayor Radcliffe a standing ovation as he stepped down from the dais and took a seat among the residents in the audience.
Mayor Radcliffe said he felt honored to have served the community, and he thanked all those who worked with him on public boards and commissions and as private volunteers to advance the city’s development. He said he is confident the new leadership will continue the good works that have marked the town’s recent history.
In looking ahead, he urged the community to give serious consideration to extending the terms of the mayor and commission members from two to three years. He noted a number of arrangements that exist elsewhere in the county that could serve as a model. And he also urged residents to consider raising the officials’ stipends. Both actions would require voter approval of charter amendments.
Mayor Radcliffe’s final “official” appearance came Monday night (3/14) when more than 100 friends, family and elected officials with whom he worked gathered at the Wine Cellar to honor his exemplary public service.
New Commission Member
With new Mayor Queen at the helm, the Commission voted unanimously to appoint Curtis Blocker of Dolphin Drive to fill the unexpired term of Commission Seat 4, which Queen vacated. Blocker has been active in town affairs, serving as Chair of the Planning & Zoning Board and as one of the key members of the Comprehensive Plan working group. He is retired from a distinguished career in insurance and personnel management.
Steve Suzanski, who resides at the Tides and has been an alternate member of the Planning & Zoning Board, was named to succeed Mr. Blocker as a permanent member of that body.
Along with the new mayor Commissioners Gary Curtis and Richard Bennett were sworn in for new two-year terms. They were unopposed for reelection.
The Commission unanimously endorsed Mayor Queen’s recommendations for administrative responsibilities in the coming year. Commissioner Jerry Knight will continue as Vice Mayor. Commissioner Curtis will manage public works, Commissioner Bennett will serve as building commissioner, and Commissioner Blocker will handle public safety.
The state Department of Community Affairs told the town that they have decided to give the recent request for a change in the town’s Comprehensive Plan a full review. The change would allow 50 units per acre instead of 25 in the commercial-tourist zone. It would reduce the number of multi-family residential units to 15. The decision to give the proposal a full review means that a final decision will be delayed by several weeks. Under its normal procedures, the state will have until April 23 to make a decision. The proposal had already been seen by many of the county, regional and state agencies that normally review such matters, and all had indicated support.
The proposed change was put on a fast track because of recent indications that more of the beachfront property currently in the tourist zone was being touted for redevelopment into condos. Town leaders and residents who participated in plan surveys and public meetings indicated they would prefer this remain a tourist area. Allowing additional units was seen as a way to encourage redevelopers to consider tourist facilities.
Site Review, Developer Agreements
In addition to the change in the Comprehensive Plan, town planners recommended that the town adopt new design criteria to guide developments in commercial and muti-family zones. They also recommended that the town be authorized to enter development agreements that would incorporate design decisions and assure continued compliance. Both recommendations were included in ordinances that came before the Commission for a final reading and public hearing on March 10. Both passed unanimously.
The Commission also gave first reading and held a public hearing on an ordinance that introduced the concept of condo hotels in the tourist zone. This ordinance also reduces the allowable number of residential units from 20 to 15 per acre and increases setbacks from 15 to 18 feet. The measure will get a second reading and public hearing and be eligible for passage at the April meeting. When the plan change is approved, another change will be introduced to increase the number of tourist units to 50 per acre. That too will require two readings and public hearings.
Special Consideration For Sea Horse Property
While the town has been working on the development changes noted above, developers purchased the property at 17000 Gulf Boulevard, site of the former Sea Horse Motel, and announced plans for a luxury condominium project. The project was planned on the basis of land development regulations that existed at the time. Developers were concerned that the proposed changes would undermine the feasibility of their project. Several meetings were held with the Planning & Zoning Board to reconcile the development plans with the town’s new direction. With assurances from the developer that the project will adhere to new design criteria, the Planning Board recommended that the Commission, acting on behalf of the town, allow the owners to develop on the basis of 20 units per acre. This will give them 12 units. The Board also recommended that the owners be allowed to use the 15-foot setback in the current regulations. The Commission unanimously endorsed the Board’s recommendations.
Resolution Urging County Action
In keeping with the steps it is taking locally, the Commission passed a resolution urging the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners to initiate an aggressive program of comprehensive plan changes and economic incentives to secure the tourist industry as a primary element of the county’s economic base.
The resolution responds to a request from County Commission Chairman John Morroni for the beach communities to take a position on a recent economic study that indicated the tourist industry on the beach could be eliminated if the county did not intervene to alter the trend that is converting tourist facilities to condos.
The resolution calls for a review, and where necessary, changes in land use policies, taxes and other incentives and infrastructure improvements to encourage tourist redevelopment. It also calls for the county to seek state assistance in helping local communities formulate and fund plans, policies and capital improvements that support the tourist industry.
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Bill Queen, Mayor
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