St. Pete Beach Residents Overwhelm City Hall for Planning Board Meeting

November 13, 2023 by
St. Pete Beach Residents Overwhelm City Hall for Planning Board Meeting
Protect St. Pete Beach

November 13, 2023

St. Pete Beach residents forced closure of City Hall this evening, with a standing-room only crowd in chambers and into the lobby to watch the Planning Board consider the Sirata Conditional Use Permit application. Many residents were turned away outside City Hall starting about ten minutes before the meeting began at 4pm.

As expected, the Planning Board recommended by a vote of 4-1 that the CUP application be forwarded to the City Commission for subsequent consideration, but in the face of massive and unanimous opposition from residents who remained fully engaged through a marathon six-hour meeting.

Other than one thoughtful dissenting member, the Board ignored many obvious and common-sense problems with the Sirata application:

  • There has not been any cumulative analysis of the impacts of the Sirata and TradeWinds applications, both pending at the same time, with each having profound impacts on our water, sewer, and public safety infrastructure.
  • Traffic studies were not performed prospectively using real data from St. Pete Beach during peak periods, but rather were performed at off-peak times and "adjusted" to estimate peak traffic using generic adjustment factors for Pinellas County -- not our unique traffic patterns as a beach destination. As above, there was no consideration of the cumulative impact of TradeWinds or the thousands of additional apartments being built in Maximo.
  • Limitations of our existing sewer system are still being discussed, with improvements in our sewage capacity reportedly "nearing completion," and engineers still discussing how much load can be shared between pumping stations serving the Sirata property. Again, however, there was no consideration for the cumulative impact of TradeWinds.
  • No information was offered by the developer as to how the development will cover the cost of needed infrastructure improvements, other than property taxes that will amount to roughly $600,000 per year to the city, assuming current millage rates for a $200 million incremental increase in assessed value at completion. Note that $600,000 per year is only the cost of covering six shifts of law enforcement and/or EMS service, and is an insignificant number relative to our overall infrastructure needs.
  • City staff recommended approval despite several outstanding questions and while still awaiting information that was not available in time for thorough consideration prior to the meeting.
  • Residents offered compelling testimony regarding the unique character of St. Pete Beach, and how it would be inevitably altered by the domino effect of this development, TradeWinds, and others to follow in the Large Resort district.

Sewage questions shown being a work-in-progress. Shouldn't these questions be resolved before we recommend approval? And shouldn't these infrastructure questions consider the cumulative impact of all planned developments?

The good news is that this outcome was entirely expected, and the Planning Board's recommendation is not binding -- it simply allows the City Commission to make the final decision as scheduled on December 5th. The fact that residents made such a strong showing forced more Board deliberation than expected, with the approving members ultimately trying to defer to the City staff's recommendation or the City attorney in an effort to deflect responsibility for their decisions.

The better news is that the ​​​​City Commission meeting​​​ is scheduled for December 5th at the Boca Ciega Community Center, which will have plenty of room to ensure that all residents can attend and be heard.

Following the City Commission meeting on Tuesday November 14th, it was determined that the city staff was unable to come up with a plan to provide technical/audio/visual support at the Community Center. Therefore the December 5th meeting will be at City Hall, and staff will attempt to develop a plan to manage the volume of expected attendees for purposes of public comment and viewing outside of the chambers.

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