Commissioners hold firm on zonings

We support what you are doing, but not where you want to do it.

That was the message county commissioners delivered to a business owner seeking to open her real estate office in Navarre.

Rocio Cuevas went before the Board of County Commissioners Aug. 23 to request that a single-family residence at 7654 East Bay Boulevard be rezoned from mixed residential subdivision to neighborhood commercial.

Under that zoning, she said, she was planning to open a real estate office so that she would not have to work from home. The Zoning Board recommended approval earlier this month.

“If this is not granted, I cannot have a location that is within my budget,” Cuevas said of her business aspirations.

After asking if anyone in the crowd wanted to speak in opposition to the matter, County Commissioner Rob Williamson was answered with silence. He said he guessed he would be the only one opposing the rezoning, but his fellow commissioners sided with him.

Williamson expressed many concerns about the property, including its tight configuration and proximity to areas that are largely residential.

“If I was living in that area I would have a reasonable expectation that it will be single-family homes,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with a real estate office.”

Williamson also expressed concerns that rezoning of the property would mean that a different, less compatible, use could come in in the future.

He also pointed out that the small lot size, only roughly a quarter of an acre, made for a tight configuration for any commercial use.

Cuevas said she had not expected rezoning to be such an obstacle.

“I didn’t know that it was going to be that difficult to switch over. I come from Texas…Usually when you have a property on a main street, it is easier,” she said.

Commissioner Bob Cole said he was surprised to hear that someone in real estate would say that she expected changing the land development code would be easy.

Cole and the other commissioners expressed support for Williamson’s concerns and voted unanimously to deny the rezoning.

Commissioners held fast to the land development code on several cases during the meeting. In one instance, they overturned four decisions by the Zoning Board regarding a residential development at the corner of Bergren Road and East Bay Boulevard.

Property owner Bryan Clarke was seeking to build three houses and requested variances to allow:

Two driveways
Reducing driveway spacing to 77 feet from 245 feet
Reducing driveway spacing to 140 feet from 245 feet
Reducing the north setback to 25 feet from 50 feet

The Zoning Board recommended approval for the first three requests, and the fourth request failed to pass.

Neighbor Roger Graham submitted an appeal on the first three requests that were passed by the Zoning Board. The property owner appealed the denial of the fourth request.

Neighbors to the property expressed concerns about traffic at the intersection and the potential accidents that could occur if the rezoning were approved. They stated they did not want the builder to increase the number of houses that could be built on the space.

Graham argued that the requests would merely allow Clarke to increase his profits on the property, not due to any special circumstances on the parcels.

Clarke contended that he had reconfigured the property as much as possible to account for the safety concerns by pushing the driveways to the furthest southern boundary.

Commissioner Sam Parker pointed out the builder could choose to just build less and still make a profit.

“You could also build two houses and still make a quality product,” he said.

Commissioner Don Salter said he would not support it.

“I am going to go with the staff. Of the five criteria that are listed (for a variance), you don’t meet four of them and the other is listed as unknown,” he said.

The board voted unanimously to reject any of the variance requests, upholding the wishes of the neighbors.

The board did allow a rezoning to pass, but even that was a return to original Land Development Code intention.

The Ten Points Nine, LLC requested to rezone property located at the corner of Highway 98 and Serosa Drive from residential to commercial use in order to build storage units.

Ten Points Nine, LLC represents Patricia Collyer and David Keane, but the company has not had an active business license since 2009, according to Florida Division of Corporations records.

The property currently sits vacant next door to the MoveIt Storage facility. If constructed, the new building would be one of 14 storage facilities in the area.
The property was rezoned for high-density residential in previous years, but it continued to sit vacant. Williamson pointed out that the property’s original zoning under the land development code was commercial.

“If the board had not made the change back in 2004 this would not even be before us tonight,” he said. “We are reverting it back to the original zoning.”

The change passed unanimously without further debate.


As seen in the Aug. 30 issue of Navarre Press.

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