MADEIRA BEACH — A lawsuit was filed Wednesday challenging both the city’s comprehensive plan, land development regulations and an initial city commission vote to approve an $80 million-plus development.
The action asks the Circuit Court to toss out the city’s comprehensive plan amendments, approved in July 2014, that allow planned developments with higher buildings and greater density than possible under regular zoning regulations. The lawsuit also is seeking to reverse last month’s commission approval for a major hotel-condominium-marina project on the site of a former Leverock’s restaurant on the southwest side of the Tom Stuart Causeway bridge.
Final approval for this “Holton Project” is scheduled for the commission’s meeting Tuesday.
The lawsuit was filed in Circuit Court by attorneys Ken Weiss and Tim Weber for their clients, Jennifer McCoy Parker and Linda C. Hein. “This PD (planned development) zoning was a massive giveaway of entitlements,” said Weber. “Our clients perceive this zoning will change the entire complexity of the city and hinder access to and from the island.” Weber warned that even if the commission approves the Holton project, the developers will “proceed at their own peril”, since he thinks the court will void the PD zoning.
The lawsuit argues that the public notices published prior to the commission votes violated state requirements, specifically that they did not contain enough information in their advertisement headlines to inform residents of their purpose. State law, according to the lawsuit, requires that the 18-point headline include the actual title of proposed ordinances. The advertisement headlines published by the city contained only the words: “City of Madeira Beach, Florida Local Planning Agency and Board of Commissioners Notice of Public Hearing.” “If the published notices do not comply with the statutory requirements, then the comprehensive plan itself is invalid and the rezoning is invalid,” Weiss explained.
Mayor Travis Palladeno declined to comment on the lawsuit “until I can get all the facts,” he said, from the city’s attorney, Tom Trask.
Weiss and Weber previously represented residents in St. Pete Beach who successfully fought that city’s comprehensive plan that allowed more intensive hotel development. That legal battle lasted nearly a decade and cost St. Pete Beach more than $2 million in legal fees.
Previously, Weiss was also active in forcing the scaling back of allowable building heights in his home city of Treasure Island.
“During the time that we have represented clients challenging redevelopment, none have asked to stop redevelopment. They simply want responsible redevelopment,” Weiss said Wednesday. Hein said she wants to “stop these over-the-top developments.” Parker, whose now deceased husband, Charles Parker, served for years as both mayor and a commissioner in Madeira Beach, was more pointed. “If Charles were here he’d be on the front line opposing it,” she said.
Both Parker and Hein live in condominiums within view of the challenged development, as well as another hotel-condominium-marina development proposed in the city’s downtown core.