It wasn’t uncommon for Planning and Zoning (P&Z) board members to fall asleep during meetings, ignore due diligence or make uninformed choices. Watchdog to land use in the City, Margate’s P&Z was a wounded Chihuahua prior to the introduction of new members Tuesday. (Article Amended 5-13-2013)*
Tuesday marked the first meeting of the city’s largely new P&Z Board. Aside from Todd Angier who has served on the Board for eight months, all members are new to P&Z effective the May meeting. Angier was appointed Vice Chair of the Board and long-time resident, Pat Maher (Margate Elks) was appointed Chair.
Amendments to Community Facilities District (CF-1) - schools and rehab facilities
P&Z first tackled a consideration to amend permitted uses of the city’s CF-1 (Community Facilities-1) District. Twelve separate CF-1s are spread across Margate and designed to encourage the development of educational, cultural, religious, health care, recreational, and governmental facilities in their respective communities.
Prompted by a recovery facility on Banks Road, city staff was asking P&Z to amend uses in the District to include institutions that care for drug or liquor patients. Already allowed were hospitals, nursing and convalescent homes, so other forms of healthcare treatment seemed logical. Notwithstanding, “mental institutions,” as stated in code, weren’t up for discussion.
P&Z unanimously approved the amendment, along with one aiming to treat non-religious schools and religious schools similar in the code. Presently, a church or synagogue is zoned only for schools incidental to worship. New in the code would enable nondenominational schools to operate on religious grounds.
“Schools,” said city staff, “should have the same approval process regardless of whether or not they are associated with a church.”
The school amendment was inspired by a synagogue looking to solidify an agreement with a regionallyaccredited private educator. P&Z liked the idea, but with a caveat. Newbie to the Board, Anthony Caggiano, suggested changing “churches” and “synagogues” in the code to read “houses of worship” so as to include all faiths. All on P&Z agreed.
Rezoned last year to accommodate a 4-story building, residents can expect changes on the synagogue property.
Amendment to Light Industrial District (M-1) - office use
Also on the P&Z agenda was amending language in the City’s M-1 Light Industrial District - a noncontiguous cluster of six districts along the Banks Road corridor in Margate. M-1s provide for light manufacturing, heavy commercial and multitenant warehouse space in the City. A landlord on the road was seeking flexibility in the code to lure potential office rents. Buildings would have to be at least 30,000 square feet in size and need to come before the city for a special exception on a case by case basis.
P&Z was warm to the idea except that “recreation and open space” and “commercial recreation uses” were stricken from code and Board members wanted to know why. Staff wasn’t sure. Associate Planner, Andrew Pinney, said he wouldn’t have the answer until morning. Faced with tabling the item or passing it without full knowledge, P&Z passed it 3-2, Samuel Harris and Katherine Yardley in dissent.
Though Pinney said the stricken language was likely a formality, Harris said he wouldn’t recommend amendments to the code without fully understanding changes. Angier wanted answers too, but didn’t think it was vital to passing the amendment. Changes to code were scheduled already for a city commission agenda and the business owner needed to move forward.
*Director of Margate Economic Development, Ben Ziskal, said stricken language was moved to another part in the ordinance, which may have been a source of confusion for a new P&Z Board. The language was removed and re-inserted elsewhere as a matter of house cleaning, he said.
The next stop for amendments to code (M-1;CF-1) will be first readings (public hearings) at the next city commission meeting. Commissioners approved advertising changes to codes prior to review by P&Z.