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Should St. Pete renters receive development notices?

Mark Parker



A view of the Municipal Marina from Fresco's Waterfront Bistro's outdoor patio. Photo by Mark Parker.

While a proposed ordinance regarding land development regulations and notice requirements features six procedural amendments, a recent discussion focused on an unincluded aspect – informing nearby renters.

City council members heard a first reading of the potential code changes during their April 6 meeting. If passed, the amendments would mandate a pre-application meeting; eliminate a certified mail requirement and allow administrators to post notices on a county website; increase appeal periods from 10 to 15 days; enable officials to close stalled applications; clarify Site Plan Review language; and increase Development Review and Community Planning and Preservation Commission terms from one to three years.

However, the crux of the debate centered on how to notify tenants living near proposed developments or zoning changes. City Councilmember Gina Driscoll noted that property owners and neighborhood and business association representatives receive mailed notifications, but the ordinance excludes renters.

“I would offer that all tenants, everywhere in our city, deserve to have notice when something is going on within 300 feet of where they live,” Driscoll said. “So, I would like to know how we can change this.”

Elizabeth Abernethy, director of planning and development services, explained state statute and city code do not require local officials to notify all residents of land-use changes. St. Petersburg Municipal Marina tenants are the exception.

Assistant City Attorney Heather Judd said that was due to the city acting as their landlord. She added that city officials have the information required to notify those renters.

While Driscoll relayed that companies easily send letters addressed to “residents” at any location, Judge said the city must utilize names and corresponding addresses filed with the county property appraiser’s office to prevent recipients from claiming they didn’t receive an official notification.

Abernethy noted that a 2020 code amendment requires city officials to provide 90-day notices to anyone living in a building undergoing rezoning or redevelopment. Driscoll would like that initiative extended to everyone within a 300-foot radius.

She and other council members relayed how many residents said they were previously unaware of the recently-passed Neighborhood Traditional Mixed Residential (NTM-1) zoning proposal until just before those meetings. Although expanding notifications would significantly increase costs, Driscoll believes “all of our residents are worth the time and expense – including those who rent.”

Abernethy explained that city officials pay $250 to $800 to publish legal notices in local newspapers, depending on length and format. State legislation now allows administrators to post that information on a publicly accessible county website.

Elizabeth Abernethy, director of planning and development services, discusses zoning changes at a St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce event.

However, the platform is not ready, and Councilmember Ed Montanari said many St. Pete residents would not think to check a Pinellas County website for city information.

“If we did potentially go there – and I would prefer that we don’t – I would like to keep advertising in the newspaper,” Montanari added. “But I would also like something on the city’s website too.”

City employees would have to compile addresses, and cost increases would vary depending on a project’s proximity to housing developments. Abernethy noted that one certified letter to a property owner could turn into 301 if the city included a nearby building’s tenants.

Units frequently changing hands and renters using post office boxes would present additional challenges, said Council Chair Brandi Gabbard. She said it seems “like a lot of additional work for staff for something that I’m not completely convinced would be effective.”

While Vice Chair Deborah Figgs-Sanders believes renters deserve the same information as property owners, she also expressed her concerns over the price and labor increases. “I don’t want to haphazardly move forward with something that’s going to cost us money, and we don’t know where it’s coming from,” she said.

Abernethy said she would analyze 20 previous cases to discern an estimated cost differential. She and her team will “brainstorm” ideas for the most efficient process, and city attorneys will explore potential enforcement guidelines.

The council unanimously voted to move the initiative forward, and administrators will present that information at an April 20 second reading and public hearing.





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  1. Avatar


    April 11, 2023at3:33 pm

    I’m confused as to why some City Council Members feel it the City’s responsibility and the use of tax dollars to inform tenants, unless of course the City is the Landlord. Notifying the tenant should be the Owner’s responsibility. It is pointless in 2023 to spend tax dollars posting in a local newspaper. It should be posted on the City’s Website and on the City’s Social Media sites if they truly want people to know.

  2. Avatar

    Shirley Hayes

    April 12, 2023at5:00 pm

    I agree, what newspaper????Notify Landlords,( request Landlords notify tenants) and owners, post it on the city Websites . We have no citywide local newspaper that is dependable for notification of anything.

  3. Avatar

    Jim Longstreth

    April 12, 2023at7:46 pm

    I’m surprised you ask this question. Certainly didn’t care how the citizens felt when approving the zoning change of multiple housing in single family neighborhoods.

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