Tuesday, April 28, 2015

P&Z Meeting Cancelled / Workshop Tomorrow [UPDATE]

It was just announced that the Belle Isle Planning & Zoning Board meeting scheduled for tonight has been cancelled. The City's announcement regarding this cancellation states as follows:
Based upon concerns expressed by Council at the last meeting, special counsel Tom Callan recommends, and City Attorney Kruppenbacher concurs, that the full composition of the Planning and Zoning Board should be ratified at the next City Council meeting along with the consideration of the appointment of the two new members to fill the vacancies, consistent with the provisions of Sec. 42-32 of the City Code.  
Therefore, the P&Z Meeting scheduled for tonight April 28, 2015 at 6:30pm is being rescheduled once the Board has been confirmed by City Council the meeting will duly posted. 
Please go ahead and mark your calendars for the next P&Z session, presently scheduled for Tuesday, May 26 at 6:30 p.m. The variance requests previously scheduled for tonight's meeting will likely be addressed at that time.

In the meantime, there is a City Council workshop meeting scheduled for this Wednesday, April 29 at 9:00 a.m. This workshop has been announced as a special (voting) meeting to allow confirmation of the new P&Z board members, meaning that residents will have an opportunity to address the City Council with any comments. Following tomorrow's workshop, the next regular City Council meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday, May 5 at 6:00 p.m.

UPDATE 4/29/15:

While the P&Z confirmation process was discussed at the workshop meeting, the new nominees will not be confirmed until the next regular meeting on May 5. Instead, this special meeting was called for the second reading of an ordinance designed to keep any new Belle Isle gas stations or convenience stores from being built within an unsafe distance of a residence.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Proposed Development at Nela & Seminole - Meeting Tuesday

Many have received notice of a variance request for a proposed six home gated housing development at the intersection of Nela Avenue and Seminole Drive. Concerned residents have written to the Planning and Zoning Board as well as their City Commissioners regarding this variance request. A couple of these residents have requested publication of their comments, included below.

Please make time to attend the upcoming Planning and Zoning Board meeting this Tuesday, April 28 at 6:30 p.m., where the P&Z Board will address this gated development variance along with a fence variance at a location further down Seminole Drive.

You can read more about these variance requests in the attachments to the P&Z meeting agenda linked below as well as the below resident comments.

Belle Isle Planning & Zoning Board Meeting Agenda - April 28, 2015

Resident Comment #1

After seeing the request for variance and then reviewing the details, I am strongly opposed to the variance to allow for 6 homes on the parcel of land at Nela & Seminole.

1) This area of Belle Isle has a certain character & personality. Homes do not have walls surrounding them. The addition of 6 homes with a large concrete wall surrounding them certainly does not fit in with the area. I believe, if this were allowed, it would damage the character of Belle Isle that we all love & appreciate. That character is the reason why many of us moved here / lives here.

2) The lake lots on Seminole road all follow a pattern. Each has an entrance on Seminole and a deep lot extending to the lake. Any development on the property in question should continue this pattern.

3) Related to #2, all houses on Seminole and Nela have the front of the house facing the street. The proposed design would place the BACK of three homes on Seminole, which would be an oddity in the neighborhood and inconsistent with the current character. As with #2, the front of the homes built should be consistent with all other homes in the neighborhood and face the road.

4) A ‘Gated Community’ concept does not fit at all in this area. Nowhere on Nela or Seminole is there anything resembling this. And thus, to preserve the character, a gated community should not be permitted in this area.

5) The corner wrapping around the property in question is already dangerous. Adding an entrance/exit to a gated community will only add to the danger. The entrance(s) to any home(s) on that property should be on Seminole, not in the middle of an already dangerous curve.

Myself and many of the nearby neighbors recommend several options:

1) that the variance be denied and the lot be developed as it is currently split, with entrances from Seminole road.


2) that property be allowed to be split into 3 long lots, each running from Seminole to the lakeshore, with entrances from Seminole road. If this variance were allowed, no further splitting of the lot should be allowed.

Also, no wall should surround the development, but rather that natural hedges/landscaping be used.

Resident Comment #2

I would like to make some inquires regarding the proposed variance for the proposed six lot development at 6806 Seminole Drive, Belle Isle. My main concern is for ensuring that granting a variance for this project will not require future variances and exceptions that might undermine rules put in place for water quality and public health and safety purposes. Specifically considering,
  • The lots on the lake being able to meet septic setback requirements from Lake Conway without obtaining a variance to the rule from the Health Department.
  • Proper and permittable design of a stormwater system to capture stormwater runoff from the impervious area due to the increase in the number of lots.
  •  Maintaining the atmosphere of the neighborhood, along with considerations for water quality and public health and safety.

We all enjoy a beautiful community on Lake Conway and want to make sure that the character of the neighborhood is maintained, as well as ensuring Lake Conway is protected. In an area, one has a reasonable expectation of what the character of the neighborhood will be, especially in one as established as this. As Commissioners and Board Members, you are custodians of the City for the citizens and are charged with having consistent land development regulations. You have been entrusted with ensuring the best interest of the character of the neighborhood, such as the maintaining consistency with the home density of the existing neighborhood.

In the variance request, staff recommended approval based on the conditions of approval listed on page 12 of the variance application (page 14 of pdf document). I have some questions and concerns regarding or related to conditions 6, 7, and 8 of the variance “conditions of approval.” These specifically regard setbacks from the ordinary high water line of Lake Conway, environmental swale on lots 4, 5, and 6, and individual septic tank permitting.

Rule 64E-6.005(2), Florida Administrative Code requires septic systems not be located within five (5) feet of building foundations. Rule 64E-6.005(3), Florida Administrative Code requires that the systems be located at least 75 feet from the boundaries of surface water bodies. Based on the plans available on the Belle Isle website that were submitted for the variance, it appears the proposed homes are set back approximately 80 feet from Lake Conway, which would not leave enough space available to meet setback requirements for a septic system in the back yard of the lakefront homes.  Looking at the plans, with the driveway and setback from the road, it appears that there is limited space in the front yard with setback considerations taken into account. Septic systems could potentially range in size from 400-600 square feet of required drainfield area, in addition to placement of the tank. The rule is meant to protect water quality and public health. Please confirm that there will be adequate space on the lots to appropriately meet the minimum setback for the septic system of 75 feet away from a surface water body (Lake Conway) and not require a variance from the septic rule if a variance on lot width is granted.

Retention areas are an important part of pollution prevention by capturing the storm water runoff from directly discharging into the lake. This helps protect water quality in the lake our community surrounds. With the decrease in lot size and increase in number of homes, the impervious area of the project site will increase. Rule 62-330.020, Florida Administrative Code sets for the standard for requiring an environmental resource permit. With the number of lots, docks, and work in surface waters, the project would need a permit from the water management district. Under Section 5.2 (Treatment Volume) of Volume II of the Environmental Resource Permit Applicant’s Handbook, it requires the first flush of a rain event be routed into a retention basin and percolated into the ground. Based on the increase in impervious area by increasing the number of lots from four to six, I’m questioning whether the small swale proposed will be sufficient to hold the amount of water to meet the rule requirements. Is there an associated permit or calculations to show this area meets the rule and is of sufficient size? Also, it appears that the proposed environmental swale is within the flood zone and normal high water line listed on the plan sheets. For the purpose of the stormwater management system, having the system within the boundary of the normal high water area of the lot would not allow for adequate capture of stormwater runoff if it is under water.

I would like assurance that the Commissioners and/or Board Members granting a variance to reduce the lot width, which results in an increase in impervious area due to the increase in houses, will not result the site not being able to meet stormwater requirements required by the Florida Statutes and Florida Administrative Code. If a variance is granted, I would like assurance that it does not result in a snowball effect of requiring other variances or exceptions to meeting rule criteria designed for many reasons, one of which is protecting water quality and public safety.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of my inquiry and your response to my concerns. I hope that if it is determined this project meets within the characteristics of the neighborhood with the variance in place, that this project will show to meet all other applicable rule criteria related to stormwater management and septic systems.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Belle Isle Arbor Day Celebration This Saturday!

The City of Belle Isle is celebrating Arbor Day and Earth Day this Saturday, April 18 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Come down to City Hall to for electronics disposal, gardening advice, and family fun!

Do you have your green shirt yet? Available now for only $10 at City Hall. It's a really nice shirt designed by our own City Clerk, Yolanda Quiceno, and all proceeds go towards planting trees around Belle Isle!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Second Open Letter on Billboard Variance

The below letter was written by a Belle Isle resident regarding the billboard height variance which will be in front of our City Council this Tuesday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m.

[Letter subsequently removed at the request of its author. Based upon the Council decision on April 7, it is not appropriate to leave this letter published at this time because the underlying issue will soon be back before the Belle Isle Planning and Zoning Board for further deliberation and another vote.]

Attending a short meeting can make a big difference. Please attend the meeting on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. to express your opinion on this billboard variance. The height variance hearing will be the first issue at the meeting and public comment is at the beginning of the hearing.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Billboard Hearing Confirmed for Tuesday

The first item on the Tuesday City Council meeting agenda is a de novo hearing on the billboard height variance previously rejected by our Planning and Zoning Board. This will be a rehearing where our City Council members will consider the developer's variance request anew.

You can find the meeting agenda linked below, along with the developer's appeal request and presentation documents recently provided to our City Council members. This appeal request contains a number of assertions about the billboard and the requested variance, including the following:
The sign structure is approximately 348 feet from the closest residential property to the north. It is heavily screened by vegetation on the subject property from the residential. It is not visible now from Trentwood Boulevard to the north, and will not be visible even at the increased height of 65 feet.
The developer's statement regarding visibility starkly contrasts with residents' assessments of the billboard's present and future visibility, especially when lit at night. The developer's request does not address what would happen if the vegetation on this lot was thinned or removed. And while approving this height variance may not create a formal precedent for approving future height variances on this lot (such as for a high-rise hotel), the approval of a tall, lit billboard will be a powerful argument in favor of permitting another tall, lit structure down the road.
City Council Meeting Agenda - April 7, 2015 
Variance Appeal Request
Presentation Photos & Diagrams
Don't want another lighted billboard marring your beautiful Belle Isle views? You need to act now because once approved, a billboard is forever. It is vitally important that everyone interested in this issue be in attendance at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. You are also encouraged to write your City Commissioners at the following addresses:


Friday, April 3, 2015

City Council to Vote on Billboard Variance

Most readers should be aware of recent attempts by local developers to obtain building height variances for the lot located at at 2635 McCoy Road, directly behind and across from homes on the west end of Trentwood Blvd.

The first variance sought was to build a high-rise extended stay hotel much taller than permitted under our building code. Although this variance has not been formally requested, it is still potentially in the pipeline. Immediately following the community meeting on the proposed hotel, a developer filed for a different height variance, this time to allow the height of a billboard on the property to be increased to 65 feet. You can get a better idea of what this billboard looks like by clicking here.

The Planning and Zoning Board denied the developer's variance request to construct a taller billboard, recognizing that the lighted billboard would now be above the tree line and much more visible. It is not only Trentwood residents who would be able to see this lighted billboard from their homes - it would be in plain view of residents all around south Lake Conway. Furthermore, residents are concerned that approving this billboard variance could encourage a hotel developer to seek the height variance that was so clearly opposed by residents at the recent community meeting.

The P&Z Board's denial was promptly appealed by the developer and the appeal will now be heard by our City Council, which could approve the height variance regardless of the P&Z Board's ruling. According to discussion at the recent workshop meeting, the Council will likely vote on this variance appeal at the upcoming Tuesday meeting, although the final vote could be delayed for various reasons.

In advance of this vote, residents are advised to contact their City Commissioners by email. Such emails will be entered into the public record and considered at the hearing, along with any public comments made at the hearing. Here is one such email authored by Trentwood resident Mike Sims and copied to each of our seven City Commissioners:

Dear Commissioners,
I understand that an appeal of a variance request will be before you at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 7. This variance request is to raise the height of the billboard on McCoy Rd behind Trentwood Blvd to 65 feet.
I am opposed to this variance and do not believe allowing this height variance is in the best interests of our city. At the recent Planning and Zoning Board hearing, many residents voiced serious concerns about light pollution. Residents in attendance made it clear that they were against this variance. Please note that it is not just residents on or around Trentwood who are concerned about this height variance - you can see these extra-high lighted billboards all the way across the lake.
To be clear, neither myself nor my neighbors are against development of this lot on McCoy within the parameters set by our building code. However, allowing this variance could be a gateway to allowing further variances for a high rise hotel or other undesirable development properly prohibited by our code. Furthermore, permitting this variance request will provide no benefit to our city, financial or otherwise, to balance out the harm that it will cause to the quaint character of our city. 
As residents of Belle Isle, my family and I request that you vote against this variance. Belle Isle needs to remain the beautiful city we all love.
Mike Sims

Mr. Sims further recommends that all concerned residents email each City Commissioner (not just the one from your district) at the following email addresses:


Please be sure to calendar the upcoming City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 7 at 6:00 p.m. More info about this meeting will be provided once the meeting agenda has been posted by the City.