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Venice seeks to clarify who controls planned developments

Written by on Saturday, February 17, 2024

After it was sued, the city now wants to codify rules. Not surprisingly, that’s touchy.

By Ramon Lopez

Original Air Date: Feb. 16, 2024

Host: After the City of Venice – and developer Pat Neal – was sued by residents over a new project within a planned development, the council now wants to codify who’s in control. Not surprisingly, that is controversial. Ramon Lopez reports.

Ramon Lopez: The Venice City Council took a step Tuesday to define the concept of “unified control” of a planned-unit development, or PUD.

It’s hoped this will avoid future disputes between builders and local residents, with one still ongoing and involving wealthy real estate developer Pat Neal. He wants to bulldoze over wetland at the Southwest corner of Jacaranda Boulevard and Laurel Road to make way for a grocery store-anchored shopping center.

The retail center was approved by the city council. But opponents have filed a lawsuit to block it. The case is still pending. Early this month, the city and Pat Neal asked 12th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Danielle Brewer to dismiss the case. They said they did not depart from the essential requirements of law.

The issue revolves around when a real estate builder loses unified control of common areas in planned-unit developments. At issue is the amendment process.

Venice Planning and Zoning Director Roger Clark said: “While no one contests the fact that unified control must be shown for a new PUD, the question becomes whether the same type of unified control must be shown for an amendment to either a portion or all of an existing PUD.”

During pubic comment, Venice resident Debbie Gereke said the matter needs to be cleared up.

Debbie Gereke: Having sat through 30 hours of marathon meetings regarding the Milan PUD fiasco, it appears that no one in this room can truly define what constitutes unified control. I would like to suggest, since today in this room there are varying interpretations of what unified control means, that the council seek independent real estate attorney guidance on discussing the various options before moving forward with anything. 

RL: Pat Neal’s attorney Jeff Boone said the city council needs to be careful on how they change the law.

Jeff Boone: A PUD master plan is a different matter. And that’s really what has everyone concerned and some folks upset, and it’s important that the PUD amendment process is not so restrictive that you can’t even allow long after the developer’s gone, 10 years, 20 years after the developer is gone, that you can’t allow the folks who live in the in the PD to be able to make changes that they want to make to the master plan, but have it to where a few people can stop the whole process from going forward. So it’s really important that the way the PUDs are amended is addressed in a correct way.

RL: Council Member Ron Smith said they need to hear from experts to tackle the touchy unified control matter. And he recommended a workshop. Mayor Nick Pachota agreed.

Nick Pachota: I do agree, and I care about all those folks out there that spoke this morning just the same. I just want to make sure that we do this right. I’ve seen in our histories, our city’s history, where we have had many lawsuits and we’ve lost. I’ve seen some where we want, I want to make sure that we do this smartly and with the tax dollars of the taxpayers in mind. So that said, I don’t disagree with that. I think that whoever buys a piece of land inside of a PUD has rights just the same. I am absolutely unhappy with what transpired last year. It is what it is at this point. Now I want to move forward to make sure that we do what’s right for the people.

RL: The motion passed muster. Pachota said the workshop will be scheduled as soon as possible.

This is Ramon Lopez for WSLR News.