There was some angst expressed Tuesday when the Venice Planning Commission approve a site and development plan for the city’s new public safety facility on a 10-acre site at 1575 E. Venice Ave.

Their concern wasn’t about the facility at all, but the vegetation buffer along the east side, separating the Auburn Woods subdivision from the new police station.

Auburn Woods and police department representatives came to an agreement that the existing buffer, which is 30 percent invasive Brazilian Peppers, would remain. That was a sticking point for at least three commissioners who said the new Comprehensive Plan, which took years to rewrite, specifically urges removal of exotic plants, especially on government property which it controls.

But planners and the city attorney said the specific language adopted in the Comp Plan uses the phrase “should” remove exotics, not “shall” remove exotics, giving the board some leeway.

City Attorney Kelly Fernandez said if making it mandatory to remove exotics is what they want, they can always adopt an amendment to the Comp Plan at a future date.

To accommodate the residents of Auburn Woods to the east, the eastern buffer will be 20 feet wide, while it’s 15 feet elsewhere. The east side will also have an additional 20 feet of Palmettos further inside the parcel, for a total of 40 feet of buffering. Existing vegetation, including invasive species, would be maintained and “supplemental material” would be used to enhance all three buffers.

In addition, there will be a a 6-foot vinyl-coated chain-link fence, with vinyl slats, on all three sides of the property to “provide a complete physical and visual barrier,” according to staff. Commissioners, again, expressed disappointment at the use of the plastic vinyl slats in the fence. Daniel Barrett, with Dewberry Architects, said it was necessary to keep costs down.

The low slope roof was a positive, said commissioners, in light of all the problems the city has been having with rain infiltration on other city-owned flat roofs. It will be 5-inch thick concrete with metal panels that resemble barrel roof tiles and can withstand 200 mph winds and projectiles in case of a hurricane.

The new 31,421-plus-square-foot building will both house the Venice Police Department and serve as an incident command center in emergencies.

Able to withstand Cat 5 winds it will serve as an emergency shelter for first responders. But it doesn’t meet standards for a public shelter in case of a hurricane, Barrett said.

Chairman Barry Snyder and Commissioner Jerry Towery voted against the site plan based on their objection to leaving exotics in the plan. Commissioner Paul Murphy also expressed disappointment with the landscape plan, but in the end voted in favor of the site plan. It passed by a vote of 5-2.

The Commission, not the City Council, has final authority to approve such plans, though a rejection can be appealed.

Senior Writer Bob Mudge contributed to this report.

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