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Date of Issue: November 03, 2005

Holmes Beach ponders comp plan amendment

Holmes Beach city commissioners were placed in a quandary at their Oct. 25 meeting when city planner Bill Brisson pointed out that a portion of the future land-use map approved with the 1989 comprehensive plan is at odds with the current zoning for that portion of the city from the former Morland Marine property south to Anna Maria Elementary School.

The problem, said Brisson, is that while the FLUM says this is a low-density area, the current zoning is Residential-2, which allows duplexes. Under the current FLUM, a duplex owner in this area could rebuild only a single-family home on his or her property, not a new duplex.

But the other problem is that under R-2 zoning, duplexes can be torn down and rebuilt to a newer standard.

"The policy [in 1989] appears to allow duplexes," in this area, including rebuilding of such structures, Brisson told commissioners.

If that's the current commission policy, a minor comprehensive plan amendment is needed to make such reconstruction legal under the comprehensive plan, he said.

He noted that there are 18 duplexes and only nine single-family homes in this area.

Commissioner Patrick Morton was concerned that tearing down and rebuilding a new, larger duplex "changes the character" of the city and rents increase so high that duplexes are no longer considered "affordable housing." This takes the city "down a train track to de-rail," he contended.

Brisson responded that with the increased property values, its likely that the only people who will be buying or renting these duplexes will be "rich people."

"There's always a problem with affordable housing on a Florida barrier island," he contended.

Other commissioners, however, disagreed with Morton and suggested that duplexes are an integral part of the city's housing market and owners have to be allowed to upgrade.

The commission consensus was for Brisson to draft a minor comprehensive plan amendment for the planning committee to study and forward to the commission with a recommendation. Brisson said he anticipated the entire process to implement the amendment would take about six months.

Canals

Just when the commission was hopeful that the T-end and Sunrise canals boat dock issue would be resolved with a lease to qualified applicants, City Attorney Patricia Petruff noted that if the city leases dock space to a party, the city could be liable for county taxes on the dock.

Although the city would pass on the taxes to the lessee, she said the city would have to pay up if the lessee defaulted on the taxes.

Rather than lease dock space, she suggested the city say it's a "concession" or a "user-license agreement" such as Manatee County has for the restaurant at the Manatee Public Beach.

"There would be a lot of issues with a lease," she cautioned.

Maybe, said Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger, but just make sure that the city is not obligated to pay taxes on a "license" agreement that involves public property. "Be careful," he warned.

Petruff will ensure that a license agreement absolves the city and the "licensee" from any property tax obligation and return to the commission with her findings.

Key Royale Bridge

Commissioners voted 3-1 to authorize City Treasurer Rick Ashley to prepare the paperwork for increasing the amount the city will borrow for a new Key Royale Bridge from $2.9 million to $3.9 million.

The need to increase the city's loan came after the Florida Department of Transportation told Ashley two weeks ago that its initial estimate of $2.1 million was too low and had revised its in-house estimate to $2.6 million. The DOT said bids returned by contractors in January would likely be more than $2.9 million, perhaps as high as $3.9 million (The Islander, Oct. 26). The DOT needed to know if the city still wanted to proceed, based upon the new estimate.

The city is borrowing the money now to build a new bridge under a pledge from the Manatee-Sarasota Metropolitan Planning Organization that the city will be reimbursed the funds in the MPO's 2007-08 budget.

Commissioner Don Maloney has long opposed a new Key Royale Bridge and argued instead that the $125,000 in annual debt service could be better spent by the city.

In response, Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger said his concern was that if the city didn't do the project under the reimbursement plan, the MPO would eventually drop the bridge from its projects list and the city would have to bear the entire cost of a new bridge.

By that time, added Morton, the cost could have doubled or tripled.

Bohnenberger added that when he was mayor in the mid-1990s, the MPO said it would build a new bridge within the next few years, but never did.

"I just don't think it's necessary," responded Key Royale resident Maloney, citing DOT engineering reports that say the bridge is structurally sound.

Am South Bank

Commissioners also held the first reading of an ordinance granting a vacation of a portion of Fifth Street South to AmSouth Bank.

The bank has a lease on the current complex and property just east of the Re/Max Real Estate building on Manatee Avenue and wants to tear down the existing structures and construct a 3,820 square-foot building for a bank.

Mayor Carol Whitmore commented that the proposed red brick building looks too much like a building that would be found in Bradenton and asked attorney Scott Rudacille, representing AmSouth, to ask the bank if it could design something more suitable to Island architecture. "Think of a different color and not the red brick," she suggested.

Morton objected to the vacation request, noting that once land is given away by the city, it can't be given back.

The vacation request passed by a 3-1 vote on first reading, but will have its second reading on Nov. 15.