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Date of Issue: December 22, 2005

Boundary expansion proposal again floated in Bradenton Beach

Holiday festivities aside, Bradenton Beach may be growing three-fold next year.

City commissioners have approved yet again a proposal to increase the city's boundaries into the Gulf of Mexico and Anna Maria Sound. The move, discussed for at least 11 years, would provide better police protection to the burgeoning bayfront anchorage just east of the city pier off Bridge Street as well as allowing errant boaters to be stopped.

The expanded boundries would run from the city limit with Holmes Beach 500 feet into the Gulf, then south to Longboat Pass. On the east side of the city, the boundary would be the Intracoastal Waterway in Anna Maria Sound.

The process is somewhat complicated, according to City Attorney Ricinda Perry.

First up is the approval of a first reading of an ordinance by the city commission approving the expansion, a step taken last Thursday.

Next is a public hearing before the local legislative delegation. The city apparently missed the deadline for that step, but Perry said a special hearing was scheduled on another matter and she hoped Bradenton Beach could piggyback on that process.

Then there's the introduction of bills in the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate to authorize the expansion. There may be a glitch or two with that process unless the city can prove there is no increase in taxes for Bradenton Beach that would accrue in the action. Gov. Jeb Bush has indicated he would veto any bill presented to him if there is a tax increase that did not include a referendum by voters approving such a charge.

Then both the Florida House and Senate must approve identical language and, if it receives gubernatorial approval, will go back to the city, where the city's charter will have to be amended and approved by voters before it can take effect.

The process appears to be as laborious as the process it took to get to this stage in the matter.

The boundary issue first arose in 1994 when a problem with dangerous interactions between swimmers and personal watercraft developed. At the time, commissioners shelved the expansion proposal due to police concerns involving enforcement of city laws into the new city area without benefit of a boat.

Then, the city got a patrol boat through a grant and the matter came up again, but has stalled for about five years.

City police officer's have been sworn in as deputies of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, and have full authority on the water, but any fines levied or forfeitures accrued go to Manatee County, not the city.

The boundary expansion would allow only police authority on the water - no actual "taking" of bottom lands is proposed.

In other city matters, Mayor John Chappie nominated and the city commission unanimously approved Lisa Marie Phillips as vice mayor, replacing Bill Shearon.