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Date of Issue: December 23, 2009

Legislators back local measures

State Reps. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, and state Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, listen during the Manatee County Legislative Delegation meeting Dec. 15 in Bradenton.
Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

The Manatee County legislative delegation agreed Dec. 15 to introduce legislation that would allow Anna Maria to extend its boundaries into local waters and allow Holmes Beach to annex the Kingfish Boat Ramp.

The delegation, preparing for the 2010 session in Tallahassee, also heard and discussed a number of other requests, including a call from Manatee County elected officials to stand firm against expanding drilling opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico.

Manatee County Commissioner Donna Hayes was the first speaker to address the delegation at its annual meeting in Bradenton — because Hayes also needed to get to a county commission meeting downtown.

 Hayes outlined the county commission’s legislative priorities for 2010, which include continued state funding for beach renourishment, flexibility to use golf carts on sidewalks in certain state and county rights of way, support for the Port Connector Road to improve transportation in the Port Manatee area, continued support for the Central Florida Commuter Rail project and opposition to offshore drilling.

Hayes said the county commission adopted a resolution opposing the opening of state waters for oil and gas drilling, as did the governing boards in the six municipalities in the county.

Later in the meeting, Longboat Key Vice Mayor Robert Siekmann, who presented priorities for the town as well as goals for the Manasota League of Cities, also asked the delegation to stand against drilling.

Earlier this year, there were reports that lawmakers might gather for a special session to consider opening state waters to oil and natural gas drilling.

State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, said the worries were exaggerated, that there is no bill and that lawmakers are not being inundated with requests from energy lobbyists.

“We don’t have any bill. We never had a bill in the Senate,” she said.

Detert also said that while local elected officials oppose expanding drilling, she isn’t certain of constituents’ opinion.

“You haven’t polled the people who live in your cities and counties,” Detert told Siekmann. “I’d like to take the temperature of the community I live in.”

Siekmann replied, “We are very convinced that the opposition to drilling on Longboat Key is significant.”

State Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, then raised a stack of blue note cards signed by people who opposed drilling, but Detert replied that the uniformity of the cards suggested a coordinated opposition campaign.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, said he has opposed expanding drilling in the past, because he wants to focus on alternative, renewable energy. But he questioned whether Manatee County officials based their early opposition on insufficient information.

“Let’s find out what the facts are,” Bennett said.

On the request for legislation to change boundaries for Anna Maria and Holmes Beach, Anna Maria city attorney Jim Dye addressed the delegation.

Part of the request involves correcting a boundary discrepancy in the southernmost part of Anna Maria and north Holmes Beach.

Dye explained that some residential area currently is shown on maps for both cities due to an oversight.

“There is an overlap,” said Dye. “It’s a relic from when Holmes Beach was founded.… We see this as mostly housekeeping.”

 A second component of the legislation, said Dye, involves extending Anna Maria’s control into nearshore waters, which currently are under the jurisdiction of the county.

Dye said both city and county officials support the change, which allows Anna Maria oversight on docks.

In regards to the Kingfish Boat Ramp on Manatee Avenue west of the Anna Maria Island Bridge, Dye said there also is city and county agreement for Holmes Beach to annex the land. The property is a Florida Department of Transportation right of way that contains a boat ramp operated by the county. Until recent years, Holmes Beach officials believed the land was within city limits and policed the area.

“Ownership doesn’t change” with annexation, said Dye. Nor will the county’s operation of Kingfish.

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, who chairs the delegation, asked for a vote on the request, and received a unanimous endorsement.

“The bill will be introduced,” he said.

However, Bennett added, “We’ve not really had a chance to read these.… The bill could change if the deal is not all worked out. We’re kind of flying on faith here.”

Dye said the two cities and the county have only minor details to work out.