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Date of Issue: February 02, 2006

Holmes Beach rebuffs county plans for Kingfish Boat Ramp

kingfish pic
Into the lion's den
Doug Means of Manatee County shows the residents of Westbay Cove in Holmes Beach exactly where the county proposes to remove Brazilian pepper trees from the Kingfish Boat Ramp. Means spoke at the Jan. 24 city commission meeting before more than 70 residents of Westbay Cove who opposed the project. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Residents of Westbay Cove in Holmes Beach showed up en masse at the Jan. 24 city commission to protest a plan by Manatee County to add parking to Kingfish Boat Ramp, along with removing Brazilian pepper trees.

They found five sympathetic ears as city commissioners unanimously rejected a resolution endorsing the plan.

In a separate vote, the commission also rejected a county proposal to build a permanent rest room facility east of the boat ramp.

Doug Means, Manatee County's Environmental Planning Administrator, made an impassioned plea for support of the project, noting that the Florida Department of Transportation, which owns the property, wanted at least tacit endorsement of the plan by the city before it would approve the project. The boat ramp is considered within the Holmes Beach city limits, although political jurisdiction is unclear, he said.

Means said the Kingfish plan came after the county commission directed him to find new locations for boat ramps and to look at existing facilitates that could be improved or enlarged. Boating, he observed, has become extremely popular as the county's population continues to increase and Kingfish Boat Ramp is the closest ramp to the Gulf of Mexico for many county residents.

County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann attended the meeting and said one of the commission's concerns is safety at Kingfish as more and more people use the ramp.

But Westbay Cove Homeowners Association President Molly McCartney, speaking for the residents, objected to the plan, citing increased congestion, loss of habitat and a possible decline in property values. She added that the proposed rest room would be an "eyesore."

Permanent rest rooms at Kingfish "will cause permanent problems," she said. In addition, the county plan would do nothing for Holmes Beach residents.

Agreed, said City Commission Roger Lutz. "How will these changes help Holmes Beach? I'd like to hear."

It's strange, he added, that for the 30 years he's lived in Holmes Beach, the county has never considered the Brazilian pepper trees at Kingfish a problem, nor has it been concerned about safety at the ramp.

Von Hahmann said she did not know if the county commission could proceed with the plan for Kingfish without an endorsement from the city or DOT approval.

The commission was also opposed to a permanent rest room facility, but Mayor Carol Whitmore pointed out that a portable toilet has been at Kingfish for the past six years. A permanent structure built well east of the ramp and back into the trees might be better than a portable rest room, she said.

"I don't like it either, but what about a single, unisex, modular facility," she said. "Let's be realistic. People are going to use the bushes, the water, the trees when they have to go."

After the commission rejected support for the rest rooms, Whitmore met with McCartney and other Westbay Cove residents and asked them to look at the proposed location for a permanent rest room and see if they could support, or at least not object, to a facility at that site.

McCartney agreed and said she'd come back to the next commission meeting with an opinion.

"I think the commission might support at least a rest room if Westbay Cove residents don't object," Whitmore said.

Consolidation

Whitmore reported that she and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie held their first meeting on the feasibility of consolidation. Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn also attended, although her city commission has previously rejected any study of consolidating the three Island governments.

"We're moving forward," said Whitmore. "We're identifying the problem areas. We'll meet again soon to discuss a plan to explore the feasibility."

Land uses

The commission approved a draft ordinance dealing with a small plan amendment to the future land use map of the comprehensive plan for an area between 52nd Street and 49th Street north of the Anna Maria Elementary School. The draft will now be sent to the planning commission for review and recommendations before returning to the commission.

But City Planner Bill Brisson said a similar proposal to change the zoning in Sportsman's Harbor just south of the school from medium density to low density should be put on hold while he studies the issue further.

Brisson said that he wants more information on the number of duplexes existing at the time of the 1989 comprehensive plan. He also noted that several duplexes have been permitted in the area since 1989.

"In my opinion, let's wait," he said. "My recommendation may not change, but maybe the comprehensive plan is the problem, not the zoning."

Commissioners agreed to discuss the issue at a future workshop when Brisson has completed his investigation.

Birdie Tebbetts scoreboard

Commissioners also gave consensus to install a scoreboard at the Birdie Tebbetts Field after learning from Scott Dell of the Anna Maria Island Community Center that the Coca-Cola Co., which is donating the scoreboard, had no objection to removal of its logo.

The scoreboard would be 8 feet long and 35 inches high and would be installed in centerfield, pointing away from nearby residences.

The words "Birdie Tebbetts Field" would be painted on the scoreboard.

Final approval for the proposal was scheduled for the Feb. 28 commission meeting.

Sunrise boat basin

After more than two years of discussion and preparation, commissioners finally passed the first reading of the ordinance governing lease of docks in the Sunrise boat basin. The commission also approved the first reading of the dock-user license agreement that will be used for both the Sunrise and the T-end canals, but decided to discuss fees at a future workshop.

The city plans to build new docks in the Sunrise boat basin and approved a $26,500 contract with Doug Hugenburg Marine Construction Inc. for eight finger docks in that basin. Construction of docks for the T-end canals will be considered in next year's budget, the commission said.

While the T-end canal ordinance will be the same as the Sunrise ordinance, the commission decided not to pass that ordinance until it has enough money in the budget to build docks there.

The commission did note that a major change in the proposed T-end canal ordinance from the previous ordinance is that an owner selling a house cannot transfer rights to a dock space. The buyer of the home has to get on the priority list for a dock, but the city is hopeful there will be enough docks for everyone when the project is completed.

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