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Island cities dispute begins

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

The conflict resolution process initiated by Holmes Beach against Bradenton Beach over its 2008 quitclaim of 27th Street east of Gulf Drive to the Sandpiper Resort will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, in the Holmes Beach city commission chambers, 5801 Marina Drive.

Officials of both cities have said previously they hoped the issue could be resolved without escalating. Bradenton Beach city attorney Ricinda Perry, however, said at the Nov. 3 Bradenton Beach city commission meeting she was not confident, and observed that the dispute is “moving toward litigation.”

Holmes Beach commissioners passed the conflict resolution motion at their Sept. 13 meeting after discussing a fence along the boundary line. The commission, however, tabled the resolution to give the mayors of both cities the opportunity to resolve the issue informally.

At the same meeting, Holmes Beach commissioners asked city attorney Patricia Petruff to look into the quitclaim and a fence installed in August by the resort.

Petruff cautioned that conflict resolution could be expensive for both cities.

Several Holmes Beach commissioners said the fence restricted public access and lowered property values in the area for Holmes Beach property owners.

Sandpiper officials and then-Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt maintained the fence did not restrict public access to public lands.

Sandpiper resident John Shaughnessy, then mayor-elect of Bradenton Beach, told Holmes Beach commissioners Sept. 13 that conflict resolution will do nothing but “create ill-will” between two neighbors.

Shaughnessy said the fence was constructed to keep out unlicensed golf carts from using the resort as a thoroughfare, not to restrict pedestrian traffic on 27th Street.

Until the fence went up, no one had complained about public access to 27th Street, he said.

However, Holmes Beach did send a letter of complaint to Bradenton Beach in 2008 when the quitclaim was approved.

Bohnenberger reported to the commission on Oct. 25 that he was unable to resolve the dispute after meeting with Bartelt.

And Petruff reported she could not find a recorded quitclaim to the Sandpiper, but did find a locked gate on her inspection.

Holmes Beach commissioners then voted 4-0 to proceed with conflict resolution. Commissioner John Monetti recused himself because he owns property near the boundary line between the two cities and could have a financial interest in the outcome.

At their Nov. 3 meeting, Bradenton Beach commissioners voted unanimously to stand by their quitclaim deed of 2008.

The Dec. 7 assessment meeting is open to the public, although public comment does not have to be taken, according to the Florida statute on conflict resolution between municipalities.

If a solution is not reached at that meeting, the two cities can schedule further conflict resolution meetings.

According to the Florida statute on conflict resolution, the two sides can also schedule a meeting with a mediator to find a solution, or select a mediator to hear the conflict.

If no tentative resolution is reached, the two cities draft a statement and “schedule a joint public meeting, or several meetings” between the two city commissions, the statute states.

If the two sides still can’t reach an agreement, the issue then must go to mediation. The cost of a mediator is divided equally between the two parties, the statute states, and each side must bear its own legal expenses.

Finally, if no suitable agreement is reached, the statute states the governmental entity “may avail themselves of available legal rights and remedies.”

There is no time limit to reach an agreement.

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