Bradenton Beach commissioners at their March 1 meeting again heard arguments to allow the Gulf Drive Market to resume operations at Gulf Drive Cafe & Tiki, 900 Gulf Drive N.
For the third time, the arguments failed.
The market was initially approved for a 60-day trial in November 2011 to operate every Sunday through the end of January. Since January, there have been three special event permit applications for the market to continue operation, the most recent for every Sunday through December 2012.
Commissioners once again listened to opposition to the market’s location due to traffic and safety concerns.
Public comment was overwhelmingly against the market continuing at the restaurant.
Gulf Drive Cafe manager Pete Barreda resumed his argument for the market, saying it’s free enterprise and he has rights as a tax-paying business owner to conduct business on the property.
However, nearby property owners affected by the increased traffic said they are taxpayers, too, and have rights of their own. More disconcerting to citizens, however, was how many more times the Gulf Drive Market would be considered for a special event permit.
“I would like to ask how many times is this issue of the market going to be brought up again and again?” asked Audrey Young. “Is there a limit? I’m afraid one day I’ll have my back turned and it will go through.”
Mayor John Shaughnessy said the issue would be settled “once and for all tonight.”
Commissioner Gay Breuler, who previously stood alone on the dais in support of the market, gained an ally in Commissioner Ric Gatehouse.
Breuler again motioned to approve Barreda’s application. Gatehouse seconded the motion, “for the sake of discussion,” he said. He later sided with Breuler in support of the market at the cafe.
“I’m confused,” said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh. “We have all these people who are opposed to this. I can’t even begin to understand why we would consider this.”
Breuler argued her vote is based on the right to work, especially, she said, in today’s economic environment. She also referred to previous letters and e-mails from those supporting the market.
“As far as the letters, most of those were from vendors,” said Vosburgh. “Of course, they were for the market. I didn’t see but one or two that were from citizens, and aren’t we supposed to represent the citizens of Bradenton Beach?”
During public comment, Jo Ann Meilner, president of the Bridge Street Merchants, disputed any notion of the alleged 60 e-mails sent to the city.
“It was said at the last meeting that 60 e-mails were submitted in favor,” she said. “I found only 43 and five people wrote 14 of them. Of the 43, I could only identify 13 as residents. Twelve were from vendors, 10 were from visitors and eight were completely unknown.”
Shaughnessy said he has sympathy for both sides of the argument, but would not move away from his position.
“My inner gut feeling is this, I just think it’s a bad location,” he said. “I’m not against the market. I’m against the location. I wouldn’t want to pitch a tent in the middle of Times Square. It wouldn’t be appropriate. I’m for people making money, but they can make it at Coquina Beach.”
With the motion on the table, Shaughnessy called for a vote. Breuler and Gatehouse voted to approve the special event permit. Vosburgh, Shaughnessy and Vice Mayor Ed Straight voted against, failing the motion 3-2.
Complaints of traffic delays, safety concerns for pedestrians and loss of private parking spaces sparked citizens to voice their opposition to the market on Gulf Drive.
Shaughnessy said any application to conduct a flea market at Coquina Beach would be “welcome.”