At its April 10 public hearing, the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board voted to recommend the city reject the proposed joint development agreement with ELRA, the corporation which owns the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach.
The JDA was entered into March 1 when city commissioners approved the agreement designed to construct a protective dune system across from city hall, 107 Gulf Drive.
In exchange for the agreement, ELRA agreed to pick up the lion’s share of the project’s costs, which includes the creation of a parking lot. ELRA would gain additional parking spaces for the restaurant, and the city also would have some added parking.
The primary sticking point for the zoning board was the parking lot, which the majority of the members felt violated the city’s comprehensive land-use plan, and a city ordinance which denies development on renourished beach.
After a lengthy question-and-answer session with building official Steve Gilbert and project engineer Lynn Townsend-Burnett, the board recommended rejection of the project 4-1.
Board member Patricia White, who voted against the rejection, was not necessarily for the project, but didn’t want to cast a vote without more information.
P&Z board member Bill Shearon motioned to table the issue to continue discussion on the project, but that motion failed 3-2 with White also in favor of a continuance.
“I feel it’s not as simple as accepting or rejecting,” said Shearon. “I can’t vote for or against recommendation without all my questions answered.”
Board member Jo Ann Meilner said there was nothing further to discuss, saying the project was a clear violation of the city’s land-use codes.
“I think it violates too many sections of the code to be approved,” she said.
P&Z chair Rick Bisio said the dune restoration part of the project was a positive, but the proposal to eliminate or relocate the park to make room for a parking lot was not. Bisio said any intention to move or eliminate the park area would require a referendum.
“I look at it and two things are clear,” he said. “Dune restoration is a positive. I think it’s something we want. Converting the city park to a parking lot is a big negative and that’s fairly clear.”
Bisio said, “What we are looking at here is a single proposal. I don’t think we can vote on these pieces separately, because it’s been presented as a single project. So we accept, deny or feel additional time will make a difference to our opinions and continue this to a later date.”
Meilner moved to reject the project.
“I don’t think we can find any new information that would change that this land use is (zoned) preservation,” she said. “You can’t convince me that you can build a parking lot on preservation.”
White brought up the existing BeachHouse valet parking, saying parking already exists on the beach.
“It does exist,” said Meilner, “but that doesn’t mean it’s a legal parking lot. You can continue to run a red light, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to eventually be legal. That (existing) parking lot is illegal.”
Bisio said there were too many concerns to warrant P&Z approval.
“I personally don’t think city property should have anything to do with this,” he said. “If it came back in a different form, I might look at it differently.”
With Meilner’s motion to recommend denial on the table, the board voted to reject the project proposal.
The P&Z board is a recommending board and the matter will next be taking up by city commissioners at their May 3 meeting.
Several factors can take place before the commission vote. Those involved with planning the project can work on the concerns of the P&Z before presenting the plan to the commissioners.
The commissioners have the right to disregard P&Z recommendations completely, or take into account those concerns in either approving or denying the project.
“I sure hope the mayor and commissioners will listen to the tape of this meeting, take into account documents presented, and consider the reasons why we are rejecting this,” said Shearon.
City argues dune project not about parking lot
By Mark Young
The proposed dune creation across from Bradenton Beach City Hall has been viewed as a positive step toward protecting not only city hall, but Gulf Drive, the city’s primary evacuation route during severe storms.
The sticking point in the joint development agreement between the city and ELRA, the corporation that owns the BeachHouse Restaurant across from city hall, has been to include a parking lot.
The agreement would create easements for both parties, allowing ELRA to expand parking for the restaurant, provide five parking spaces to the city and open the door for dune construction.
Building official Steve Gilbert and project engineer Lynn Townsend-Burnett argued the city’s position at the April 10 planning and zoning board public hearing.
“There are several components making up this application,” said Townsend-Burnett. “The major element is the dune system. A local mitigation strategy was put together by the county and cities several years ago, but the funding has never been in place.”
ELRA is proposing to pay more than $200,000 to the city’s $46,000 to construct the dune system. What it wants in exchange is additional parking, she said.
“(Florida Department of Environmental Protection) had already adopted the mitigation strategy and has encouraged local entities to continue working on it,” said Townsend-Burnett.
The P&Z board did not object to the dune system, but some members had objected to the parking lot, and ultimately recommended the city reject the JDA by a 4-1 vote, citing violations of land-use codes and city ordinances that prohibit development on renourished sand.
Gilbert said the land is zoned E-1, and while there isn’t language that allows a parking lot, there also isn’t language that prohibits it. However, Gilbert has repeatedly stated the parking is secondary to the coastal protection goals of the project.
“The land-use plan doesn’t talk about parking, but it’s not expressly prohibited,” said Gilbert. “The comprehensive plan is used for guidance because it’s more restrictive, but the comprehensive plan allows for other uses not contemplated in the land-use code.”
However, Gilbert reiterated the project is not about parking and said the P&Z board could certainly make its recommendations on parking to the commission accordingly.
“This is a dune-protection project,” he said. “What you choose to recommend as far as parking is strictly up to you.”
Gilbert faced tough questions from the board, whose members cited land-use codes verbatim. Jo Ann Meilner said allowable uses in E-1 “shall not be physically developed unless in conformance with the intent of preservation. I don’t think a parking lot is preservation.”
Meilner said she hasn’t found anything that says a parking lot is anything other than development and she opposed the city’s partnership with ELRA.
Meilner said she opposed the project, but called restaurant owner Ed Chiles a good man and good citizen to the community.
“Ed Chiles is one of the most involved and generous businessmen toward the city,” she said. “But I’m opposed to this parking lot.”