A fourth member of the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board has resigned on the heels of the May 17 city commission meeting.
Longtime P&Z board member Jo Ann Meilner asked for apologies at the May 17 meeting for the way she and other P&Z board members were treated following their April recommendation to deny the city’s joint development agreement with BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles to construct a dune and parking lot across from city hall.
Meilner’s request for apologies went unanswered by the commission and the city attorney and she told The Islander following the meeting she would be resigning.
In a letter dated May 17 to Mayor John Shaughnessy, Meilner said the city’s lack of faith in P&Z board members to appropriately do their job was her final straw.
“It has become very clear that this commission believes the P&Z board and citizens of this city are incapable of reading our city’s comprehensive plan and land development codes and understanding what they say,” Meilner said. “The city’s attorney has insinuated that only people with degrees and letters behind their names are qualified. How insulting.”
Meilner said for 10 years she has served the city and has sat on committees that reviewed and wrote some of the codes that have been called into question for the dune/parking lot project.
“The citizens of this city were loud and clear on the intent of the preservation land use,” she said. “Today, you ignored those codes. You brushed them aside without a word. You dismissed the work and efforts of what was a very dedicated and hard-working board, a board with educated and degreed citizens, who have nothing to gain from our decisions.”
Meilner’s resignation follows the resignation of three other P&Z board members. P&Z chair Rick Bisio resigned immediately after a contentious May 3 meeting where P&Z members were accused of presenting a “tainted” recommendation to deny the joint development agreement.
Former city commissioner and P&Z member Bill Shearon resigned the following day, and Joyce Kramer resigned later that week. Meilner’s resignation now removes more than 20 years of combined experience from the P&Z board and many more years in overall city service.
Meilner gives final argument
P&Z rejected the joint development agreement in April, which was then taken up by commissioners May 3. The final order was approved May 17, but not without one last fight from Meilner.
In public comment, Meilner asked for apologies from city attorney Ricinda Perry, Commissioner Ric Gatehouse and Shaughnessy in particular for the way P&Z members were treated at the commission’s May 3 public hearing.
P&Z had rejected the agreement with the BeachHouse, citing eight violations to the city’s land development code, but Gatehouse called the P&Z recommendations “colored and tainted” with personal bias. Perry argued P&Z qualifications were substandard to staff expertise, at one point cutting off Meilner’s public comments to argue on her own behalf.
“I think some apologies are in order,” said Meilner. “I ask (Perry) to apologize for interrupting me and I ask the mayor to apologize for allowing it to happen. I ask Commissioner Gatehouse to apologize for his accusations.”
No apologies were offered.
Meilner then stated further potential joint agreement violations of the city’s comprehensive plan.
Reading aloud from Article Six, Meilner said, “to change the use of city property requires an ordinance and referendum.”
The city also had argued that the proposed development site across from city hall was not zoned preservation because it was not seaward of the erosion control line, but Meilner cited the comprehensive plan’s definition.
“I went to the Holy Grail, the comp plan, which is our bible and must not be violated,” she said. “The city’s intent was to draw a line seaward of any private structures. Where there are no private structures, the intent is to designate all lands seaward of Gulf Drive, not seaward of the erosion control line. That’s the words of your comp plan.”
Meilner said it is vitally important for the city to follow its own rules to preserve integrity, and also to prevent potential litigation against the city.
Shaughnessy thanked Meilner for her comments and moved on with the meeting. Perry addressed the commissioners on the details of the joint development agreement final order, which had been delayed to include stipulations.
“I generally do not put final orders on the agenda but, for a number of reasons, I felt it important,” said Perry. “Number one, I felt like my integrity was called into question by the public, so I want to make sure every detail of this is transparent.”
Commissioners tweaked the stipulations to ensure the easement being given to the BeachHouse would not be developed now or in the future during the terms of the 10-year agreement.
Following some minor discussion, Gatehouse motioned to approve the final order. Commissioner Gay Breuler seconded the motion, which passed 3-1. Vice Mayor Ed Straight was absent with excuse and Commissioner Jan Vosburgh voted no.
“I’m just not comfortable with this,” said Vosburgh.
Commissioners received two applications for appointment to the P&Z following the resignation of three members.
John Burns, who has been serving on the planning and development committee, tendered his resignation to serve on the P&Z.
Daniel Debaun also applied to serve and commissioners unanimously appointed both men in separate motions.
In other city business, commissioners unanimously approved special exception permits for a July 3 fireworks display at the BeachHouse Restaurant and the Anna Maria Island Privateers July 4 parade.