A third member of the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board has resigned following a contentious May 3 city commission meeting laden with accusations and arguments aimed at P&Z members.
Longtime board member and former city commissioner Bill Shearon submitted his resignation May 4, while P&Z chair Rick Bisio, after having served for 10 years, also submitted his resignation following the May 3 meeting.
At the meeting, Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ric Gatehouse accused P&Z of presenting a “colored and tainted” recommendation swayed by personal bias in its decision to deny the city’s joint development agreement with the BeachHouse Restaurant to build a dune and parking lot across from city hall and next to the restaurant.
P&Z outlined eight violations to the city’s land development code in reaching its decision.
The Commission disregarded the P&Z recommendation to deny the project and approved it following Gatehouse’s accusations and city attorney Ricinda Perry’s claims that P&Z qualifications were substandard to city staff.
In a letter dated May 10, P&Z board member Joyce Kramer cited her reasons for resigning, noting that staying on the board would serve no purpose.
“The work and time demanded of the P&Z board is not valued and taken seriously,” Kramer wrote. “Commissioner Gatehouse made this clear in his comments to the public at the commission meeting.”
Kramer said Gatehouse’s perception of P&Z having a preconceived notion based on personal opinions was inaccurate.
“I can attest to the fact that we came to the meeting having done our homework and knowing that this proposal was in violation of a number of land-development code regulations,” she said.
Kramer said Gatehouse’s comments were “inappropriate, as well as being disrespectful, dismissive, and arrogant. It is not the way to treat volunteers who have devoted much time to this issue.”
Kramer next noted Perry’s comments dismissing the expertise of P&Z members.
“(Perry) made it clear that the fact finding and decisions of the P&Z board are not of any value when she pointed out at the meeting that commissioners must base their decision on the word of ‘experts’ and the staff,” said Kramer.
“So what is the point of the P&Z work?” she asked.
Kramer said based on the comments of Gatehouse and Perry, P&Z “does not matter” and the existence of a P&Z board is simply “going through the motions.”
While P&Z was accused of making a baseless decision, Kramer said it is commissioner decisions that are being made without considering the P&Z findings.
“Not only was (the May 3 decision to approve the project) woefully inadequate, it did not list our finding of facts for our denial,” she said, noting that Commissioner Gay Breuler admitted she bases her decisions on staff recommendations first and foremost.
Kramer said she is concerned about the future of P&Z and what, if any impact, it will have on the city.
“When I applied to serve on the board in 2011 my application was approved by the commissioners,” she said. “I wasn’t even interviewed about why I wanted to serve.”
She said no formal training was offered, and new members were left to learn from experienced members.
Kramer wonders how new board members can learn with the loss of such experience, pointing to P&Z member Jo Ann Meilner as the last board member with experience.
Meilner has not gone on record as announcing a resignation, but also has not said she will remain.
“I am deeply disappointed with the tone and conduct of the (commissioners), but I am far more dissatisfied with the manner in which the interests of our citizens are treated and the decision-making process is conducted. Our city deserves better,” Kramer said.