BB commissioners downsize P&Z board to 5 members

At a May 1 joint meeting between Bradenton Beach commissioners and planning and zoning board members, a consensus was given to maintain the P&Z board at seven members.

At a May 29 joint meeting, commissioners changed their decision.

“As you all know, we’ve had some turmoil in the P&Z board,” said Commissioner Ric Gatehouse. “I think we need to revisit the number of board members. My argument (May 1) was it’s not always that stable and hard to get good people.”

Gatehouse previously recommended reducing the number of board members to five, but commissioners that day agreed to leave the number at seven. However, that was before a contentious May 3 city commission meeting that led to four P&Z resignations.

P&Z had recommended the city reject the proposed joint development agreement with BeachHouse restaurant owner Ed Chiles in April to allow constructing a dune and parking lot across from city hall.

P&Z said the proposed project violated the city’s land development codes and comprehensive plan in its recommendation for denial. Commissioners ignored the recommendation and approved the agreement at a public hearing where Gatehouse accused P&Z members of presenting a “colored and tainted” recommendation based on personal bias.

Three P&Z members resigned within a week. Longtime member Jo Ann Meilner held off resigning and sought an apology from commissioners and city attorney Ricinda Perry at a May 17 commission meeting. Lacking any apology, she submitted her resignation May 19, leaving P&Z with three members.

Commissioners May 29 provided a consensus to change the P&Z board to five members, which, following the May 17 appointment of Dan Debaun and John Burns, it has.

The May 29 meeting was to consist of commissioners and P&Z members, but only Debaun attended from P&Z. The meeting was a second workshop to move forward on LDC revisions before the Oct. 1 state-mandated deadline to have the LDC in compliance with the city’s comprehensive plan.

Gatehouse also asked commissioners to consider changing the city’s language for P&Z qualifications. Currently only a city resident can serve on the P&Z board, but Gatehouse called the LDC language that defines P&Z qualifications as “too restrictive,” he said.

“It throttles our ability to get (nonresidents) when we can,” he said. “If we change it, maybe we can allow nonresidents to be maintained as qualified people.”

Language to be considered for change would state that either a voting resident “or property owner” in Bradenton Beach would be qualified to serve on the P&Z, following a commission consensus from Commissioners Gay Breuler, Gatehouse, Jan Vosburgh and Mayor John Shaughnessy.

Commissioner Ed Straight was absent.

If the change passes at a city commission meeting, the LDC will authorize a P&Z board of five members, with two alternate members, and allow nonresident property owners to serve on the board.

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