The very mention of vacating city property raised eyebrows and concern levels Sept. 6 at the Bradenton Beach City Commission meeting.
Suzette Buchan requested the city vacate a 4-foot-wide, 65-foot-long section of city property at 26th Street North because a 1930s city land survey incorrectly identified her home’s location at 2518 Gulf Drive N. as private property, even though 40 feet of the building encroaches on city property.
Buchan said she purchased the home last year and the issue was not discovered until she began the process of trying to finance a renovation.
The Sandpiper Resort situation quickly came to mind and is a touchy subject since a lawsuit filed by Holmes Beach against Bradenton Beach over a vacated street is making its way through the courthouse. And Sandpiper is just one block from Buchan.
“Could we be setting ourselves up for something like that?” asked Commissioner Gay Breuler.
City attorney Ricinda Perry said it was not a concern.
“Here we are dealing with a 4-foot section,” she said. “It is very different. It’s an apples to oranges example.”
City planner Alan Garrett had no objections to the city vacating the property, but added two stipulations to which Buchan has agreed.
Buchan will provide landscaping for the remaining city property and will pay for a walkover to provide better access to the Gulf beach on the adjacent right of way.
Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said he is not a fan of giving away city property.
“In the event of a natural disaster or if it just falls down one day, I would like to see that the property is quitclaimed back to the city and a new building built back into the actual footprint,” he said. “I’m not in favor of vacating city property, although this has very extenuating circumstances.”
Buchan said she had no problem with Gatehouse’s request, as long as the city made it a policy.
“Whatever the policy the city wants to make and if we are the precedent setting that policy, I’m happy to be a part of that,” she said. “But I don’t think there was language like that in any other vacations, so I don’t want to be singled out. I would like some consistency from the city.”
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh agreed with Buchan, adding she would oppose Gatehouse’s suggestion of adding language that only would apply to Buchan.
Stephen Thompson, a principal in the Bradenton law firm of Najmy Thompson, P.L., representing the nearby beachfront Anna Maria Island Club condominiums on 26th Street North, objected to the city allowing the vacation to occur.
“When you take a look at the survey, it’s only 45 feet in length,” he said. “Why do they need the extra space? It appears they are asking for 20 feet more.”
Thompson questioned the vacation application, saying a better survey was needed. He also said residents of the Anna Maria Island Club had not received proper notice of a public hearing and could not understand the legal description of the property as it was written.
“We do not support the vacation of any portion of this unless it can be demonstrated that all they are wanting is the portion of the building, but I don’t see that,” he said. “This is a public right of way and shouldn’t be given up for private profit.”
Garrett said Buchan notified 298 individuals of the application and, “If Mr. Thompson would like, we could show him how to read the legal description.”
Garrett confirmed the 40-foot building encroachment, adding the additional 20 feet is to allow for walking-around room and for landscape improvements.
Breuler moved to approve the resolution to vacate the property, which passed 4-1. Gatehouse voted against the resolution.
A right-of-way use permit to satisfy Garrett’s stipulations also was brought to the dais, with Buchan agreeing to the terms to landscape the remaining portion of the city’s right of way and construct a dune walkover.
Thompson once again objected, citing notice was not properly provided to the condominium residents and he objected to the overall process.
“This has been kind of sprung on us,” he said.
Perry interjected, saying the public hearing was requested as a courtesy, but was not required.
“A right-of-way permit is administrative in nature,” she said. “When I hear them suggest there’s been no notice or no ample opportunity to present their opinion, that is not a requirement. This doesn’t even have to be a public hearing.”
Garrett said his door is always open to address citizen concerns.
“We have an open-door policy and we would be more than happy to sit down with neighbors,” he said. “We are here to work with everyone in the city.”
Breuler motioned to approve the right-of-way permit, which passed 5-0.