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Objectors to HB moratorium rise, city limits terms

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

A crowd at a Holmes Beach meeting looks on Dec. 11 as commissioners consider a building moratorium for the Residential-2 zone district. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell

While Holmes Beach residents have been packing city meetings in the past year to complain about huge houses, investors moving residents out of the city’s housing stock and renter-related problems, at a Dec.11 meeting, it was the turn of new owners, contractors and others to voice their opinions about a proposed building moratorium.

        About 20 peaceful protesters wore green imprinted shirts, stating “No Construction Means No Jobs,” and two Holmes Beach police officers monitored the Dec. 11 meeting.

        A draft ordinance to stop tear downs, rebuilds and new construction for six months in the R-2 district was discussed. It included a Dec. 6 retroactive date so as not to cause a rush on building permits.

        Fourteen contractors and owners voiced their opinions — mostly against the retroactive date and six-month provision — and by the meeting’s end, the commission was swayed to take out the retroactive date and replace it with Dec. 25, a “Christmas present,” as suggested by Commissioner David Zaccagnino, and change the draft moratorium’s duration to “up to” six months.

        Along with these revisions, at a second meeting last week, a consensus of commissioners agreed to limit the impact of the moratorium to future construction equivalent to 50 percent of a home’s existing market value.

        The proposed moratorium is expected to be up for a commission vote at the meeting at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 18.

        Jack Sandleman of Gulf Drive spoke to the duration issue. “Perhaps six months is a bit too long,” he said, suggesting a 90-day moratorium.

        Janice Martinez said she’d begun demolishing a home Dec. 11. “And now I found out we can’t start construction for six months. What’s up with that?”

        She told commissioners she wants to live in Holmes Beach with her children — who have been coming to the island every summer — and her grandchildren.

        “Be fair to people like us. We’re not building a home to rent,” Martinez added. “Can you make an exception for people who want to live in this community and be part of this community and help this community grow?

        “What about our economy? And all the people out here in green shirts who earn their living on the island, in a very honorable       and noble profession? Think about that before you start taking away our rights, please.”

        James Martin, a contractor from Bradenton, said, “We’re a small company and don’t have a lot of employees, but they have families. To stop all construction for six months is too much. It’s tough enough with the economy as is.”

        Code enforcement board member John Wise said, “You’re talking only about 10 houses” and listening “only to the squeaky wheel,” not a satisfied majority of citizens.

        Scott Boyd of Baronet Lane told commissioners to consider the possible cost of litigation.

        Eric Yonkee, who’s been building a home for the past several months, feared he’d be held to the backdated moratorium.

        However, Commission Chair Jean Peelen said so long as a permit is filed with the city building department before the moratorium effective date, he would not be affected.

        Bradenton attorney Louis Najmy, representing Beach to Bay Construction, among other contractors, businesses and property owners, next approached the podium.

        “I get that you want to ensure the island isn’t overbuilt,” he said, adding he understood the big house focus.

        Najmy told Peelen, “I can’t stop connecting your manifesto to this ordinance that is solely targeted to demolitions in R-2 district properties and a potential goal to stop one builder — Beach to Bay Construction.”

        Najmy suggested the city “do it for all zoning districts,” and only for three months.

        Resident and contractor Darrin Wash of Wash Family Construction said he understood the moratorium was about duplexes and underground footers, but asked why six months. “It’s going to hurt the green shirt people here. It’s going be a big impact on us contractors,” he said.

        City attorney Patricia Petruff said the planning commission needed time for its review, and both the city and planning boards had to follow legal requirements for public hearings and notices.

        Peelen said, “Our commitment up here is that we’ll do it absolutely as expeditiously as possible.”

        Wash continued, “Six months to you is like business as usual for you guys. We aren’t coming to your jobs and saying you can’t work for six months.”

        Commissioner Judy Titsworth said, “This issue is not just about the duplexes. We have a developer, developers, who haven’t been looking at the comprehensive plan.

        “The multi-family seasonal tourist has crept into our R-2 district while we were sleeping,” she added, referring to the change from small rental houses for one family to many families sharing the new multi-story homes.

        David Scott of Palm Drive added another consideration, “The moratorium is going to discourage people from buying because of the uncertainty.”

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