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Lack of support kills BB gateway project

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Pedestrians walk where Bradenton Beach gateway improvements were planned. The project came to a halt at the March 7 capital improvement projects meeting. Islander Photo: Mark Young

Bradenton Beach Commissioner Gay Breuler expressed disappointment after a March 7 capital improvement projects meeting that effectively killed her effort to beautify the city’s gateway.

Breuler was authorized via consensus to pursue the landscaping project in September 2012. She was authorized to use $2,600 from the Scenic Waves Partnership Committee budget that was set aside for years for the gateway project, which includes installing a new “Welcome to Bradenton Beach” sign.

The sign proposal is moving forward, but commissioners would not support Breuler’s final proposal for the project. Breuler brought commissioners a landscape agreement drawn up by attorneys for two condominium associations in the project area. But the condo members required authorizations to remove the plants if they did not like them.

The landscaping was to take place on the Gulf of Mexico side of Gulf Drive from south of the Cortez Road intersection to just north of the Gulf Drive Cafe, but the property is owned by three condo associations.

Breuler said she has wanted to see the area improved since she moved to Bradenton Beach. Upon receiving the initial consensus to work on the project, she entered into discussions with the three associations.

One of the condo boards signed off on the project, while the other two insisted on more control. This raised concern from Commissioner Ric Gatehouse and Mayor John Shaughnessy.

“I think it’s a great idea to do something in that area,” said Gatehouse. “I only have one problem with the agreement in that the condos can remove it at any time.”

He said considering the city is paying for the plants, “I’m not comfortable with this agreement.”

A Gulfwatch condo board association member took offense to Gatehouse’s comments, saying it was private property and the condo board would reserve its right to do what it wants.

He said there was no intention to remove the landscaping. In fact, he said, it was likely the condos would want to enhance the area, but the board did not want to give up its property rights.

Gatehouse said he meant no offense.

“My point here is that if the city is going to spend money, we want control of what happens to the money,” Gatehouse said. “Otherwise, we might as well throw a bunch of green dollars out there and see if they’ll grow.”

Shaughnessy said he would object to spending tax dollars on private property.

“I don’t like this project the way it is,” he said. “We have the go ahead to see what would happen and it has snowballed. Now we have an agreement before us and it says the city will water it. I don’t remember giving any kind of authorization to use city resources for this project.”

Shaughnessy said he was displeased that the project has become a one-commissioner effort.

“We are a team,” he said. “It’s not up to one person to go ahead with a project like this. Secondly, it’s always been my policy not to spend taxpayer money on private property. We spend tax dollars to put in plants here and we’ll have other businesses asking us why we can’t do it for them.”

Shaughnessy said he also disagrees with the agreement that would give control to the condo boards.

“I can’t put my stamp on this,” he said.

Breuler said she has kept the commission informed each step of the way and the city’s short-term corridor improvement policy allows for public/private partnerships.

“The fact about it being city funds, the truth is that we have voted to designate money to the gateway,” she said. “We are only talking about a couple of thousand dollars. I urge you all to vote yes. I think beautifying our city at a tiny cost like this would be a fabulous thing to do.”

Shaughnessy said the agreement does not a represent a partnership and the money should be put to use on city property.

Gatehouse recommended that city attorney Ricinda Perry look over the agreement, but Shaughnessy said that would add expense to the city.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said she believes the project would be a waste of money.

“You know how people are,” she said. “People walk there all the time and it will just get trampled.”

Breuler moved to approve the landscape agreement and her motion died for a lack of a second.along the street.

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