BIEO hears beach plans, strategy to repeal state rental law

Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker updated officials at an April 17 Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting that this year’s beach renourishment project has received additional funds.

Hunsicker said the county was notified April 15 that the $6 million project will include another $9 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He predicted a possible start date for some time in August or September.

“When I know more I will come to each city’s commission meeting to update you and have public discussion,” he said.

In other matters, the Rev. Ed Moss from CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, addressed the BIEO to invite them to participate in a community Thanksgiving holiday event. He said it is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 16.

“We asked one another what can we do for the community,” said Moss. “The dominant request is if you can create community spirit then go for it. This event is what we came up with.”

Moss said CrossPointe is a community church, “so it belongs to the community. We send our members out to a lot of community functions, but we thought it would be cool if we hosted an event.”

Moss said the event is planned between Veterans Day and Thanksgiving for a reason.

“The reason for the date is to incorporate the Veterans Day spirit into the Thanksgiving spirit,” he said.

Moss invited mayors to be guest speakers at the event and asked that each city have a commissioner on the planning committee.

The event is expected to include veteran speakers, a color guard, food, a chili cook-off, a pie-baking contest, games for all ages and more, all free to the community.

Moss received immediate support for his idea and Bradenton Beach Commissioners Gay Breuler and Jan Vosburgh volunteered for the planning committee.

In other matters, Holmes Beach Commission Chair Jean Peelen updated the BIEO on HB833, which effectively halted cities from enacting new rental requirements when the Florida Legislature passed it in 2011.

Anna Maria Island cities and Manatee County in particular are leading a charge to have the bill repealed in the 2014 legislative session.

Peelen has drafted a plan of attack that includes having commissioners from each city schedule a monthly meeting with their state representatives when they are in their home offices.

She is asking island officials to support an invitation to those same legislators for a meeting to discuss HB833. Peelen said she and Anna Maria Mayor Suelynn are hoping to become members of the Florida League of Cities “specifically to address this issue.

“We are the resort cities, so we are affected first,” said Peelen. “But what other cities in Florida are just now realizing is that this bill affects them, too, and we can reach out to those cities through the Florida League of Cities.”

Suelynn said she and Peelen will be traveling to other cities to attend meetings so elected officials have an opportunity to hear what they have to say and to answer questions.

Peelen reminded Bradenton Beach officials they have not yet drafted a letter to the Manatee County Commission saying the commission and the city supports the repeal of HB833.

She said the county needs to address legislators with an “Our cities support this repeal. We together have more of a voice than any one individual.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy said Bradenton Beach does support the bill’s repeal.

“My problem is it blankets every city,” he said. “Every city is unique and has its own problems. I don’t go for the blanket thing or go for the state telling us what we can and can’t do anyway.”

Peelen also updated the BIEO on how the cities can become more active in seeking Manatee County Tourist Development Council assistance and to find ways to alleviate traffic on the island.

The subject of water taxi services to the island originating from multiple areas around Manatee and Sarasota counties was discussed.

Peelen said the island needs the TDC to make ideas like that a reality.

The goal is for tourists to visit the island using alternative means of transportation other than their own vehicles, according to many of the barrier island officials.

“We need their support,” she said. “We need their money and their brains to address this issue.”

Manatee County Commissioner and TDC Chair Carol Whitmore attended the BIEO meeting and said the TDC is focusing more on sports activities within the county.

She said the effort is to attract tourists to other parts of the county first, “and they are always going to come to the island, too.”

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