Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino calls out Mayor Carmel Monti’s proposals to charge a trolley fee, build a toll gate on the Anna Maria Island Bridge and lease the Scentral Park dog park to dog owners. Islander Photo: Mark Young
It was a two-round battle April 9 between Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino and Commission Chair Jean Peelen.
Round two came at the end of the meeting when Peelen admonished Zaccagnino for his March 28 criticism of Mayor Carmel Monti’s choice for a new police of chief.
Zaccagnino criticized other commissioners for not doing their due diligence in researching the new chief’s background before voting to accept the mayor’s recommendation.
Peelen, reading from a prepared statement, demanded Zaccagnino apologize for questioning the mayor’s choice, accusing the eight-year commissioner of “publicly trashing” the candidate. Zaccagnino did not apologize.
Round one opened the April 9 city meeting when Zaccagnino raised concerns over emails from Monti to Peelen, suggesting he would like the commission to consider three future revenue proposals.
One proposal would be to have the city build a toll gate and charge motorists entering the city on Manatee Avenue at the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Residents would be admitted free in the mayor’s proposal, while tourists would pay to enter.
A second proposal was to sell discounted tokens for trolley rides to businesses, who in turn resell tokens at a profit to trolley riders, and a third money-making scheme was to lease Scentral Park dog park to dog owners, who then would pay a fee to use the park.
“I find these very concerning and would not like to see them on a future agenda,” said Zaccagnino.
Peelen called a point of order and interrupted Zaccagnino, saying she has asked the mayor and commissioners to submit a wish list of proposals no matter how impossible or improbable.
Even though the emails are public record, Peelen criticized Zaccagnino for bringing them up at a public meeting.
“This is not the place to bring them up,” she said.
In the night’s quickest action, commissioners unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance lifting the self-imposed building moratorium in the city’s R-2, or duplex, district.
The city enacted the moratorium Jan. 8, expecting it to last six months. The moratorium was designed to slow down the construction of duplexes until the city could address solutions pertaining to rental units causing congestion, parking, noise and trash problems.
In a related matter, the city passed the final reading of an ordinance defining a duplex and set new construction standards. New language in the land development code defines a duplex as having a common footer and at least 33 percent of a common wall.
Zaccagnino previously said he would oppose the ordinance because it will create box-like structures and limit green space, which is contrary to the city’s vision plan.
He said the city is setting itself up to create perpetual rental units as opposed to giving an opportunity to new permanent residents seeking to own duplex units that appear to be single-family homes.
Zaccagnino did question setback requirements in the ordinance, but city planner Bill Brisson addressed his concerns, saying the setback requirements aren’t changing.
Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance.
The ordinance will apply toward any new permits filed on or after April 9. Any pending permits caught in the moratorium timeline and existing structures are grandfathered.
In other matters, commissioners provided a consensus for Monti to write a letter supporting Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzecker’s 26/13 Plan, a proposal to provide for an added half-cent sales tax and a reduction in tax rates in all island cities by 26 percent.
The property tax savings would be achieved by removing the cost of Manatee County Sheriff’s Office patrols from property taxes for owners in cities that provide law enforcement for its citizens.
The plan calls for a half-cent sales tax to begin paying for indigent health care costs, which has been funded by a portion of property taxes. The sales tax rate in Manatee County is 6.5 percent.
The plan also will lower property taxes in the unincorporated areas of the county by 13 percent.
County commissioners April 9 voted to pass the plan’s approval to voters in a June 18 referendum.
Zaccagnino said this is a once in a 25-year opportunity for taxpayers to see a drastic reduction in property taxes.
“We are a big contributor to the county tax base,” he said. “Finally, we are getting some help.”
Peelen said the plan also fits the city’s goal of retaining its population while promoting new residency.