More information sought for Mainsail direction

Some Holmes Beach commissioners expressed disappointment that representatives of the Mainsail development team did not present an updated site plan at a July 9 meeting, as promised.

After making headway at a June 21 mediation session, Mainsail made several concessions to lower density and reduce lodging units to eliminate a disputed off-site parking lease. During mediation, Mainsail pledged to present an updated site plan for the meeting, but did not.

The mediation began with Mainsail attorney Robert Lincoln’s filing of a petition for relief with the city following a March 3-2 commission vote to revoke the site plan that calls for a restaurant, marina and lodging at what is considered to be the city’s center near Gulf and Marina drives.

City attorney Patricia Petruff updated commissioners July 9, saying the initial round of mediation went well and that major issues relating to the site plan revocation were addressed.

“The Mainsail representatives agree to make some design changes, such as agreeing to decrease units, lower heights of the buildings, especially on the spit and perhaps lose a building on the spit,” said Petruff. “What needs to happen is to have an open discussion on what you will find acceptable to settle this matter.”

One sticking point of negotiations is the use of Sunrise Lane, a private access road owned jointly by the residents of Sunrise Lane and Mainsail, although ownership is disputed by two of the residents.

At least one Sunrise Lane resident has vowed to fight the use of the road, but Petruff said the Sunrise Lane emergency access situation does not involve the city.

While Mainsail did not present an updated plans, Petruff said she received an email prior to the city meeting from Lincoln that expressed hope the city would explore a meaningful compromise.

Petruff said Mainsail is working on a plan to eliminate Building A, which would have been built on the spit, as well as substantially reducing the size of Building D, which sits on the Sunrise Lane side of the development site.

Petruff said Mainsail architect Brian Check cannot present those changes without speaking to building official Tom O’Brien and the fire marshal, both of whom were on vacation.

“We hope the commission will see Mainsail is working at the core of what was presented at mediation,” Lincoln wrote.

Petruff said direction was needed from commissioners for herself and the two city representatives at mediation, Mayor Carmel Monti and Commissioner Judy Titsworth.

While Sunrise Lane access is not included in the mediation between the city and Mainsail, Titsworth cited the $3,000 already spent on mediation as a reason to delay the process until the matter is first resolved with the residents.

Titsworth also is a resident of Sunrise Lane, but has not contested the developer’s request to use it for emergency vehicle access.

She also expressed disappointment in Mainsail for not making a presentation, but said she did personally ask for one, and received it prior to the meeting.

“It’s unfortunate all of you have not had a chance to see it,” she said. “The changes are substantial.”

Monti said a site plan presentation without the input of the building official and fire marshal would be pointless and a lack of presentation should not be a point of contention for the July 9 meeting.

“There are substantial changes in the plan and it shows they are really heading in the right direction to accommodate our concerns,” said Monti. “We need to continue to work with them to come to an agreement without further litigation. I suggest we schedule another meeting before mediation continues when everybody is back and can have some input.”

Commissioner Marvin Grossman, who has questioned the validity of the off-site parking lease, said he resented the fact that Mainsail has never presented a valid lease agreement.

While the issue may no longer be a contention due to the reduced number of units reducing parking needs within the proposed development, Grossman said he felt bullied and “threatened” over his right to ask questions about the parking lease.

“I sort of resented them implying that asking for a lease and not receiving or showing it for several months, there is something wrong with that,” he said.

Commission Chair Jean Peelen defended Mainsail, saying, “They were very unhappy with essentially being called liars.”

“I resent being pushed and threatened when they don’t have what they originally thought they have,” said Grossman. “They believe they have entitlements when they don’t.”

Grossman, Titsworth and Commissioner Pat Morton voted to revoke the site plan in March. Morton, as well, expressed disappointment not having an updated site plan.

“I can’t make a decision without that,” he said. “That discourages me. They said they would work diligently to have it for this meeting. They should have had it come in.”

Monti reiterated that an updated plan exists, but without staff input, whether it was submitted on time or not is irrelevant.

“They did do what they said they would do,” said Monti. “We need to know what is acceptable when we go back into the next session. To say we have to change this more is not enough. We need something definitive and I’m very adamant about that. What is enough? Give us some direction so we can do a good job for the city.”

Commissioners did not schedule another meeting, but were expected to do so once staff has reviewed the updated site plan. Commissioners will be able to first review the site plan and staff recommendations and then provide the appointed mediators with direction before the scheduled July 24-25 special magistrate proceedings renew.

The mediation is an attempt to avoid litigation, but will only be successful if both sides agree to either a settlement or the special magistrate’s recommendation.

However, even if the city is successful in avoiding litigation with Mainsail, citizens are threatening lawsuits if the Mainsail development plan continues.

The city was previously sued by neighbors to the development property, Lance Spotts and Dan Howe.

Spotts said July 9 that if the city backs away from its site plan revocation, “I’ll sue the city and I’ll win.”

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