A city-built bandshell anchors the southeast corner of the field where soccer is played and festivals are held. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite
The empty field in Holmes Beach seems a magnet for ideas to better use the “green space.”
What was once a small aviation grass landing strip has evolved into a multitude of purposes over time.
Holmes Beach city commissioners discussed several uses for the Holmes Beach city field at a Feb. 13 work session. The suggestions ranged from expanding the dog park to promoting the sports field, and even adding a community swimming pool.
“We have a lot of things to discuss,” Judy Titsworth, commission chair, said. She first outlined some of the problems plaguing the city related to the field, including noise, event fees and parking.
Commissioners felt the current zoning for the field needs to be addressed to better benefit Holmes Beach residents.
The property is frequently rented for events but during season, Titsworth said, the field is overused for events and the grass is often trampled, making the space inadequate for recreational activities.
In addition, Titsworth said, the organizations often use the field for multiple days but only pay a $250 flat fee. According to the city ordinance, the fee can be set “from time to time by resolution of the city commission.”
In addition to the flat fee, the current ordinance requires that event organizers provide a $1 million liability insurance policy, a $500 down payment and possess a valid liquor license if they plan to sell alcohol.
The ordinance allows for overnight camping of “recreational-vehicle type units” for vendors, sponsors, owners, managers and participants. These caravans may set up two days before the event, and remain overnight following commencement, according to the ordinance.
While it is the responsibility of the event participants to clean up, the Holmes Beach public works department has complained it often picks up debris. In addition, the department blames overuse as the reason it has a hard time getting the grass to grow on the field.
Mayor Carmel Monti said that although the organizing groups must have nonprofit status, the city never really knows how much revenue from the events goes to the nonprofit cause.
Monti suggested building a pavilion in the parking lot at the Manatee Public Beach for such events. He claimed the city field should not be used for commercial activities.
“The pavilion is one way to take the pressure off. We wouldn’t have to break down and set up tents all the time and we would have a lot more parking,” he said.
“The noise level that they have been operating at is no longer acceptable, and it’s not going to be acceptable anymore,” he said. “Otherwise we will send someone over and shut them down.”
The city already is working to accommodate residents by setting noise limits.
The commissioners agreed to start with a “clean slate” regarding the use of the field, but had different ideas as to what direction they wanted to go.
Titsworth said she would like to see more sports activities.
“I would love to see that field used for sports, and I would love to see it used by kids,” she said. “Everyone loves baseball and, if we want to bring community back, that’s the way to go.”
However, other commissioners said baseball is a dying sport and they would rather see the field used for soccer or other outdoor activities.
Tom O’Brien, superintendent of public works, said it may be possible to make the field interchangeable so multiple sports could be played. However, the city would only contribute funds if they were matched by Manatee County and/or donations from other sources.
Monti said he would talk to county officials to discuss the options.
Another suggestion was to build a beach volleyball court on the field. Monti said there is a professional team that wants to train on Anna Maria Island and it requires more space than the county provides at the public beach.
That prompted some commissioners to say they wouldn’t like depriving residents of the court for the team.
In addition, holding games and practices at a city court could violate the nonprofit clause of the ordinance for the space.
“We don’t allow people to teach tennis on our courts, how can we allow this?” Commissioner Jean Peelen said. “I believe we may have a legal issue.”
“Cities our size seldom get a chance to have a world class volleyball team,” Commissioner Marvin Grossman said. “Maybe we could rework the ordinance somehow, or talk to them about the configuration. We could potentially have a team that could beat the whole country. It would be exciting.”
In the end, commissioners agreed to go ahead with one item, and that was to turn one of four shuffleboard courts into a bocce ball court. Depending on how often it gets used, the commission would consider adding another one.
Titsworth said that a resident was willing to donate toward a public swimming pool, but commissioners agreed the maintenance cost would be too expensive and there is not enough space for a pool.
Dog park input
Monti said he met with dog owners on Feb. 3 in city hall chambers to discuss their concerns and needs for the dog park at city field. After the meeting, the city announced it would:
• Extend the fence in the small dog area and replace rotted uprights with aluminum posts.
• Remove signs and posts in the small dog park to allow the dogs to run more safely.
• Place pavers around the new small dog park shelter and create a 4-foot-wide path to the gate.
• Adjust the fence along the ballpark to fit tightly to the ground to prevent small dogs from escaping.
• Create a memorial board.
• Install canine-appropriate drinking devices.
• Install netting for the fence in the ballpark outfield to prevent balls from coming over the fence into the dog park.