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Holmes Beach charter review reaches out, lacks input

By Jennifer Glenfield, Islander Reporter

Organization is key, and Holmes Beach Charter Review Committee Chair Bob Johnson heeds that rule.

Johnson organized a night meeting March 19 in the hope more public input would be offered on possible changes to the city charter. The committee has been meeting routinely during the work day.

Only one resident — Lisa Pierce — came to address the committee. She was joined by two commissioners and one or two other people who attended, as well as Police Chief Bill Tokajer and city treasurer Lori Hill.

The agenda included discussion on term lengths and term limits for elected officials, as well as tightening building requirements.

Committee member David Cheshire started the conversation on term lengths in favor of a longer term for commissioners and the mayor. They currently serve a two-year term.

“It takes time to build significant knowledge of the city. There’s a steep learning curve. It could take 8-9 months before reaching full effectiveness,” Cheshire said. “The wheels of government work slowly.”

Committee member David Lester remained neutral on the issue, while committee member Pam Leckie sided with Cheshire. On the opposite side of the table were Johnson and committee member James Plath.

“If we have good qualified people, that’s great. But if not, it could be a lifetime,” Plath said. “It’s a performance review every two years.”

“The staff plays a big part, and we should consider them too for continuity,” Leckie said, and campaigning puts pressure on the community.

Commissioner Pat Morton said: “I would like to see at least a three-year term.”

Morton, who has served on the commission for 11 years, said it takes time for commissioners to become familiar with the job, as well as time and money to campaign for re-election.

“It took four or five months before I felt like I knew what I was doing,” Commissioner Jean Peelen said. “Plus the Sunshine Act. It took awhile before I was an effective commissioner.”

Peelen also endorsed a three-year term for city commissioner.

“Elections every two years encourages citizens’ participation,” said Pierce.

Pierce agreed that elections provide a necessary job review.

The conversation followed a similar trend on term lengths for the mayoral post.

“The mayor is the chief operating officer. The buck stops at him, so I’m of the opinion the mayor’s term should be four years,” said Lester.

“As a department head I think its imperative the mayor have a longer term … so he finishes what he started,” said Tokajer.

Mayor Carmel Monti agreed.

As did the city treasurer. “I agree with the mayor and Bill. There’s so much to go over, plus they’re training a new person. It’s a lot of change. You have 41 new employees to work with,” Hill said.

“I would suggest term limits if term lengths are going to be longer to keep up citizen involvement,” said Pierce.

The committee briefly discussed term limits before moving to density and building issues.

Johnson added restricting building sizes to limit congestion that could be caused by large resorts.

“Putting (in) these kinds of regulations has not turned out well for any city I’ve known of,” said city attorney Patricia Petruff. “It became mired in litigation. Just think very carefully.”

Committee members discussed the possibility of a future commission reversing existing policies, such as the 37-foot height restriction.

“In 30 years there hasn’t been any building over three stories, so I don’t think there’s any reason to distrust your elected officials,” Petruff said.

She also cited the ability of citizens to challenge a site plan filed before construction begins. However, there are situations when a site plan can’t be challenged, Petruff explained.

Committee members discussed the possibility of adding a requirement for a supermajority vote on site plan approvals.

“I think we need a way to put a road block into the charter” for plans that are out of scale in relation to the community, said Johnson.

Requiring a supermajority vote by the commission for site plans would make passing large development plans more difficult.

All suggested charter changes need a supermajority vote — four of the five review committee members — to be drafted into ballot items. The committee will vote on its suggested changes March 26.

The next charter review meeting will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

 

The Holmes Beach Charter Review Committee has narrowed its focus.

At the 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 26, meeting, committee members will vote on a list of suggested changes. The committee needs a supermajority vote to approve its suggestions, which, if approved, then go on the ballot for a public vote in the November municipal election.

The list first goes to the city commission, which crafts an ordinance putting the items on the ballot.

Among other issues, the committee will vote on:

• Changing term lengths for the mayor.

• Changing term lengths for the commissioners.

• Adding term limits for the mayor and/or commissioners.

• Adding language to discourage building and development.

The Holmes Beach Charter Review Committee meets at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

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