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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Miller wants code enforcement 'understanding,' questions Sandbar enforcement

Anna Maria City Commissioner Duke Miller wants the commission to discuss the current "reactive only" policy on code enforcement and has asked Commission Chairperson John Quam to place the issue on the next worksession agenda.

Miller was somewhat surprised to learn at the Feb. 24 commission meeting that except for traffic tickets and garbage cans in the streets, code enforcement was strictly "reactive" to complaints.

Mayor SueLynn pointed out that was a prior commission decision and she was only following that directive. The commission, she noted, can always change its policy, but the hours for the part-time code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon were reduced from 24 hours per week to 16 hours when the current budget was approved. Proactive code enforcement would require more "man-hours" per week.

Miller said he wanted to "clarify" the issue and cited several recent situations relative to the Sandbar restaurant. He emphasized that this discussion "in no way should be construed as leveling criticism toward the Sandbar or its management," but he was using those instances to "enhance my understanding of the city's policy with regard to code enforcement."

He cited a May 2003 complaint sent to Rathvon about the Sandbar's tent used for a wedding and reception, turtle lighting, fire batons on the beach, special events and use of the city easement. Rathvon said the complaint was "abated" as the Sandbar was removing the tent after each use.

Miller said two critical issues are the lack of a special event permit for the wedding and why did Rathvon "choose to abate the complaint," which was made July 16, 2003?

"Clearly, the receptions have continued unabated," continued Miller and the tent now seems to be permanently placed on the beach.

He added that city code appears to prevent such "beach weddings" without a special event permit.

Miller contended that during the fall of 2004, two tents were up at the Sandbar for two separate but simultaneous weddings and receptions, yet the Sandbar did not apply for a special event permit for either occasion.

"This is an instance where the agreed-to procedures were not followed by the restaurant, yet no further enforcement action was taken by the city," he said.

He wondered if each violation at the Sandbar requires another complaint and does the addition of a second tent at the restaurant also require a separate complaint?

Miller asked SueLynn to provide answers to his questions as soon as possible.