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Date of Issue: May 21, 2008

Commission acts on alleys

The Bradenton Beach City Commission recently authorized city staff to make a citywide effort to clear alleys and improve stormwater runoff.

The commission’s unanimous support came April 24 during a work meeting at city hall, endorsing a plan put forth by building official Steve Gilbert.

Gilbert, after reviewing various problems with the city’s network of alleys, suggested that tying an alley project to stormwater improvements might help the city secure state grant money.

In addition to hearing from Gilbert, commissioners heard from several residents with alleys along their property lines.

One resident, Audrey Young, said she appreciated the city’s interest, but also wished the city had done a better job of preventing people from encroaching on alleys in the past.

“We used to have alleys and it seems some individuals encroached into the alleys, made them narrower and narrower,” she said. “It seems to be to me an enforcement issue. It seems to me the laws were there and we were too lazy to enforce them.… If I were king.…”

Gilbert said, “We understand that the alleys need to be cleared.”

In addition to encroachments on alleys, Gilbert identified a number of issues related to the rights of way in the city.

The alleys, as platted on a map in 1877, are about 10 feet wide, but identifying their center can be difficult because of growth and development — homes were built close to property lines, fences were erected, gardens were planted. Some alleys are paved, some are shell, some are grass and many are overgrown. In some cases, the alleys are used by residents for access to their property, some the general public use as thoroughfares and, there are situations in which vegetation in alleys reaches into city roads.

The city’s comprehensive plan states that alleys are not public rights of way, said Gilbert, adding that emergency vehicles such as fire trucks or ambulances are not supposed to use alleys.

With few exceptions, garbage trucks also should not be using alleys, Gilbert said.

Gilbert, based on consultations with city public works director Tom Woodard, offered several options, ranging from opening the alleys to traffic to limiting ingress and egress. He recommended the commission pursue clearing the alleys as access for “local use” and components of the city’s stormwater management system.

Gilbert emphasized that dealing with the problems in such a way might help secure a grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection or the Southwest Florida Water Management District because any improvement project will be expensive.

The commission voted to authorize Gilbert and Woodard to further study the issue.

Vice Mayor John Chappie said the timing seemed right for a preliminary study because the city is approaching budget season.

“Get all this done and ready for the next fiscal year budget,” he said. “We have to look at the bottom line. The budget controls everything here, folks. I say, get prepared and come up with a capital improvement project for the next fiscal year.”

The next commission meeting was to take place on Monday, April 28, as The Islander went to press. The topic for that Monday work session was recreational boating and a master plan.