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Date of Issue: May 05, 2005

Holmes Beach vacation requests need answers, proper notification first

Holmes Beach city commissioners appeared reluctant to grant either of the two vacation requests presented at the April 26 commission meeting until the applicants could supply more information.

The first request was from Mary Menendez of 407 42nd St., who wants the city to vacate its right of way on Fourth Avenue between 41st Street and 42nd Street. Menendez owns property on both sides of the right of way at this intersection.

Attorney Mark Barnebey, representing Menendez, argued that although the street was platted in 1903, it was never built and it's obvious that it's "just a paper street." There's no purpose in the city retaining the street.

If the commission would vacate the right of way to his client, said Barnebey, Menendez would put in concrete pipes where the present swales are located, add a sidewalk from 42nd Street down Gulf Drive to Manatee Avenue and donate $50,000 to the city to address stormwater drainage in the area near the vacation.

But the vacation would give Menendez about two lots to build on, said Commissioner Pat Morton, and he wanted to know how much those lots would increase the value of the property already owned by Menendez.

Barnebey could only guess that it would add about $150,000 in value. He said his client has no plans to build on the property "at this time."

What about in the future?" asked Commissioner Roger Lutz. That's likely, Barnebey replied.

Following complaints from some members of the public that granting the vacation would only increase density in the area, which is zoned for multiple-family dwellings, Commission Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens asked if Barnebey's client would agree to build no more additional units than what can be built at present, if the commission were to grant the vacation.

"It's obvious there is a concern for density" in the area, she noted.

Barnebey said he would have to check with his client and return to the commission with that information.

Lutz also wanted a clearer map of the area, information from the Florida Department of Transportation on connecting Fourth Street with Manatee Avenue and some follow-up on whether or not the Southwest Florida Water Management District would allow concrete pipes to replace the grassy swales in the area.

The commission voted to hold another public hearing on the vacation request at its May 10 meeting.

Moreland Marine

Commissioners also heard a request from Brian Quartermain of Moreland Marine on 52nd Street to vacate 8 feet of right of way to its condominium project, currently under construction at that location. The vacation would allow the project to build one additional condominium unit.

Before Barnebey, now representing Moreland Marine, could make his presentation, however, Haas-Martens noted there was a problem. The address contained on the public notice and on the meeting agenda were different.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff suggested the commission could still hold the public hearing because of the people who had come to voice and opinion, but Mayor Carol Whitmore intervened.

"Let's do it right the first time," she said, noting the city had been sued over the Frank Davis variance request because the meeting was held, despite an alleged improper notice.

Lutz agreed that the best course of action was to continue the public hearing to another meeting until the correct address was property notified to all adjacent property owners.

Although the hearing was discontinued, members of the public got a chance to voice their opinion on the request during public comment at the end of the meeting.

Tom McGannon said he was representing three other homeowners on the street. He said his "group" is not opposed to the vacation if the developer will install an appropriate fence between his group's property and the condominiums and also build a suitable entrance to the condo development. In addition, his group would like Moreland Marine to fund about $12,000 in sewer improvements for the group.

Barnebey said he would speak to his clients about the fence and funding for sewer improvements.

City hall mold issues

Commissioners were hung up on whether or not to approve $117,450 to Kenyon and Partners to remove existing mold and mildew conditions in the city hall air- conditioning system.

Public Works Director Joe Duennes said he did not know when the company could start, or how long the project would take. He suggested the commission give him authority to negotiate with both the low bidder and second lowest bidder - who was $15,000 higher - and determine which could start and finish the earliest.

"Let's get the damn thing done," said Commissioner Don Maloney, noting that it's been almost two years since the problem was discovered, and he doesn't want to sweat out another hot summer in the commission chambers without air conditioning.

Commissioners agreed to authorize Duennes to go with the low bidder if they can start within 30 to 45 days. If not, he can contact the second lowest bidder to see if they have a better start and finish time.

The commission also approved $80,000 to C.F. Huffman Inc., the sole bidder on the storm drain relocation project at the Gulf Drive-Marina Drive intersection.