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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

One variance approved, two denied for proposed Holmes Beach office building

In what could be its last-ever meeting, the Holmes Beach Board of Adjustment approved one of three variances requested by Iris Clark to build a two-story-over- parking real estate office at 301 Manatee Ave. on the corner of Manatee Avenue and Gulf Drive.

The board agreed to a setback variance of only 20 feet along Manatee Avenue compared with the required 25 feet because the Florida Department of Transportation had taken away some of the property when it improved Manatee Avenue (State Road 64).

But the board found no hardship to build to the variance request for just a 10-foot setback from Skinny's Pub on the south side of the property. The board also denied a parking variance for the project.

Clark and husband Richard Bond proposed a 23-foot by 65-foot office with two stories above parking. Bond said the building would be used as their real estate office. Because two variances were denied, the applicants will have to redesign the building in a smaller configuration to conform to city code.

In other business, the board elected Russ Olsen as its chairman and David Moynihan as its vice chairman, but noted those actions may be pointless in the very near future.

The city commission is discussing an ordinance that would eliminate the board of adjustment. Instead, the city would use a "special master" legal counsel from outside the area to decide variance requests.

Moynihan noted that the commission did not ask for the board's opinion on this issue, and suggested that Olsen write a letter to the commission outlining its objections.

"Their fear is that with laymen like ourselves making decisions, it opens up the city to lawsuits. I disagree. I think a board of adjustment is typical for a community like ours," Moynihan said.

He added that he believes the system "works well" and is "offended that the fate of a local decision could be decided by an out-of-towner."

Olsen agreed. "Everything is litigious. It sounds like the commission has been brainwashed," but even the decision of a special master can result in a lawsuit, he noted.

"I don't want to abandon a group of local citizens to go with an outsider," Moynihan added. Besides, the city attorney is always present to advise the board.

Members agreed to attend the next commission workshop to voice their opinions.