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Date of Issue: August 18, 2005

Charter changes include term limit expansion, lot size

Charter changes have mostly been completed by the Bradenton Beach committee charged with the document’s review, the alterations have been set for final approval by the city commission and the questions are moving forward toward a decision by the voters in November.

A charter is the document that drives the business of a city, county or state. Calling it a "constitution" would probably be more accurate.

The document establishes the form of government in the city, limit how the government will enact laws, delineates the city’s boundaries, and myriad other requirements.

To change the charter requires a majority vote of the electors, taking anything phrased within the document out of the whims of any elected official.

With that anti-whim factor in mind, city commissioners added a section in the charter regarding building heights several years ago. No residential building may be more than 29 feet in height above any federal or state elevation standards, according to the charter.

In other words, anyone wishing to build a high-rise structure in Bradenton Beach must first have the approval of the majority of the voters.

Last week, however, the question of non-residential building heights was brought up, a question that is scheduled to be discussed during the regular Thursday city commission meeting Aug. 18.

Another non-traditional charter section deals with the average lot size in the city. It was determined several years ago that the city should attempt to phase out the 5,000-square-foot lots in favor of 7,500. However, recent discussions have reversed that phase and the mood now is to retain the 5,000-square-foot ideal.

The new section in the charter reflects that mood, although exact language is also to be decided Thursday.

Within the other elements of the charter slated for voter decision, probably the most controversial is term limits. Currently, city commissioners and the mayor may serve three two-year terms. The change offered would expand the number of times an elected official may serve in the same office to four terms.

As part of a "glitch" section of the proposed charter changes, there is language that requires the mayor to live in the city - City Attorney Ricinda Perry said that current language does not require the mayor to be a city resident. Oops.

There is also a training requirement for elected officials, although the exact nature of the training is not specified.

Two public hearings on the charter changes are scheduled later this year before the charter revisions go to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office for inclusion on the ballot Nov. 8.