Facing complaints from a number of Anna Maria property owners and local builders that a hold on building permits is causing financial harm and confusion among homebuyers, city commissioners on Feb. 14 agreed to revisit the freeze put in place Feb. 7.
Commissioners first passed an administrative moratorium in January, while city attorney Jim Dye set about preparing a moratorium ordinance. At that time, they said building projects “in the pipeline” could be processed by building official Bob Welch.
However, commissioners changed their minds Feb. 7 after learning it would be difficult to differentiate which projects were in the pipeline.
Holmes Beach builder Greg Ross of Ross Built Construction Co. of Holmes Beach said at the Feb. 14 meeting that he has several projects under development and on hold in Anna Maria because of the administrative moratorium. His projects are nearly ready for permit submission, he said.
“How long is the administrative moratorium in effect?” Ross asked commissioners. “There’s a lot of confusion in the building community right now, and I would like clarification.”
Cathy Adams of Plant City attended the meeting with her husband, Bill, asking that the halt to building permits be lifted. The couple bought an older home in October, a teardown, and are planning to rebuild.
“We were 99.9 percent ready and just days away from submitting our plans when this went into effect. We’ve spent thousands of dollars and now we don’t know when we can build,” Cathy Adams said.
The city has changed the rules since October, leaving people who want to build or remodel in a quandary, Bill Adams said. He said it hurts honest builders and property owners who just want a nice home.
“It just doesn’t seem fair,” Bill Adams said.
Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed that the city should discuss lifting the temporary moratorium on building permits at the earliest opportunity.
“All this is doing is hurting the little guy,” Woodland said.
Woodland and Commission Chair John Quam voted Feb. 7 not to halt permitting while the moratorium was readied for a first reading and public hearing, but the motion to freeze permits passed 3-2.
Quam planned to put the moratorium issue on the Feb. 28 agenda, but commissioners agreed to move discussion to the Feb. 21 meeting.
In other business, commissioners agreed with Dye to continue to Feb. 28 a public hearing on an ordinance in which the city would swap easements with the Sandbar Restaurant.
Dye noted the original easement given the Sandbar in 2005 by the city was part of the restaurant’s site plan at that time. Any change to a site plan has to go through another site-plan process, he said.
Engineer Lynn Burnett, representing the Sandbar, said she believes the easement was recorded as a pedestrian walkway in the Manatee County plat book.
If the 2005 site plan recorded the easement as pedestrian, Burnett said there’s no need for another site plan that would say the same thing. Dye agreed, and Burnett will return to the Feb. 28 meeting with information on how the 2005 easement was recorded.
Commissioners also passed the second reading of an ordinance requiring that parking spaces for new homes be designated on building plans. The ordinance requires a designated parking space for each bedroom beyond three bedrooms. The ordinance also requires at least one space be under cover.
Commissioners also agreed to an offer by an anonymous donor through Commissioner Gene Aubry to pay for oak trees around the six vacant lots at the east end of Pine Avenue.
Aubry, who has made several designs for a park on the vacant property, said the city should retain an architect for the park plans.
Quam suggested the commission return to just two meetings per month instead of meeting every Thursday, as it now does.
Commissioner Chuck Webb said there are just too many serious issues before the commission to keep putting them off to a meeting in two weeks. He said the commission should meet weekly until the significant issues have been resolved, and other commissioners agreed.
The commission will continue to meet at 6 p.m. every Thursday until further notice.
The next meeting is 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.
Agenda items include the freeze on building permits, along with regulations on residential development, and priority items on the commission’s Tasks 2013 list.