Tag Archives: 03-07-2012

HBPD ‘officer of year’ loves work, community, kids

Officer Brian L. Copeman loves his job, the community and the students at Anna Maria Elementary School.

        His positive attitude was so apparent, he was nominated Feb. 22 by the Holmes Beach Police Department for the Manatee County 100 Club Officer of the Year Award.

        Copeman is the department’s Anna Maria Elementary School resource officer. He teaches the school’s fifth-grade Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, and speaks on literacy, safety and at career days, and more.

        His time is evenly split between the school and community patrols, he said. But unlike the people who don’t always want to see him on the regular calls, “the students are always happy to see me.”

        Copeman believes he’s reaching the students about the risks of drugs and alcohol by making learning fun. Sometimes, he said, the “teacher may be cringing in the corner,” due to the noise and commotion we create. But, “it’s OK. I like to make it a fun atmosphere.”

        “I love hanging out with the kids, teaching,” he said.

        Copeman directs traffic at the crosswalk on Gulf Drive with help from dispatchers on most school days, he said. He’s been doing this for about four years, and the students know him by name.

        “Officer Copeman is known for his outstanding attitude and dedication to both the school and our community,” said Holmes Police Chief Jay Romine in his nomination letter to the 100 Club. He added Copeman understands how vital it is to be a positive role model for the students.

        The Manatee County 100 Club annually bestows the award on area law enforcement officers at its spring award dinner. Manatee County law enforcement agencies typically nominate one award recipient from each of their departments, and the club selects a winner.

        Romine said Copeman “has built an outstanding rapport” with students and school staff, and that he often volunteers his own time for school activities.

        Copeman started with the city’s police force in 2005 after serving with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and attending Manatee County Technical Institute’s Police Academy. He is a lifelong Manatee County resident, having attended Palma Sola Elementary, King Middle and Manatee High schools.

        And he’s raising a family of his own.

        About the award, Copeman said, “it’s a very nice surprise.”

AM gets sand pile removal order from DEP

Those mounds of excavated pool materials dumped just north of Anna Maria’s Lake LaVista inlet on the north side of the humpback bridge on Bay Boulevard across the humpback bridge must be relocated, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Ana Gibbs of the DEP’s Temple Terrace office said neither the original 1999 Lake LaVista dredge permit, nor the 2010 modification of that permit allow anything but sand for beach renourishment to be stored at that location.

The Islander reported Feb. 1 that Anna Maria public works director George McKay said the piles came from the Bimini Bay/Key Royale dredging project by the West Coast Inland Navigation District. That project, however, had not begun.

McKay later told the newspaper there was a misunderstanding during his discussion with the newspaper regarding the purpose of the sand. McKay then said the mounds were deposited by pool contractors with his permission. He said the material was being stored for sandbagging and for possible beach renourishment at the pier. He also said he had determined the material to be beach compatible sand.

The Islander corrected McKay’s claim in the Feb. 9 issue, and noted that McKay allowed contractors to dump pool excavations at the site.

After Gibbs reviewed the 1999 permit and the 2010 modification, she said the permits “would only allow the deposition of sediment that was dredged as part of that permit and subsequent permit modifications” to be stored at the site.

“The permit is not intended to be a disposal site for any/all excavated or dredged material. The permitted spoil is intended to be used as beach renourishment sand at the authorized location,” Gibbs said.

Great Lakes Dock & Dredge pumped its spoil from the Bimini Bay/Key Royale dredging project to the shoreline north and south of the city pier. No spoil was stored.

Enough material was dredged from Bimini Bay to extend the shoreline approximately 150 feet on the north and south sides of the city pier into Tampa Bay.

Mayor Mike Selby said he would have McKay move the stored piles of debris to an acceptable location after he confirmed the permit requirements with Steve West of the DEP’s Sarasota office.

He apologized for any misunderstanding regarding the loads of pool excavations on city property.

More parking headaches approach Anna Maria

Many Anna Maria residents, including Mayor Mike Selby and city commissioners, may have thought the city’s parking problems were solved with the 2010 passage of a Pine Avenue parking plan.

That plan, plus the redesigned parking for the boardwalk at the city pier and permission to allow overflow parking on three of six city-owned lots across from the city pier, appeared to be a long-sought parking solution.

But the overflow parking lot is only temporary.

City commissioners recently adopted a resolution to close the three lots to public parking May 7, following the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce annual wedding festival and Food and Wine on Pine events.

That resolution prompted City Pier Restaurant leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder to send Selby a letter asking the city reconsider closing the overflow lot on the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard.

Schoenfelder claims the city has taken away parking spaces from the restaurant. The closure of the overflow lots will create more parking problems for all businesses, not just the pier, he said.

What’s happening, claimed Schoenfelder, is that the pier has become more attractive as a visitor destination as a result of the new boardwalk.

While he’s pleased with the boardwalk’s appearance, the unintended consequences are “this new facility not only brings added traffic, but may have cost several public parking spaces as well,” he said.

“There were three spaces on the right of way in front of 101 Bay Blvd. that were removed for safety reasons,” Schoenfelder said. “There were also two spaces in front of the right pavilion at the base of the pier that were removed for (Florida Department of Transportation) concerns.”

Those two spaces are now marked for exclusive use by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies, he said.

Additionally, the added sand on the Tampa Bay shoreline on both sides of the pier will “undoubtedly bring more beach use and put added pressure on existing parking.”

Schoenfelder said he’s not looking for special treatment, but a “viable city pier (and Pine Avenue businesses) depend a great deal on available parking” in an area where attractions and traffic have been added “without the commensurate growth of parking to support them.”

He asked Selby and commissioners to “reconsider” the overflow parking lots. If the city turns the six lots into an open-space park or other attraction, it will only draw more visitors.

After the overflow lot closes in May, “What will happen?” in subsequent high-demand periods, he asked.

“As you move forward, it is my hope that some accommodation can be reached,” Schoenfelder wrote to Selby and commissioners.

Adding to the parking woes, the City Pier Restaurant and other area businesses should no longer count on the parking lot at Roser Memorial Community Church, 510 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, to handle overflow parking.

Congregation chair Roger Roark also sent Selby a letter last week, noting the church parking lots are “increasingly being used for unauthorized parking by the general public while visiting, shopping or sight-seeing in the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard area.”

Roark, like Schoenfelder, said the city needs to address adequate parking “for the increased commercial development and tourist attractions on Pine Avenue.”

Roser is an “active community church,” said Roark, and there are few days each month the facility is not being used for church-related events or “authorized community activities using Roser space.”

The congregation’s concern is that increased public parking at Roser would “have a negative impact” on Roser’s ability to “serve the congregation and those other authorized events,” he said.

Roser has worked with a number of its commercial neighbors to provide parking for their customers and staff, Roark said, but the limit of accommodation has almost been reached, if not already.

“We are unable to determine ‘authorized’ from ‘unauthorized use,’” Roark said, and the congregation’s concern is that Roser parking lots are “fast becoming the parking lots of last resort for the increasing size of the general public” visiting the pier and Pine Avenue.

“We’ve always been good neighbors and we’ll continue to be good neighbors. We’re always happy to help when we can,” Roark said. That’s why the church is addressing the issue now, he said, not waiting to be overrun with parking issues.

He said the church would welcome an invitation by the city to discuss the issues before the parking problem worsens. Roark said he hopes the church and the city can find a solution.

Congregation concerns about parking began a few years ago, Roark said, as Pine Avenue became developed and as more visitors came to the city.

A team of church members recently formed to develop recommendations “to solve the increasing problem,” and “make everyone happy,” he said.

As soon as the team completes its recommendations, Roark said he would ask Selby for a meeting to discuss the issue and possible solutions.

Selby said he would talk with Roark and Schoenfelder before seeking commission input.

Law enforcement needs rental property database

Anna Maria Commissioner SueLynn and Island rental property managers Larry Chatt and Mike Brinson have been busy the past few weeks on a “list of best practices” for future rental contracts.

The trio plans to propose that all agents and property owners adopt their terms for seasonal rental contracts.

“I’d say right now we have about 70-80 percent of all rental property managers agreeing to the list,” said Chatt of Island Realty.

When the list of terms is completed, SueLynn will present it to the city commission for input, while Chatt and Brinson will meet with other property managers to get them on board.

Among the best practices is a clause that the tenant agrees to be evicted if they or their guests create loud noise or a late-night party that disrupts the peace and quiet of the residential neighborhood.

Chatt said he and Brinson and many other rental agents have included that clause in their vacation rental agreements for some time, and the few times he’s been called by law enforcement to help quell a loud party, the renters apologized and were cooperative.

There have been two or three times the past several years when Chatt said he had to ask the tenants to leave immediately, but those were rare occasions.

“By far, the vast majority of renters, more than 99.9 percent, want to have peace and quiet and enjoy the Island,” he said. “It’s just that one-tenth of 1 percent who cause all the trouble.”

Chatt said law enforcement would benefit from a database of rental properties managed by owners and various rental agencies.

“The plan is the officer would immediately call the rental agent if a complaint came in about a property managed by that agent or his or her company,” Chatt said.

The agent would then meet law enforcement officers at the problem rental property to address the issue.

Chatt said he realized the database may not be complete, considering some vacation property owners don’t live nearby and don’t retain a property manager.

However, SueLynn said, not being on the database may help identify property owners who are avoiding the 5 percent Manatee County resort tax on rentals of six months or less.

She said she talked with officials in resort tax collections at the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office, and they are interested in identifying owners or managers avoiding the tax.

Investigators at the resort tax collections office can determine if the resort tax is being paid, or if the rental property is homesteaded, she observed.

The tax collector works with the property appraiser to detect homestead exemption abuse.

SueLynn said the rental agreement will only be effective if all vacation rental property managers and owners implement and enforce the agreement.

If everybody in the vacation property management industry has the same rules and follow the same “best practices,” there will be no excuse for any disturbing the peace incidents, or anyone claiming ignorance of the rules for renters, Chatt said.

The push for strict rental rules began when residents in both Holmes Beach and Anna Maria complained to their cities of loud, late-night parties, trash left at the curb too long and streets crowded by parking.

SueLynn volunteered to work on a “best practices” agreement that all vacation rental property managers and owners — and renters — could endorse and follow.

While there may always be an occasional obnoxious renter or party group, Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration, said the best way for vacationers to understand Anna Maria Island is not a party destination is word of mouth.

“Let a few people get evicted and people will learn quickly this is not the place for partygoers,” he said.

SueLynn agreed.

“This is not a party destination, but a few people who don’t care about the Island have caused an occasional hiccup. We’re dealing with the problem,” she said.

She recommended the party vacationers “go to Panama City, Fort Lauderdale or South Beach. Just don’t come here.”

Anna Maria gets bonus pier beach

Before the West Coast Inland Navigation District project to dredge Bimini Bay/Key Royale channel and pipeline spoil to both sides of the Anna Maria city pier shoreline, WCIND executive director Chuck Listowski and Anna Maria public works director George McKay estimated the project would extend the shoreline by 10-30 feet.

The amount of spoil — beach quality sand — that resulted from the dredging, however, was greater than anticipated.

With the project now complete, Anna Maria has a beach at the 800-foot-long city pier that extends about 150 feet into Tampa Bay.

It might be an unexpected bonus. The 2010 DEP permit modification approving the project allowed WCIND to dredge up to 3,900 cubic yards of spoil from Bimini Bay and pump it to the designated Anna Maria shoreline.

DEP and WCIND officials did not yet have the total amount of spoil dredged during the project.

Ana Gibbs of the DEP’s Temple Terrace office said she would check into the amount dredged and determine if it exceeded the permitted amount.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved the 2010 modification that allowed the WCIND to dredge the Bimini Bay/Key Royale channel. The DEP also inspected and approved the quality of the dredged material in the Bimini Bay/Key Royale channels as “beach compatible.”

WCIND performed the dredging under a federal grant that did not require funding from Anna Maria.

AMICC takes next step toward cell tower goal

Anna Maria Island Community Center board members, at their Feb. 27 meeting, maintained the center’s goal of being approved for a cellular communications tower.

Three locations within Anna Maria are vying to be a location for a tower proposal that still has many obstacles to overcome.

Board member Randy Langely sought approval last month from the board to enter into a contract with a tower developer.

He announced to the board Feb. 27 a cell tower lease with a provider has been signed, but still must be approved by the city of Anna Maria. Langely asked the board for authorization to present the lease to the city commission.

In January, AMICC signed a contract with a cell tower builder. However, the city is still revising its cell tower ordinance.

The contracts, he said, are contingent on whether or not the center is chosen by the city as a location. To date, no building permit application has been filed by the cell tower contractor.

City commissioners ultimately will have the final say in where a tower is located. In the meantime, the center is moving forward with contracts in place should they be chosen as an acceptable location.

Also, AMICC executive director Pierrette Kelly discussed plans for a busy fundraising month for the center.

“March is kind of a special month for us and we are on the edge of it,” said Kelly. “We have lots of things that are coming together.”

Kelly said the center will participate in the Giving Partner project, a 36-hour fundraising challenge sponsored by four local foundations with the goal to raise $500,000. Kelly said the center is one of a few local nonprofits to be selected as a participant.

Giving Partner is an inaugural event, and expectations of how much can be raised is unknown, but Kelly said each dollar donated to the center is matched during the challenge.

The challenge begins at 6 a.m. Tuesday, March 27, and a leaderboard will be visible at www.thegivingpartner.org to track donations to individual nonprofits.

Other fundraisers include the March 17 Tour of Homes and the March 26 Affaire to Remember, the annual dinner-auction event.


Rates rise for adult players

Board member Scott Rudacille said an immediate goal is to place adult fees for sports programs in line with other center programs by increasing fees to non-members.

Rudacille said members of the center will continue to pay $75, but nonmembers will pay from $100-$115.

We are not trying to gouge anyone,” said Rudacille. “Every program we do offer has nonmember and member fees. We are trying to encourage nonmembers to become members.”

Rudacille said when adult sports programs started more than two years ago, “We had no idea how popular it would be, so we started a flat fee to get the leagues going. Now that they are going, all of the adult programs should be in line with all of our other programs.”

Rudacille said the sports programs do not make money.

“So I don’t want to give the wrong impression,” he said. “The $75 we charge to members barely covers the costs of uniforms, referees, grounds and utilities.”

The cost to join the center is $50 a year. Members then pay fees to participate in programs and, Rudacille said, it’s only fair for nonmembers to pay a higher fee now that the leagues are established.

Also, board chair Greg Ross reported the board is paying down its mortgage principal by paying more than the required $8,500 per month payment.

“The importance of it is to reduce the debt as quickly as possible, and put these funds back into the program to better serve the community,” said Ross.

BB city pier team eyes more renovation

Discussion on performing new construction work to the Historic Bridge Street Pier is moving quickly toward action.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, facilitator of the city pier team, addressed the Community Redevelopment Agency at its Feb. 29 meeting, saying it needs to proceed with replacing degrading pilings under the pier.

“What we will need to do is get together in a workshop to take care of a couple of issues,” said Speciale. “We need to discuss changing pilings out, whether we will use wood, try to sleeve them or put concrete pilings back in there.”

The city pier project will need to be in cooperation with the CRA, as it will be CRA funds that pay for the project.

Future renovations planned for the pier include new decking, but everyone agreed that the pilings are a priority. Discussion on reconfiguring the pier also is on the table, as a means to limit costs.

Bradenton Beach city clerk Nora Idso said the CRA has $400,000 that could be put toward the pier renovation. “So ($400,000) will dictate what we do,” said Speciale. “The time has come and we need to do this. Tom (Woodard, public works director) has been band-aiding this pier for years.”

CRA members agreed to meet with the city pier team, which also met March 1 at Bradenton Beach City Hall.

Speciale announced to his team the upcoming meeting with CRA and said the focus of the city pier team must be on moving forward with the piling project.

Speciale recommended the city pier team begin to meet twice a month, rather than once a month, and once the project actually begins, to increase meetings to once a week.

“We really need to start thinking of putting all of our efforts into the scope of the work of what we want to do with the pier,” he said.

Associated costs for materials may dictate major changes to the pier in the future.

“Reconfiguration will more or less have to do with the costs,” Bradenton Beach building official Steve Gilbert told the pier team. “Those pilings in now have been in since 1977. One thing to consider when deciding on types of materials is that the quality of yellow pine today is not what it was 20 years ago.”

The team will begin compiling pricing on wood, composite or concrete materials, and will take into consideration the lifespan of each material.

“Right now, we just want to bring a price to the commission and get their opinion,” said Speciale.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said she favors using composite materials for the decking. “It lasts forever, but gets very hot, which will make it difficult in the summer.”

The team is considering removing the T-end of the city pier to bring down costs, but keeping the option open to do the project in phases, and possibly reinstalling the T-end when funding becomes available.

Once the team has compiled information needed for commissioners to make an informed decision on how to proceed, the team will present its proposal to the commission.

“Let’s concentrate on getting all of this information together,” said Speciale. “We’ll keep building on it and go from there.”

The CRA district within the city was established about 18 years ago to revitalize what was deemed a blighted area of the city. The CRA is a tool to dedicate certain property tax dollars for revitalization within the district.

Gulf Drive Market again fails approval

Bradenton Beach commissioners at their March 1 meeting again heard arguments to allow the Gulf Drive Market to resume operations at Gulf Drive Cafe & Tiki, 900 Gulf Drive N.

For the third time, the arguments failed.

The market was initially approved for a 60-day trial in November 2011 to operate every Sunday through the end of January. Since January, there have been three special event permit applications for the market to continue operation, the most recent for every Sunday through December 2012.

Commissioners once again listened to opposition to the market’s location due to traffic and safety concerns.

Public comment was overwhelmingly against the market continuing at the restaurant.

Gulf Drive Cafe manager Pete Barreda resumed his argument for the market, saying it’s free enterprise and he has rights as a tax-paying business owner to conduct business on the property.

However, nearby property owners affected by the increased traffic said they are taxpayers, too, and have rights of their own. More disconcerting to citizens, however, was how many more times the Gulf Drive Market would be considered for a special event permit.

“I would like to ask how many times is this issue of the market going to be brought up again and again?” asked Audrey Young. “Is there a limit? I’m afraid one day I’ll have my back turned and it will go through.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy said the issue would be settled “once and for all tonight.”

Commissioner Gay Breuler, who previously stood alone on the dais in support of the market, gained an ally in Commissioner Ric Gatehouse.

Breuler again motioned to approve Barreda’s application. Gatehouse seconded the motion, “for the sake of discussion,” he said. He later sided with Breuler in support of the market at the cafe.

“I’m confused,” said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh. “We have all these people who are opposed to this. I can’t even begin to understand why we would consider this.”

Breuler argued her vote is based on the right to work, especially, she said, in today’s economic environment. She also referred to previous letters and e-mails from those supporting the market.

“As far as the letters, most of those were from vendors,” said Vosburgh. “Of course, they were for the market. I didn’t see but one or two that were from citizens, and aren’t we supposed to represent the citizens of Bradenton Beach?”

During public comment, Jo Ann Meilner, president of the Bridge Street Merchants, disputed any notion of the alleged 60 e-mails sent to the city.

“It was said at the last meeting that 60 e-mails were submitted in favor,” she said. “I found only 43 and five people wrote 14 of them. Of the 43, I could only identify 13 as residents. Twelve were from vendors, 10 were from visitors and eight were completely unknown.”

Shaughnessy said he has sympathy for both sides of the argument, but would not move away from his position.

“My inner gut feeling is this, I just think it’s a bad location,” he said. “I’m not against the market. I’m against the location. I wouldn’t want to pitch a tent in the middle of Times Square. It wouldn’t be appropriate. I’m for people making money, but they can make it at Coquina Beach.”

With the motion on the table, Shaughnessy called for a vote. Breuler and Gatehouse voted to approve the special event permit. Vosburgh, Shaughnessy and Vice Mayor Ed Straight voted against, failing the motion 3-2.

Complaints of traffic delays, safety concerns for pedestrians and loss of private parking spaces sparked citizens to voice their opposition to the market on Gulf Drive.

Shaughnessy said any application to conduct a flea market at Coquina Beach would be “welcome.”

Time change set for March 11

Daylight saving time will begin at 2 a.m. March 11, with most of the country springing forward an hour.

The date might feel early to some — a mandate in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 moved up daylight saving time to extend the period by a month.

Though some U.S. territories, as well as Hawaii and most of Arizona do not observe daylight-saving time, about 70 countries do observe a time change. DST is known in the European Union as “the summertime period,” and DST is observed in the southern hemisphere from about October to March.

The primary reason for following a daylight-saving time is to conserve energy — demand for power is directly tied to when residents go to bed and when they get up. By moving the clock ahead by an hour in the spring, timekeepers made the sun set an hour later.

For close trackers of time, daylight saving time will end Nov. 4.

HB commission says ‘no’ to moratorium

Despite an impassioned plea from one commissioner and numerous residents to consider “a pause” in duplex construction in the city of Holmes Beach, three commissioners at a Feb. 28 work session weighed in against the measure.

        While Anna Maria city commissioners had voted a week earlier to take steps toward a moratorium to address short-term rental problems, Holmes Beach commissioners decided instead to continue studying the issue.

        Commission Chair David Zaccagnino told a gallery of about 40 people in city chambers that a moratorium is the “most extreme” action a municipality can take, because it suspends property rights and, if enacted, he feared “threats of lawsuits.”

        Zaccagnino said builders informed him there were “less than 20” duplex lots remaining in the city where two new homes could be built. New construction has been blamed for the proliferation in recent years of multiple-story, multi-family short-term rental units.

        “A lot of people are not here who pound the nails,” said Commissioner Pat Morton, who with Commissioners Sandy Haas-Martens and Zaccagnino pointed out some people may be intimidated by remarks from the gallery to speak out.

        Commission John Monetti said he opposed a moratorium.

        Commissioner Jean Peelen, who called for the moratorium along with some speakers who addressed the commission, disputed Zaccagnino’s count of buildable duplex lots.

        “I’m horrified that it’s going to keep on happening,” Peelen said, as she called for a moratorium as “a pause in the issuance of permits for multi-story duplexes,” to allow the commission to finish studying the issue and make needed policy changes without a flood of more permit applications.

        “My major concern is, while there are no applications in the pipeline now for multi-story duplex new construction, there could be multiple applications for such submitted at any time” before we finish “studying the issue,” she said.

        Earlier this year, Zaccagnino asked each commission member to form a focus group to study various problems related to resort housing. The groups are expected to make recommendations regarding changes in the city’s regulations on building, zoning, permitting, code enforcement and rental contracts by the end of April.

        “I have a lot of these on my street,” said Barbara Marcheck of 66th Street, in support of Peelen’s position. “I don’t want another one. They are changing our character. Our land development codes are just too lenient. This is a dire situation.”

        Pam Leckie of Gulf Drive said she lives across from the R-2 zoned district where multi-story duplexes are allowed. She “implored” commissioners to “fish or cut bait.”

        She said increased traffic alone is cause for commissioners to consider imposing a moratorium.

        “You’re in a hornet’s nest,” said Tom Sabo of 68th Street. “Builders, for the most part, do a great job. Just a few of the builders ruin it for the rest of us.”

        Patty Sabo said she believed the commissioners were trying to pass the buck, and she, like Peelen and several other speakers, challenged Zaccagnino’s count of remaining duplex lots.

        They insisted teardowns of existing duplexes also contribute to the issue and there are many more than 20 ground-level, older properties that could be rebuilt as multi-family rental homes.

        Zaccagnino appeared to focus on vacant lots.

        Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, formerly mayor and commissioner for 16 years in Holmes Beach, asked the commissioners to reconsider their positions. She recommended commissioners take a “deep breath,” “step back” and listen to its residents because, “all these people are freaking out.”

        In other work session matters, commissioners asked the city attorney to prepare an amended outdoor dining ordinance that will require commission review of establishments considering adding more than eight seats for outdoor dining, and to abolish the annual permit and accompanying $100 fee.

        The present outdoor dining ordinance was approved in 2008, and requires the mayor or mayor’s designee to approve an initial permit after review of a site plan showing the location of the dining area to be compatible with existing surrounding properties and neighborhood.

        Commissioner Morton said he is seeking a change as a result more additions to its outdoor seating by Martini Bistro-Fins Bar, 5337 Gulf Drive, “snarling traffic” and creating a hardship for nearby merchants due to the overflow of parking into their lots.

        Also at the work session, the commissioners directed the mayor to move forward on a recent $8,291 fence bid to redesign the city’s Birdie Tebbetts Field at 62nd Street and Flotilla Drive, despite comments from residents that opposed spending city funding to improve a ball field that has seen little use in the past three years.

        Zaccagnino proposed a dog park be created by reducing the ball field size and adding a new fence in the outfield after hearing from dog owners in January who wanted a new field policy and signage change to allow them to exercise their dogs at the field.

        Zaccagnino claimed shared use of the field by ball players and dog owners and dogs created a greater liability for the city.

        Bonner Joy, editor and publisher of The Islander, reminded commissioners dog owners had requested sharing the field, not simultaneous use. She said she’d rather see the $9,000 spent for lights on the field.

        Another resident, Dawn Wash, said it’s a Babe Ruth field and those “kids don’t use it” because they get home in the winter-spring baseball season at 4:30 p.m. and “by the time they’re able to use the field, it’s dark.”

        Zaccagnino said the commission was not spending money for the kids, but for the dog owners. He claimed sharing the field  “is a lawsuit waiting to happen.”

        Commissioner Haas-Martens pointed out the ball field use needed to remain as part of the city’s land development code and comprehensive plan.

        “With all due respect, I’m with Bonner on this issue …,” Whitmore said. “This (dog park use) is recreation that would suffice” under both plans, Whitmore said, and “I think you should keep it simple, keep it as it is.”

         She also said the city has greater liability at the skate park than from a dog park.