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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Holmes Beach "savings" ordinance could be challenged

The legal wrangling in Holmes Beach over the "savings clause" ordinance and related issues will likely continue at the planning commission's Jan. 22 meeting.

That's when land planner Bill Brisson will deliver his review of the city's draft "lot-of-record" ordinance to include a savings clause in the land development code.

Brisson's review has already been challenged in a Jan. 12 letter to Planning Commission Chairperson Sue Normand by attorney John Shubin, who represents landowners Ruthanne McLean and Barbara Coloney in a suit against Frank Davis and the city.

And the meeting hasn't even started.

The savings clause will allow Davis and other "owners of legally non-conforming lots of record to be able to develop their lots without the need for a variance, provided the development on these lots meets all other requirements of the LDC," said Brisson.

Unfortunately, the savings clause was omitted "in error" from the LDC when it was codified, he said, but was originally included when the LDC was revised in 1989.

Foul, cried Shubin to Normand in his five-page letter that is critical of Brisson's analysis and objectives.

"To be blunt," said Shubin, Brisson's analysis and the accompanying savings clause ordinance were "drafted for the sole purpose of helping one individual, Frank Davis, avoid having to seek to a variance for a fourplex on a substandard lot."

In addition, claims Shubin, the savings clause ordinance has been "insufficiently analyzed, is probably illegal, and represents horrible public policy which, if enacted, will invariably alter the character of Holmes Beach."

Shubin said he intends to challenge any savings clause ordinance adopted by the city commission.

An appeal by Shubin of a building official's interpretation of the city code regarding the Davis property at 5622 Gulf Drive was a commission agenda item Jan. 13.

At the same meeting, commissioners were to discuss a site plan application by Davis for a four-unit, multi-family dwelling at that location.

Shubin has said any approval of that site plan will also be appealed.

With so many appeals and counter-appeals pending before the city, the commission might well take the advice of Commissioner Roger Lutz, who said at the commission's Jan. 6 meeting that maybe the city should just start directing everyone who doesn't like a commission decision to the circuit court.

Holmes Beach, he said, appears headed there anyway in a number of legal battles. "It's not a matter of when, but who will sue."