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Date of Issue: January 21, 2009

Vote fails on Agnelli special exception

John Agnelli Construction failed to secure from the Holmes Beach City Commission a super-majority vote needed to approve his application for a special exception at 6000 Marina Drive, according to the city attorney.

Agnelli’s attorney, Ricinda Perry, said, “The city attorney is unsupported by the ordinance she cited” and added, “We are uncertain where this leaves our approval and are hopeful that there is a solution that does not involve the courts.”

The commission voted 3-2 to adopt a resolution approving a special exception and site plan for 6000 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, where John Agnelli Construction wanted to locate a general contractor office.

In the seconds after the vote Jan. 14, it appeared the construction company had secured the commission support, but city attorney Patricia Petruff said that city regulations required a super-majority vote because the project did not carry the recommendation of city building official Bill Saunders. Nor did the project have the recommendation of city planning consultant Bill Brisson.

In a memo last fall, Brisson wrote, “It is our recommendation that there comes a point where the limitations of a site must be recognized, particularly in light of the impacts of the use of the property on its neighbors, and that this special exception should be denied.

In a more recent memo, Brisson said he reviewed a revised site plan from Agnelli but it contained only two substantive changes, neither of which led him to change his recommendation.

“While these changes represent improvements, they do not alter the overall situation and our basic finding that the site plan does not provide sufficient screening to adequately buffer the adjacent residential properties from the impacts of the use as proposed, and does not meet the city’s parking requirements,” Brisson wrote Dec. 23.

Based on the concerns of city staff, consultant and neighboring property owners, the commission requested a draft resolution with conditions.

Such a resolution was proposed on Jan. 14. The conditions included:

  • The special exception permit runs with the applicant, John Agnelli Construction, and cannot be transferred.
  • No more than 25 percent of the building would be used for the general contractor operation.
  • The site plan would need to be amended to include a second handicap parking space and parking for bicycles.
  • Agnelli Construction would park more than four construction vehicles — trailers, commercial vehicles, construction vehicles — on the property. The height of the vehicles would not exceed 11 feet.
  • Construction vehicles would need to be parked at the rear of the property and would be operated between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Outdoor storage of construction materials would be prohibited.
  • Agnelli Construction would need to put up a 6-foot high opaque vinyl fence to buffer residential properties.
  • The amount of impervious surface that exists on the property — 78 percent — would not be increased.
  • Signs would be installed in the parking lot for one-way traffic.

The resolution also would have authorized a variance allowing more than 20 percent of parking spaces to be for compact cars.

Commissioners said that since the board heard pubic comment on the issue at three different meetings last year — Oct. 28, Nov. 18 and Dec. 9 — additional comment was not needed last week.

“We thought we came up with a decent compromise,” said Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens.

The commission then voted, with Haas-Martens, David Zaccagnino and John Monetti voting for the resolution and Pat Geyer and Pat Morton voting against it.

Haas-Martens announced that the motion passed, but Petruff then commented, “The original staff report did not recommend approval. The follow-up staff report did not recommend approval. In my judgment, you needed a 4-1 vote and you did not receive that vote.… I would say the vote fails.”

Perry said later, “It was disappointing to hear the city attorney’s after-the-fact argument that the commission's decision was not to be upheld based upon a wrongly applied ordinance wherein she completely disregarded the recommendation of Mr. Duennes, choosing instead to rely upon an out of town planner's inaccurate report.”

Brisson’s initial review was based on the wrong site plan, according to Perry.

She added, “We enjoyed working with the mayor and his staff through this process and were pleased with both their support of our application and the winning vote of the city commission.”

After the discussion on the vote, about 15 people left the commission chambers, and some brief but loud arguing could be heard coming from the foyer.

In other business, commissioners:

  • Held a first reading of an ordinance vacating and closing a portion of a 10-foot-wide alley. Fred and Susan Bartizal requested the vacation, which drew no objections from utilities services. (See separate story.)
  • Authorized the mayor to execute a contract with Piedroba Marine for the removal and disposal of 6,890 yards of dredge material from eight canals.

The project estimate from Piedroba was $277,253.60.

  • Authorized the mayor to execute a contract with Gator Grading and Paving for stormwater maintenance improvements for the city’s basin 7.

The project estimate was for $119,856.

  • Reappointed Ray Dialto to the police retirement board.
  • Appointed John Wize to the code enforcement board.
  • Announced a board of adjustment meeting at 9 a.m. Jan. 22 and a city commission meeting at 7 p.m. Jan. 27, both at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.