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Date of Issue: November 22, 2007

City OKs rezone for LaPensee

Holmes Beach City Commissioners Nov. 13 approved a request from LaPensee Plumbing to rezone 401 Manatee Ave.

The company wants to relocate its operation from 5362 Gulf Drive to the now vacant building. But before buying the property, LaPensee sought a change in zoning - from Commercial 1 to Commercial 2 - to allow for the operation of a showroom and administrative offices. C-1 zoning allows for offices and C-2 for more intense operations, such as retail, restaurants, laundries, dry cleaners and catering.

Before unanimously approving the final reading of the rezoning ordinance, city commissioners held a public hearing that spanned two meetings.

Consideration of LaPensee’s application drew the largest crowd the commission had seen for a meeting in a year on Oct. 23.

Last week, a smaller crowd gathered in the commission chambers. One member of the public, Molly McCartney, spoke against the rezoning, and another, Don Schroder, spoke in favor of the request. The city’s planning consultant, Bill Brisson, outlined areas for consideration, and LaPensee’s attorney, Chuck Webb, presented the company’s case.

Webb stepped to the podium first and emphasized that LaPensee still needed to undergo a site plan review after the zoning change, at which time commissioners can make specific requests regarding operations and improvements on the property, which is to the west of the Regions Bank.

Regarding questions about screening the property, where LaPensee hopes to park some vehicles overnight, Webb said, “I think we got it all solved.”

He added that LaPensee Plumbing would “be one of the best possible neighbors you can have.”

Brisson reminded the commission that the change in zoning could open up the property to uses more intense than what LaPensee Plumbing proposes, as well as trigger a request for other zoning changes along the Manatee Avenue corridor.

C-2 operations can be open longer hours, emit odors and noise and draw larger vehicles than C-1 offices, Brisson said, noting that if something happened to the LaPensee family “the next owner has the right to put in any business allowed in C-2.”

“I think you have to look at the potential impacts in this area,” Brisson said.

McCartney, who lives at nearby Westbay Cove condominiums, asked commissioners to deny the application, reminding them that the city’s planning commissioners first recommended the change but in a subsequent meeting split on the issue.

McCartney emphasized that she liked the LaPensee family and used the plumbing service, but said appreciation for the family and business was not reason enough to approve the rezoning.

Her primary concern was with traffic, which would access the building at 401 Manatee Avenue from the rear of the property.

“There’s one little entrance,” McCartney said.

She cautioned commissioners that if they approved the change to C-2 they “can’t put the genie back in the bottle” and encouraged city officials to make Manatee Avenue from the bridge to the public beach as a “landscaped gateway to the Island.”

Schroder urged the commission to approve the application, saying the rezoning would help a good business fix a problem property. The site “has never been successful,” Schroder said. “To me, having LaPensee come in, I think it’s a good marriage for this city.... I think it’s a bonus for the city.”

Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens closed the public hearing and Commissioner David Zaccagnino made a motion to approve an ordinance rezoning the site from C-1 to C-2, which was seconded by Pat Morton.

The commissioners, finding that the change was consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan and land development code, voted unanimously to approve the motion.

A much shorter discussion took place before commissioners approved the first reading of an ordinance to define “sexually oriented business” and then prohibit such businesses in the city.

A somewhat garbled fax inquiry several months ago from a business considering a move to Holmes Beach prompted city officials to open a discussion on if and where adult-entertainment operations should be allowed to do business in the city.

Commissioners, after discussing the matter at several meetings, decided to prohibit adult businesses rather than define a small zone where they could operate. A standard in other municipal ordinances would prohibit adult uses within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, churches and residential zones. Such an area was not available in Holmes Beach.

Commissioners previously expressed concern that such a prohibition might trigger a lawsuit, but then agreed that the city’s small geographic size provided a defense. The new ordinance states, “Based on the present zoning map and due to the small size of Holmes Beach, no locations within the city are compatible with sexually oriented adult uses, and no zoning regulations can sufficiently protect residential and light commercial uses from potentially adverse effects from a neighboring sexually oriented adult use entertainment.”

A “sexually oriented adult use” was defined as a place that restricts admission to adults, “presents, films displays, depicts, describes, or otherwise provides for the observation of sexually oriented material by clientele or which sells, distributes or transmits, whether physically or electronically, to clientele images of persons who engage in sexual activities.”

In other business, city commissioners:

  • Approved a first reading on an ordinance amending the city’s purchasing and bid policy to allow department heads to make purchases up to $5,000 without the mayor’s prior approval and to increase the minimum amount to trigger a formal bid process to $25,000.
  • Heard from city treasurer Rick Ashley, who said an updating of city hall’s personnel policy is under way.
  • Approved the appointment of Edward Kerr to the planning commission. Kerr is retired. He previously owned a small retail chain and served as a Sears & Roebuck executive, as well as on civic committees in Illinois.
  • Approved the appointment of Rose Quin-Bare to the code enforcement board. Quin-Bare is an environmental consultant retired from Waste Management Inc., a former Anna Maria police officer and a founding member of Keep Manatee Beautiful.

The commission’s next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.