Business owner offers HB downtown remake

It’s about making Holmes Beach more walkable, and “eat, play and stay” — not just increased tourism.

Amy Welch, Holmes Beach Merchants Association president and owner of Acqua Aveda hair salon, introduced a concept plan to remake the downtown commercial district April 10 to the Holmes Beach City Commission, and a consensus of commissioners agreed she should continue working on the plan.

“I’m not trying to make it what it’s not,” Welch said. “I’m just trying to love it.”

Welch said the plan grew out of “jealousy,” watching other Island cities develop their business districts and thinking, “why aren’t we paying more attention to what’s happening in our own backyards?”

The plan proposes changes in city-owned property and rights of way, starting north from Sunrise Lane at Gulf Drive to past Island Real Estate on Marina Drive.

Welch told commissioners her plan calls for a waterfront park, green areas, benches, lighting, sidewalks and a traffic circle. It looks to connect shopping areas and improve traffic flow.

“I know you’ve all noticed how bad the traffic has been,” Welch said.

Commissioned by the merchants association, the plan was designed by Gary Hoyt of Hoyt Architects, Sarasota, whose work includes the Main Street project at Lakewood Ranch.

Landscape architect Peter Keenan, also of Hoyt, engineer Christopher Bolyard of Bolyard Consulting also contributed to the project, Welch said.

“This is a real drawing,” she said, adding the group is “ready to hit the trail for money” and listed numerous entities as potential grant sources, including the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Florida Scenic Highway Program and BP. “I’m writing grants right now.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he spoke to the MPO and, “just like the bicycle path,” the possibility of future funding would be several years out, although the city could consider allocating its gas-tax revenue.

Commission Chair David Zaccagnino said “maybe we should start the process to get on a list.”

Welch said she’s taken input from HBPD Police Chief Jay Romine, the mayor and other officials, and is now looking to the commission for direction.

Commissioner Jean Peelen complimented her on taking on the project, indicating she’s disappointed by downtown’s current condition.

Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens voiced a concern about the proposed two-lane roadway — absent turn lanes — and the traffic circle to replace the existing intersection at Gulf and Marina drives.

She pointed out the fire department might have difficulty turning in a smaller roadway, and suggested talking with West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Andy Price.

“I’m not saying it’s not a good plan,” Haas-Martens said after the meeting, adding “it’s just there are questions on logistics and feasibility.”

After the meeting, Welch said her next step will be to prepare a budget.

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