Holmes Beach commissioners at their March 21 work session agreed with a suggestion by Mayor Carmel Monti to take a look at how city property is rented.
He said he thought the city field might be “over-used” by nonprofit organizations and he questioned how much of the profits go to nonprofits. Some nonprofits might be used as a front for a business operation in an attempt to gain a reduced permit fee.
Commissioner Judy Titsworth, whose grandfather, John Holmes Sr., was a contributor of city lands where now there is a library, fire station, baseball park, soccer field, public works and city hall, said the original intent of the donation was for public recreation, not solely for nonprofits.
“It’s supposed to be for recreation, but now we’ve put a bandstand there and we are the worst neighbors of all. We need to be considerate of our neighbors,” she said.
Commission Chair Jean Peelen said she looked at the city’s ordinance and it requires the nonprofit post a sign stating how much of the proceeds are going to the nonprofit. She said she’s never seen such a sign at any of the recent events.
“But, is it any of our business how much the nonprofit gets?” she asked.
Monti was concerned any business could use a nonprofit as a front organization to reserve the field for an event.
He noted that someone requested use of the field in May for a musical festival to raise funds for a young woman who was injured in an accident.
Commissioners agreed it’s up to the mayor to approve or deny an application for use of the field.
Too many “crap shows” and other events are renting the field for the $250 price, which is too cheap, Commissioner Marvin Grossman said.
Monti said he would ask city staff to have the applicant provide proof an organization is a nonprofit before approving further applications to use the field. He said he also would consider asking for an accounting of how much vendors take in and how much is given to the sponsoring nonprofit.
He said he wanted to be sure the nonprofits are not being used as front organizations for money-making ventures.
Peelen pointed out that the nonprofit is supposed to get 100 percent of the profit made from the sale of alcohol, according to state alcohol license regulations.
If alcohol sales are part of the event, the fee increases to $500, although the commission can waive the fee.
Commissioner Pat Morton and other commissioners were concerned that events damage the soccer field. Some events require setting up equipment a day in advance and use city electricity.
Titsworth wondered if some event planners are taking advantage of the city’s generosity for events that would cost thousands of dollars at another venue.
City attorney Patricia Petruff said if the mayor denies an application, the applicant can appeal to the commission, but there’s nothing in the regulations that says the city has to approve all uses of the city field.
Monti said he would direct staff to alert him of an application that “just doesn’t look right,” noting that use of the field is supposed to be for the benefit of residents of Holmes Beach.
In other business, Grossman expressed concern about the amount of parking required of restaurants. He said the city used to require one space for every three seats, but changed that several years ago to one space for every five seats. He envisions more restaurants may open in the city, creating a parking problem for residents and visitors.
“I don’t want to take away from the restaurants we have now, I just want to make it difficult for new restaurants to come in and create a major parking problem,” Grossman said.
Commissioners agreed to visit the parking issue at a future work session.