Beach parking, late rent lead Bradenton Beach discussion

Parking west of Gulf Drive became a hot topic in Bradenton Beach. And late rent payments from the city pier restaurant operator also raised concerns.

Roland and Tammy Pena, owners of the Historic Bridge Street Pier concessions, appeared before the city commission Nov. 20 to ask for an extension on November-December rent payments for the Cast-n-Cage restaurant and the sundry-bait shop. The November lease payment was past due after Nov. 5.

Roland Pena said he has sold his Bradenton Beach home and has the closing tentatively scheduled for early December. The Penas plan to use the funds to get caught up on the lease payments.

After much discussion, the commission decided to grant the Penas one more chance to make good.

The commission asked city attorney Ricinda Perry to write an amendment to the pier lease — a stipulation that if payment is received late one more time, the Cast-n-Cage owner can be evicted from the restaurant without further notice.

Pena was told to pay the combined rent plus late fees of $5,821.94 for November; $5,500 for December rent and no late charge; and $534.85 for past due occupational/business license fees, for a total of $11,856.79 due on or before Dec. 20.

But it was the commission discussion on the proposed amendment to the land-use policy that defines the conservation-zoned land west of Gulf Drive that caused emotions to run high at the Nov. 20 meeting.

City planner Alan Garrett presented his draft of an ordinance to modify the land use policy’s language to allow parking in certain areas west of Gulf Drive.

Garrett said the intent of the ordinance is to allow established beach parking in some of the areas historically zoned as preservation.

Garrett said he prepared the proposed change and it would be the commission’s decision to move forward with changing the land-use policy.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said she had not had a chance to work with Garrett on his draft.

Bradenton Beach resident Barbara Hug asked if the proposed language change has anything to do with the lawsuit over the agreement between the city and ELRA, the corporate owner of the BeacHhouse Restaurant, regarding the proposed beach parking lot next to the restaurant. Hug said she has concerns that anyone owning land west of Gulf Drive will soon be able to build a parking lot.

Jo Ann Meilner, a complainant in the lawsuit against the city filed in June 2012 over an agreement that would allow the BeacHhouse Restaurant to build a parking lot on a renourished beach, also spoke to the commission. She said allowing more parking west of Gulf Drive would be harmful to beach preservation. The parking at the BeacHhouse was allowed on land zoned preservation in the comp plan.

Resident Ann Deitrich said she “doesn’t want to see cars parked in the few open spaces between large buildings on Gulf Drive.”

Commissioner Jack Clarke said that in the absence of notice of the meeting being sent to residents west of Gulf Drive, he undertook the writing and mailing of letters to many residents.

Mayor Bill Shearon backed up Clarke, saying that the fee for an address search conducted by city hall staff was personally paid by Clarke.

Commissioner Janie Robertson said she worked on the comprehensive plan for two and a half years that put forth the land-use language and what was being proposed would require an amendment to the plan, which is not an easy task.

The commission unanimously decided to address the issue in a Dec. 16 workshop.

Commission members also approved a donation of $500 to the Bridge Street Merchants and $250 to the Annie Silver Community Center.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh added a $68 donation to the Bridge Street Merchants from the remains of her election campaign fund as thanks for its support of her candidacy.

Sean Walter, director of sports for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, received approval for a beach soccer tournament July 24-26, 2015, at Coquina Beach. The event is expected to bring in 250 young athletes and more than 400 spectators.

The commission also approved a purchase for the Historic Bridge Street Pier, choosing a teal green material for benches, swings, tables and other items.

Pending lawsuits against the city also were discussed by the commission, which agreed to allow Perry to either represent the city or to choose another attorney at her discretion.

The commission was set to hold a workshop after press time for The Islander at 1 p.m. Dec. 2 at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.