BB citizens meet, push moratorium proposal at commission

It was a matter of perspective.

“Stop, everybody hold your places right now, until we can think this through,” Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen said of a proposed moratorium on new home construction in Bradenton Beach.

But don’t “squash the golden egg, the revenue source that has brought some very positive changes” to Anna Maria Island, said Lynn Zemmer, broker/owner of Edgewater Real Estate in Bradenton Beach.

About 15 island residents — an ad hoc citizens’ advisory committee — met at city hall and expressed a number of viewpoints about moratoriums Sept. 9.

For a little more than an hour they discussed whether to recommend a moratorium on new home construction to city commissioners.

Emotions were evident from several speakers, including Audrey Young, a resident and owner of rental property in the city. “Our neighborhoods have been hijacked,” she said of vacation renters. “It’s like people have come in with guns.”

Young said when she bought her property years ago, rentals were either annual or for six months. She said the city does not need a moratorium on building large houses. “The problem isn’t how big the houses are,” she said. “It’s how often you can rent them.”

The idea for this committee came from Mayor Jack Clarke, in lieu of commission discussion on a possible building moratorium at the Sept. 3 commission meeting.

Commissioners approved having Clarke facilitate the committee meeting, and he did. What transpired, however, was more like an unbridled community discussion.

Zemmer agreed to chair the meeting.

“We all have the same goals,” said Zemmer, who was participating on behalf of an Anna Maria Island association of rental managers. “We’re not here saying we want big houses. We all want peaceful cohabitation.”

Peelen, of Holmes Beach, presented her experiences to the committee.

In the end, the participants agreed to request commissioners pass an ordinance similar to the one approved in February in Holmes Beach. It established a moratorium through Oct. 31 on the acceptance of building permit applications for homes with four or more bedrooms.

P&Z board member James Lynch agreed to help write the committee’s proposal to commissioners, who will consider the request at their next meeting — noon Thursday, Sept. 17, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

The committee meeting afforded citizens with varying knowledge of moratoriums — as well as of general government procedure — and an opportunity to ask questions.

Some participants assumed the citizens’ committee would meet more than once. Others were adamant they needed only one meeting to unite in recommending a moratorium to commissioners. They feared delaying a critical vote on the matter would result in a rush for building permits.

“We should not even be thinking in terms of weeks,” Frank Harrison, a member of the P&Z board, said of the committee’s meeting schedule. “Every day that goes by more permits are in that aren’t going to be able to be stopped.”

Building official Steve Gilbert told the group there are about seven or eight building projects at some phase of construction in Bradenton Beach with about a dozen awaiting review and many have four to six bedrooms.

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