Benderson vows to challenge Holmes Beach formula biz ban

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Attorney Bradley Ellis said Benderson Development Co. is likely to challenge the formula business ordinance that passed a first reading at the Feb. 15 city meeting. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

Holmes Beach has been warned a second time by Benderson Development Co. not to adopt a formula business ordinance.

This time, the warning came in a letter dated Feb. 14 from attorney Bradley Ellis of Icard & Merrill Attorneys and Counselors of Sarasota.

“We believe the current draft of the formula business ordinance 18-05 contains vague and contradictory language pertaining to the C-3 zoning district … which, if left unclarified, will require Benderson to challenge the ordinance,” Ellis wrote.

The proposed ordinance would allow formula businesses as a special exception use. Despite the warning, commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance at their Feb. 15 meeting.

Alexander Stewart, an aide to city attorney Patricia Petruff, said he believes the proposed ordinance is the most “legally defensible” for Holmes Beach. Petruff was not at the meeting.

Any formula business ordinance will likely draw a Benderson challenge, Ellis said in the letter and at the meeting.

“Benderson in no way supports or endorses this ordinance being adopted in any form, and Benderson reserves all rights to challenge the ordinance should the ordinance ultimately adopted in any way affect Benderson’s property interests,” Ellis said.

At the meeting, attorney Matt Brockaway, also of the Icard firm, said he represents the owner of property at 503 Manatee Ave., the site of a former Regions Bank. He, too, promised a legal challenge.

“The proposed ordinance is clearly over-reaching, unconstitutional and illegal,” Brockaway said. “It’s a litany of illegalities.”

In October, when Holmes Beach was considering a blanket formula business ban similar to one adopted by Anna Maria, Todd Mathes, Benderson director of development, said his company would challenge any ordinance limiting formula businesses.

Benderson’s first warning followed an Oct. 10 city meeting where planner Bill Brisson was directed by commissioners to draft a blanket franchise business moratorium covering all of Holmes Beach.

The commission spent more than a year developing a formula business ordinance.

Commissioners adopted a temporary formula business moratorium after Benderson leased space to Smoothie King and Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin-Robbins in its 60,000-square-foot Anna Maria Island Centre shopping plaza on East Bay Drive.

The temporary moratorium was adopted June 14, 2016, to allow commissioners time to adopt a permanent ordinance.

It has been extended twice and is now set to expire Feb. 28. The moratorium was not extended at the meeting.

The city commission will next meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

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