Building moratorium concludes in Bradenton Beach

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Large vacation homes in Bradenton Beach similar to these homes on Avenue B have drawn complaints from residents who say short-term rentals should not be allowed in neighborhoods. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Pencils down, time is up.

After more than a year spent tightening vacation rental regulations, the moratorium on building homes containing more than four bedrooms in Bradenton Beach will end March 7.

However, due to resident concerns that not enough was done to address problems with short-term rentals in residential districts, the commission directed city planner Alan Garrett and city attorney Ricinda Perry to start work on a historic preservation ordinance similar to the one in Anna Maria.

During a meeting March 1, Commissioner Marilyn Maro presented an agenda request to extend the moratorium a fourth time. She said she was approached by people who said the city hasn’t done enough to halt construction of large vacation homes.

“The residents just don’t want party houses,” Maro said.

Former Commissioner Jan Vosburgh, who supported the moratorium during her term in office, commented to commissioners that “there are still items that have to be cleaned up.”

Mayor John Chappie said before the meeting he spoke with Garrett, who confirmed the city has done everything it can legally do to regulate vacation homes.

The city amended the land development code and quality-of-life ordinance and created a transient public lodging ordinance to deal with noise, trash and parking problems.

“It is my understanding we’ve accomplished all we talked about and said we’d do,” Chappie said. “There’s nothing we can do about existing party houses except enforce the noise, trash and parking ordinances.”

Additionally, the city received a letter March 1 from Najmy Thompson Attorneys at Law of Bradenton, that said the city would be pushing its luck by extending the moratorium.

The letter threatened Bert Harris claims if the city approves another extension.

The moratorium, approved Nov. 8, 2016, by a supermajority of voters, halted permitting and construction for six months for homes containing more than four bedrooms in the R-1 and R-2 residential zones.

It was extended three times, for three months each time, while the commission worked with the planning and zoning board on LDC amendments — regulations designed to prevent large-scale short-term rental housing.

Perry said delays caused by Hurricane Irma and changes to the planning and zoning board make up were legally defensible reasons for the moratorium extensions, but another extension would take it too far. The city could be sued, she said.

She suggested the commissioners and mayor consider seeing “what the citizenry wants” and addressing it through other means.

Commissioner Ralph Cole suggested creating a historical preservation ordinance similar to one Anna Maria enacted in August 2017.

The ordinance provides incentives and a procedure for restoring historic homes instead of tearing them down, according to Cole.

Maro supported Cole’s suggestion and said that as older, smaller homes in Bradenton Beach sell at top dollar, people are concerned the structures will be demolished and replaced with large vacation rentals.

Garrett said he wrote the historic preservation ordinance in Anna Maria during his time there as city planner, so he could draft a similar measure for Bradenton Beach.

“We would have to get state approval and establish a historic commission, but it can be done,” Garrett said.

Chappie suggested Garrett and Perry draft an ordinance and the mayor and commissioners agreed Cole would be the commission liaison.

A motion to direct Garrett and Perry to develop a preservation ordinance was unanimously approved.

The next commission meeting will be at noon Thursday, March 15, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

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