Holmes Beach tackled two hot topics Aug. 16.
Commission Chair Judy Titsworth said, “I must be out of my mind putting both of these passionate items on the same agenda.”
And that was the start of a long August work session, with Holmes Beach commissioners first tackling noise ordinance issues amid a gallery of people prepared to speak on their bike-path issues.
The discussion on noise came first, as Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer reviewed the new measures and efforts to manage properties with repeat noise violations undertaken by his department.
Flyers and window signs, distributed by HBPD beginning March 3, have reduced violations and repeat offenses, Tokajer said.
The HBPD “Noise Aware Program” centered on 16 properties with recurring complaints where officers responded to noise complaints, made contact with the offenders, issued a warning or a citation, if warranted, and followed up the next day by contacting the rental agent. The agent is required to contact the renters and make them aware of the city’s rules.
Attorney Jim Dye reported his findings for the city on how other municipalities handle noise problems. He suggested an ordinance structure based on multiple violations — more than three calls in 30 days as an example — and how to hold rental property owners liable.
Dye said many cities are doing what HBPD is doing — educating, citing, making agents aware.
Dye suggested fees and fines be added to the owners’ tax bills as a means of enforcement.
There was a brief discussion on using a special magistrate to oversee ordinance violations.
Commissioner Carol Soustek said “most of the time, the people are nice, they are just excited to be on vacation,”
Tokajer agreed, saying most people comply once informed. He also noted that the majority of noise complaints — an estimated 75-80 percent — are made by anonymous callers.
Titsworth said an anonymous call means no witness is available, so the responding officer becomes the witness.
“That’s one large problem in citing folks. There’s a low probability that it will go anywhere in court,” Titsworth said.
“Should we consider a chronic nuisance citation for rental owners to keep the noise down, instead of citing the actual noisemaker?” Commissioner Jim Kihm asked.
He also drew grumbling from the gallery when he mentioned “9-year old girls with high-pitched voices in a swimming pool” could be irritating during a discussion of what constitutes a “nuisance.”
“I don’t care if kids splash in a pool. But the screaming —that’s uncomfortable. It’s offensive to me.”
Dye cautioned commissioners to remember the rule of reason. “You can’t make something illegal just because you don’t like it,” he said.
Soustek reminded commissioners that nuisance issues are not limited to noise; they also include garbage, lawn mowing and parking problems.
Commissioners left the discussion with an agreement to draft an umbrella nuisance ordinance, with Dye and Tokajer discussing enforcement details for such an ordinance.
Commissioners then took up a proposed bike path that resulted in a happy outcome for the crowd in the gallery.
Commissioners came to a 4-1 agreement, with Kihm dissenting, to move forward with plans for an 8-foot-wide multi-use path on the east side of Palm Drive from CrossPointe Fellowship to 66th Street at Key Royale.
City engineer Lynn Burnett made the proposal after learning the path can be tied to work Manatee County is planning as part of a restoration following a Palm Drive utility project.
“We need to look at this as an opportunity,” Burnett said of the tie-in. We have sufficient time and money to do this on Palm Drive now.”
Another vote 4-1, with Kihm again dissenting, gave approval to a 6-foot-wide sidewalk to replace the current 3- to 4-foot-wide sidewalk on the east side of Holmes Boulevard.
Kihm withheld his vote in favor of a 5-foot option at both locations.
Proposals for a 6-foot sidewalk on the south side of 85th Street and a 6-foot sidewalk on the west side of Marina Drive saw no support.
Commissioners also discussed the design for the bike path, including color, use of symbols and prompts for riders.
Burnette was happy with the progress, as the bike path talks began in 2014.
Residents in attendance from 85th Street and Marina Drive were happy the path through their neighborhood was off the table — at least for now.
In discussion following the vote, resident Carl Jelovich thanked Burnett for meeting with residents and removing his street from the project.
“It’s a lifestyle choice for us,” he said.