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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Vacation would lead to extra condo at Morland Marine

Developers of the Morland Marine condominium project in Holmes Beach certainly believe in the old adage that: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

Having been rebuffed last year in an effort to get the city to vacate 52nd Street to the project - a vacation that would have allowed several additional condominium units - Morland Marine returned to the city commission March 8, this time asking for just an 8-foot vacation along the southern portion of its property.

Attorney Jeff Snyder, representing Morland Marine, said the proposed vacation would not affect the width of 52nd Street, and the developers would contribute $20,000 for stormwater improvements if the city acted favorably on the request.

Mayor Carol Whitmore, however, asked if the vacation were approved, would it allow for additional condominiums?

Snyder said without the vacation, Morland Marine can only build nine units, but with the vacation, it could split one 2,400-square foot condominium into two units of 1,200 square feet. That would give the complex 10 condominiums to put on the market instead of nine.

Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger said the city needs a legal opinion on whether or not any partial vacation would affect the city's grant for the stormwater retention pond located adjacent to Morland Marine before the commission discusses the issue further.

Commissioners agreed and the item will return to a future workshop for consideration.

But a few members of the public were outraged that the commission would even consider a vacation that would lead to more condominiums.

Resident John Zacchnino was totally opposed to the vacation. "They got approved for nine and now they want 10. If they had been approved for 10, they'd want 11. If it was 11, they'd want 12. Where does it stop?"

Likewise, added city resident Joan Perry.

"This vacation was denied before, now they've put $20,000 on the table," she noted.

Commission Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens said the previous request was to vacate the entire street, while this is just a partial vacation.

Doesn't matter, replied Perry. "This still increases density in a coastal flood zone and it's against our comp plan. But we keep doing it, and that $20,000 is nothing.

"You should think about what you are doing and consider where we are going" before approving any vacation, Perry concluded.

Any vacation would still have to come to a regular commission meeting for a public hearing and formal vote.

A stinkin' mess

Sixth Avenue residents Marguerita Fernandez and Karen Swartz made an impassioned plea to the city commission for help with the smells and drainage coming from the garbage dumps behind the Anna Maria Shopping Centre on East Bay Drive.

Benderson Development, owners of the plaza, recently received a permit for a compactor from the city, said Fernandez, and she and her neighbors are concerned that it's going to be placed adjacent to residents, creating an unsightly mess and accompanying garbage smell.

She asked the commission to halt placement of the compactor, but Whitmore said that a compactor is a permitted use for that commercial property.

"I'm well aware of this issue," said the mayor. She's got page after page of complaints about the dumpster smell and, she said, Benderson has now decided to utilize a trash compactor and eliminate the dumpster problem.

  But she was confident that Benderson Development would be receptive to their suggestions on placement. "I know them and they'll work with you," she said.

Commissioner Don Maloney chimed in that Waste Management Inc. has also had problems with Benderson's dumpsters and he suggested Swartz and Fernandez ask them for assistance in dealing with Benderson.

"We agree on a compactor," said Swartz, "but our concern is the location and maintenance."

She said she's seen grease and waste from the dumpsters leaking into the city's stormwater drainage system when it rains and she's worried the same thing could happen with the compactor.

That triggered an entirely new issue for Commissioner Roger Lutz.

"If organic waste is leaking into the system, that's a violation of federal law," he noted.

"If it's polluting our waters, that's a city problem," added Bohnenberger.

Whitmore said she'd have city staff look into that aspect of the problem while Fernandez and Swartz will talk with Dave Gustafson of Benderson Development about location of the compactor.

Perry, a noted environmental activist, told the commission that polluting the stormwater drainage system is a violation of the city's stormwater drainage permit and could subject Holmes Beach "to a whale of a fine."

Police pension fund increase

In somewhat of a surprise move, commissioners voted 3-2 to approve the first reading of an ordinance that will increase police benefits and the city's contribution to the police retirement fund. The increased benefits would be tied to the city budget, not the excess premium property tax collected from city property owners on their insurance premiums as the commission had proposed several months ago. That idea was rejected by the pension board, which asked that its original proposal be placed before the commission.

The ordinance was first presented by the police retirement board last year and has been through several commission workshops and public hearings.

"The issue has had a full evaluation," said Bohnenberger, who voted to approve the measure.

Haas-Martens dissented, while Lutz and Commissioners Don Maloney and Pat Morton agreed to the ordinance.

The second reading was scheduled for the March 22 commission meeting.

Waste Management contract

Commissioners also approved the first reading of the ordinance renewing the city's garbage collection and trash hauling contract with Waste Management Inc., the only company that bid on the franchise.

Maloney did note that the new contract calls for a base rate of $15.27 per month, not $14.86 as had been previously reported.

The new contract calls for automated garbage collection service using either a 96-, 64-, or 35-gallon container supplied by WMI. Residents would still have the option of placing their garbage curbside in a plastic trash bag on collection days.

The automated service will probably take about six months to implement, said Rose Quinn-Barr of WMI.

Blame it on Anna Maria

Resident Sean Murphy told commissioners he just closed the sale of his Island's End restaurant in Anna Maria to Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles. He now owns only the Beach Bistro restaurant in Holmes Beach.

It had become, he said, "impossible to run a business in Anna Maria."

The difference between the Anna Maria government and that of Holmes Beach, Murphy offered, is "substantially different," with Holmes Beach at least having a plan based upon knowledge, facts and reason, as opposed to "petty, personal dispositions" and opinions.

The "chaos" in Anna Maria was often "troubling," and he thanked commissioners and the mayor for the way they operated Holmes Beach.