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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

County charter on 'back burner,' BIEO wary

The Manatee County Commission may have put the proposed county charter on the shelf for the time being in favor of strengthening the Accord, but members of the Barrier Island Elected Officials are concerned the issue hasn’t gone away completely.

At the March 16 BIEO meeting, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said that county commissioners have placed the charter "on the back burner while the commission tries to make the Accord legally binding."

But, in his opinion, "one or two county commissioners are just waiting for the Accord effort to fail" to bring back the proposed charter.

The county commission has proposed strengthening the Accord - the joint planning agreement among municipalities, county government and the school board - by having cities agree to an annexation clause which would allow a third party to settle an annexation dispute between a city and the county.

"Bradenton and Palmetto will never agree to that," predicted Chappie.

Longboat Key Mayor Ron Johnson noted that the county wanted cities to give up their annexation rights for 90 days. "We didn’t agree to that. It’s just a moratorium, and it’s not going to happen, so [the cities] suggested the county take out the annexation clause and rework it."

The county commission agreed and legal experts are attempting to resolve the annexation issue in a new Accord agreement, he said.

"We certainly hope the Accord works. It’s better than a county charter. If it moves forward, the cities have to agree to it. It’s a process that will takes years, but the county wants something in 30 days," Johnson added.

What BIEO members will do is propose to their individual city commissions that a resolution be passed supporting a new Accord agreement.

"That we can do," said Chappie.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn and Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney said they would bring such a resolution to their respective commissions for discussion.

The Accord agreement was adopted by the cities and Manatee County in 2002 as a means of settling annexation and development issues between the five municipalities and the county. The Accord came after the City of Bradenton annexed Perico Island, then approved a site plan for the Arvida-St. Joe Co. for condominium units there.

A protracted legal battle ensued between Bradenton and Manatee County and officials on both sides of the issue wanted a method of settling annexation issues other than the court system. The Accord was agreed upon and a joint planning council composed of representatives from the five cities, the school district and Manatee County was formed to settle development and annexation issues.

Proponents of the county charter, including County Commissioner Joe McClash, have argued that because the Accord is not legally binding, any decisions reached by the JPC are ineffective. A county charter form of government would create a planning commission with legal authority.

Any county charter would have to be passed by voters in a countywide referendum. The county commission has set aside such plans while it attempts to reach an accord with the cities on a new Accord agreement.