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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Fireworks at Holmes Beach commission

No fireworks exploded at the March 24 Holmes Beach City Commission meeting, although the commission did pass an ordinance adopting the Manatee County fireworks ordinance, despite protests from several residents.

"The main purpose of this ordinance is to stop roadside sales" of fireworks, said Commission Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens.

The ordinance also establishes procedures for people to obtain a license and permit to set off fireworks, but resident Rebecca Smith said it's such an extensive process that few, if any, city residents will bother.

The commission seems to be trying to stop a patriotic tradition, she said, but added that she also understood the commission has a public-safety responsibility.

It's a Catch-22, situation, chimed in Mayor Carol Whitmore. Nobody wants to spoil anybody's fun, but the city and commission have a public duty.

And it's already illegal to set off fireworks in the city, added Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger. The law just hasn't been enforced because of the thousands of people who descend on Anna Maria Island on July 4.

Resident Rob Eastman argued against adoption, saying the ordinance is unenforceable.

"You can't arrest everyone who sets off fireworks," he said.

"Fireworks on the Island have been going on for 100 years. There's no answer to stopping the problem."

But Police Chief Jay Romine disagreed.

Halting the sale of fireworks in Manatee County should reduce the number of people using them in the city on July 4.

The chief also noted that police aren't going to be out in force July 4 trying to arrest everybody with an illegal firecracker.

"We're not going to catch everybody and we're not going to be the fireworks Gestapo. It's just not true," he said.

Fireworks on the beach "have always been illegal. This just makes it a civil fine like a traffic ticket. We are not going to be handcuffing people," Romine noted.

People seem to think the ordinance is something new that prohibits people from setting off fireworks without a permit, said Bohnenberger. That's not the case and people should not be confused about this ordinance, he noted.

This ordinance, Haas-Martens reiterated, just closes that "loophole" that allowed vendors to sell fireworks from roadside stands by having customers sign a waiver stating the fireworks would only be used to scare off birds or wildlife.

The second and final reading of the ordinance passed unanimously.

In other business, the commission passed an final ordinance allowing restaurants to add up to eight outdoor seats without submitting a new site plan, providing they either already have the outside space or permission from the landlord.

The seats are not to be on public sidewalks, but Commissioner Roger Morton said he foresaw problems and cast the lone dissenting vote.

Commissioners unanimously passed on second reading ordinances for:

  • A new fee schedule for comprehensive-plan amendments and development applications.
  • Appeals of board of adjustment decisions to go directly to the circuit court.
  • Applicants for land-use and development approvals shall be responsible for due public notice and associated costs.
  • New procedures on how the city vacates streets, alleys, easements, rights of way and canals.

The commission also re-appointed Don Schroder and Charles Stealy to the code enforcement board and appointed Joe Jackson as a board alternate.

During the workshop session following the regular commission meeting, commissioners agreed to study the new contract proposal from Waste Management Inc., calling for automated pickup service. They will also study suggested modifications to the contract by the city attorney prior to the next work session, when the contract will be discussed in-depth.

The commission also adopted a resolution on the opening times for the Cortez and Anna Maria bridges to send to the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami.

The resolution supports a similar one from Longboat Key and other Island cities asking the Coast Guard to consider changing the bridge-raising times from every 20 minutes during daylight hours, when necessary, to every 30 minutes.

Bohenberger said it was probably the sixth time in the past 10 years the city has sent the Coast Guard such a request to change the bridge opening times and none have been successful at affecting any change.

"But let's do it again," he said.