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Date of Issue: April 16, 2008

HB commissioners consider fine reduction

A Holmes Beach property partnership turned sour has racked up about $105,000 in fines and a lien for the partners - all because of an apparent failure to pay a $26 rental license fee.

City commissioners last week listened in a workshop session to the pleadings of Joe Hieronimus, one of three original partners in a duplex at 4605 Gulf Drive, for leniency of the fine which began accumulating since the fall of 2005.

The rental property was managed by partner George Ellin, who allegedly did not get the required city rental license for the duplex. City code enforcement officers then sent a notice to the owner representative on the tax roll, Ellin, who was not responsive. The matter came to the city’s code enforcement board, which recommended collecting fees, costs and a $150 per day fine in 2006.

Charges accrued.

“It’s a very unfortunate set of circumstances,” said city attorney Patricia Petruff. She said that there was an “obvious miscommunication between the three owners of the property.”

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said that during the code enforcement hearings April 26, 2006, a partner in the group agreed to pay the CEB fine of $300. It was not paid, and the fine accrued and a lien was placed on the property.

“It’s been 700 days,” said Commissioner David Zaccagnino.

But since the fine and lien were instituted, Hieronimus bought out Allen’s share and said his friend is in bankruptcy and there is no way for him to recoup funds from Ellin.

After much discussion, Commissioner Pat Geyer recommended that the city reduce the fine to $20,000, plus expenses estimated at more than $3,500. Commissioner Pat Morton said he could settle on $30,000 and fees and further suggested that Hieronimus should really pay the full amount and seek restitution from his partner.

“And this won’t happen again,” vowed Bohnenberger. “We will begin foreclosure actions within 90 days in the future.”

Final decision on the matter will be reached later this month at a regular city meeting.

And then there was the discussion of outdoor dining.

Outdoor dining has become a popular element of restaurants in Florida, and Commissioner John Monetti is an expert on the subject as manager of the Columbia Restaurant on St. Armands Circle with its many al fresco tables lining the sidewalk.

Holmes Beach has broached the outside dining subject in the past, but specific guidelines have apparently been lacking in any specific codes. Petruff said that the parking of vehicles, the seats-to-cars ratio and other areas need refinement.

She proffered outdoor dining ordinances from other areas of Florida as samples of what the city could consider.

Monetti interjected that there were many hoops he and the Columbia had to go through in Sarasota, hoops he thought were not needed in Holmes Beach. Site plans for tables and parking matters, as well as fees, will not succeed in providing this much sought-after amenity, he said.

He also suggested that with the Manatee Trolley, parking issues have radically changed on the Island.

Petruff accepted the suggestions and said she would bring the matter back to the commission at a later date.

The commissioners deferred discussion on T-end canals, parking trailers, expanding the use of golf carts on city streets and moved into their regular city meeting.

In that session, city commissioners approved an increase of $1.50 per year on the city’s stormwater fee, to $54 per year.

They also approved a floodplain ordinance plan that was much-awaited by city contractors who have pressured the city to resolve the prohibition on building permits.

The mayor announced that permits would be accepted the next morning starting at 7 a.m.

Commissioners approved a $110,786 contract with Superior Asphalt for annual street resurfacing and approved reappointing HBPD Lt. Dale Stephenson to the police pension fund board.

Commission chair Sandy Haas-Martens announced the Barrier Islands Elected Officials meeting for April is canceled, and the May 21 meeting, which will be held in Holmes Beach, will be with DOT representatives for an update on the Florida Department of Transportation rehabilitation project on the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The next city commission meeting and work session will be at 7 p.m. April 22 at city hall.