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Date of Issue: June 02, 2005

Holmes Beach vacation requests still pending

Two vacation requests in Holmes Beach that have been before the city commission since last summer again went undecided at the commission's May 24 meeting, prompting City Commissioner Don Maloney to say he'd "like to settle this in less time than the T-end canals." That issue has been around the city commission for the past 10 years.

The first request was from Mary Menendez of 407 42nd St., who wants the city to vacate its right of way on Fourth Avenue between 41st Street and 42nd Street. Menendez owns property on both sides of the right of way at this intersection.

Attorney Mark Barnebey, representing Menendez, said his clients will make a $50,000 donation to the city for stormwater improvements, install sidewalks and provide landscaping and enhance existing swales in exchange for the vacation.

The right of way currently "serves no benefit" to the city, Barnebey claimed, and the only question for commissioners is "do you have a reason to keep it?"

Commissioner Roger Lutz, himself an attorney, pointed out that vacating the land would give the Menendezes enough land to build an additional unit. They could presently build a nine-unit structure without the vacation, he noted. He indicated he would be favorable to the vacation if not units could be added to any future project.

Mayor Carol Whitmore suggested Barnebey ask his clients if they would be willing to agree that they could not add an additional unit if they obtained the vacation from the commission. Barnebey said he would speak to the Menendez family and bring the answer to the June 14 commission meeting. The family has no plans to build on the property at this time, he said.

Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger, however, pointed out that under the city's comprehensive plan and land development codes, the Menendezes would be entitled to build 10 units per acre if they obtained the vacation.

"So, why make a stipulation?" he asked.

Yvonne and Richard Faldon, who own property at 400 and 404 Manatee Ave., claimed that if the right of way were vacated, they would have limited access to and from their property when they decide to build.

Joan Perry, a city resident and member of the environmental group ManaSota-88, said her organization opposes the vacation because it would eventually increase density and intensity and is at odds with the city's comprehensive plan.

The offer to donate money and services looks good at first, said Perry, "but sounds like extortion" upon further examination.

She suggested the commission resolve the issue at the meeting, noting the commission has been dealing with the request since last August without a decision. It sounds like the applicant is receiving "favored status," she claimed.

The commission took no action and continued the public hearing until June 14, when Barnebey will present the commission with "further information" on drainage issues and whether or not his clients will accept a stipulation to not add another unit to their current nine-unit allowance if the vacation is granted.

Moreland Marine

Barnebey also represented Moreland Marine at the first public hearing of its request to the city to vacate eight feet of city right of way on 52nd Street, where it has a condominium project currently under construction. The vacation would allow the project to build one additional condo unit.

Barnebey pledged that his clients would donate $30,000 to the city for infrastructure and beautify the area with a stucco wall.

But Lutz was unimpressed.

"I don't see a compelling reason" to grant the vacation. "They just want to increase density," he said.

If Moreland Marine would agree not to build another unit and assume responsibility for all landscaping, he might agree to the vacation.

Basically, he said, Moreland Marine just wants to build another unit and ensure that the condominium buyers see nice landscaping by the Haverkos stormwater retention pond at the site, rather than just a plain pond.

Maloney, however, wondered why it seems that the commission is against a property owner just because they want to make money.

Some adjacent property owners on Peacock Lane said they favored the vacation if the city will give them the same eight-foot vacation on the other side of the street.

Perry was also opposed to the vacation because the city would be increasing density in a coastal high-hazard zone, which is against the comprehensive plan. She noted the city has already increased density on the Moreland Marine property from zero units to 10 units per acre.

The first reading passed 3-2 and the commission set June 14 for the second and final public hearing. Lutz and Commissioner Pat Morton opposed the measure, while Maloney, Bohnenberger and Commission Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens voted in favor.