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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Savings clause adopted in Holmes Beach

It might have been 15 years late, but the long-awaited "savings clause" ordinance was approved by the Holmes Beach City Commission June 8 in a 3-1 vote, with Commissioner Pat Morton objecting, and Commissioner Roger Lutz abstaining on the grounds of a possible conflict of interest.

The savings clause ordinance essentially allows owners of legal lots of record that existed in 1989, but did not meet the 80-foot frontage requirement adopted that year, to build within the density limits of the comprehensive plan and without need of a variance.

According to Mayor Carol Whitmore and city planner Bill Brisson, the city had always thought a savings clause was adopted in 1989 and had routinely granted building permits for lots that did not meet the frontage requirements.

"It's been confusing" for some time, said acting city attorney Mark Singer.

The issue only came to light when City Attorney Jim Dye sent attorney Steve Thompson a letter in 2002 advising him that his clients could build on a lot they intended to buy, without meeting the width requirement.

In 2003, however, the Frank Davis problem at 5622 Gulf Drive arose and a new attorney looked at the city code and advised that there was no savings clause and Davis had to apply for a variance to build what he wanted.

Litigation that is still pending ensued over the Davis request, litigation that includes the city as a defendant.

That has led to the amended proposal and "that's how we got here," concluded Singer.

Singer said that Dye's advice in 2002 was consistent with city policy since 1989.

Morton, however, said he felt the ordinance favored "the developers" who would buy a single-family home in a duplex area, then turn around and sell it for a big profit because two units could be built on the property.

Brisson said his research found only nine lots affected by the savings clause.

Resident Dave Moynihan pointed out that the ordinance only affects "legal lots of record prior to 1989," not any new lots. And "developers" don't generally get involved in a two-unit property, he added.

He also reminded the commission that in 1989, density went from 16 units per acre to 10 units, thus lowering density.

But resident Russ Olson spoke in opposition, saying there is no "crying need for a savings clause."

The motion passed 3-1.

It was unclear if the new ordinance would affect the current legal issues with the Frank Davis property.

Adjacent property owners Barbara Coloney and Ruth McLean have filed legal action against Davis and the city, claiming approval of the Davis site plan was not properly noticed. They have also appealed to the circuit court over a variance granted Davis by the board of adjustment.

In other business, the commission:

  • Learned that the Manatee County Commission has approved a $135,000 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigational District to dredge channels in Bimini Bay.
  • Gave Mayor Carol Whitmore the go-ahead to pursue financing for a new Key Royale Bridge through the Florida League of Counties, with the understanding the city would be reimbursed in the future by the Florida Department of Transportation.
  • Approved the second reading of an ordinance that appeals of board of adjustment decisions must be filed in circuit court within 30 days of the date that the board's decision was filed in the public records of Manatee County.
  • Reappointed Moynihan, Peter Ereg, Russ Olson and Allan Guy to the board of adjustment.
  • Appointed Mark Kimball to the board of adjustment.
  • Reappointed Allen Bobo and James Howorth to the personnel board.
  • Approved Brisson to perform the comprehensive plan review at $95 per hour.
  • Denied a request by Suzi Fox of TurtleWatch to be allowed to use an ATV on the beach beyond the Jan. 1, 2004, expiration date.

Fox had asked for one more year to use the ATV to inspect turtle nests and nestlings, but the commission wasn't interested.

That prompted Fox to ask commissioners exactly "What are you doing to support TurtleWatch in this city?"

"We give you money," replied Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger.