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Date of Issue: June 17, 2009

Commission punts parking ideas to planning board

Holmes Beach city commissioners want the city planning commission to re-start its engine.

The planning commission meets on an as-needed basis, and the city commission recently reviewed a series of proposed changes to parking restrictions.

The city commission, in several work meetings with planning consultant Bill Brisson of LaRue Planning and Management Services, discussed three parking issues: off-site and supplemental commercial parking, overnight parking of commercial vehicles in residential districts and parking of boats, RVs, trailers in residential districts.

Commissioners talked with Brisson about rules for off-site parking to support existing and new commercial enterprises that are unable to accommodate the required parking on site.

For businesses lacking enough parking under the city’s code and in a commercial zoning, Brisson proposed allowing them to buy or lease offsite parking within 500 feet of the business.

He also recommended similar changes in regards to supplemental parking.

Commissioners also raised concerns in the past year about commercial vehicles, specifically box trucks, parked overnight in residential districts.

Brisson researched the issue and found that the city’s LDC prohibits the overnight parking of commercial vehicles in residential districts if the vehicle weight is more than a ton.

The code, he said, has a loophole: some box trucks weigh less than a ton and, thus, currently comply with the LDC. Brisson suggested that using weight is no longer appropriate and that vehicle class should be a focus.

Under the proposed change in the code, minivans, full-size pickup trucks and multi-purpose vehicles and trucks that do not exceed 20 feet in length, from bumper to bumper, would not be considered commercial vehicles.

Trucks exceeding 20 feet in length with racks in use for business are considered commercial vehicles, as are Class 2-8 vehicles, such as step vans, box trucks and walk-in vans, buses, refuse trucks and heavy equipment.

To assist with identifying commercial vehicles, the proposed ordinance would contain graphics of the types of vehicles prohibited from parking overnight in residential neighborhoods.

The proposed tightening of restrictions drew an objection from Mike LaPensee of LaPensee Plumbing during a commission meeting June 9.

“You just don’t want business on the Island,” said LaPensee, adding that his employees take home trucks because they “are on call 24 hours a day.”

Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said,“It has always been, to my knowledge, that actual commercial vehicles were not supposed to be in residential areas unless they went into garages, with a door shut.”

“Nobody used to say anything either,” said LaPensee.

Brisson suggested that if LaPensee’s drivers live in Holmes Beach, they should be close enough to the plumbing office on Manatee Avenue to pickup a truck for a night call.

Commissioner Pat Morton, after listening to the discussion, asked whether other cities with similar rules encountered any lawsuits.

“These are not uncommon rules,” Brisson said. “Most are not as flexible as this.… This is not going too far.”

City attorney Patricia Petruff added, “Under your police power, you have the right to regulate as long as you do not regulate in a discriminatory manner.… You are trying to protect your residential districts.”

Commissioners also have raised concerns over possible ambiguities in the city’s codes regarding the parking of boats, trailers and RVs in residential yards.

The LDC generally prohibits parking recreational vehicles in front yards and driveways, but allows for one vehicle in the drive if the side yards are not configured to accommodate the vehicle.

A proposed change would allow an RV, boat or trailer in a front yard or front portion of a side yard. Another change would eliminate a requirement for a 3-foot setback to park a trailer, boat or RV in a side yard.

Brisson will next take his proposals to the planning commission, which will review them and make a recommendation back to the commission.

A meeting date had not been set as of Islander press time.

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved the first reading of an ordinance adopting Manatee County’s animal control ordinance.

• Reappointed Barbara Hines to the code enforcement board.

• Reappointed Gary Hickerson to the planning commission.

• Observed a moment of silence in honor of Ed Geyer, husband of Commissioner Pat Geyer, and in support of the family.

The next commission meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 14, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.