HOLMES BEACH – It’s been a busy year for the central city on Anna Maria Island. The 2017 calendar year saw some changes, some challenges and some good news for Holmes Beach residents and property owners. The year’s highlights include a hurricane, an election upset, improvements for the city’s puppy playground and the opening of the Island’s first full-service hotel.
Hurricane Irma swipes AMI
In a tumultuous tropical year, Anna Maria Island was visited by Hurricane Irma in September. The hurricane, the first to hit the Island in many years, caused many residents and visitors to flee to the mainland under mandatory evacuation orders and left thousands without power for several days.
Damage from the hurricane in Holmes Beach was mostly limited to debris, downed power lines and minor structural damage. However, one of the hardest hit places in the city, one of the two Cayman Cay condominium buildings, is still closed to residents awaiting repairs. Wildlife was affected, too. The beloved ospreys atop Gloria Dei Lutheran Church have not returned since Irma left; their nest was removed when the church steeple was tented for termites in early November.
Treehouse visits Supreme Court
After losing multiple local and state appeals, treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen appealed to the highest court in the land. Their plea was heard and the treehouse case is expected to be heard by the United States Supreme Court in January.
This final appeal will help to determine whether or not the Holmes Beach Gulf-side landmark will be torn down or allowed to remain in its Australian pine perch.
Boat canopies come down
After a lot of back and forth between city leaders and residents at Westbay Point and Moorings, the boat canopies covering rescue boats for West Manatee Fire Rescue and the Holmes Beach Police Department were taken down. Commissioners voted to remove the canopies, located at the 63rd Street public boat ramp, after multiple pleas from residents. The condo owners argued the boat canopies blocked their views and were lowering property values.
Though a riparian rights survey showed the city was well within its rights to have the canopies located on city property, commissioners agreed to remove the canopies to repair relations with residents and avoid possible litigation. Police Chief Bill Tokajer said alternative methods of protecting sensitive equipment on the boats would be used.
After two years without an election, a shakeup happened in November on the Holmes Beach commission dais. Two new commissioners were voted into two-year terms, Jim Kihm and Rick Hurst. The upset ousted long-time Commissioner Marvin Grossman.
Commissioner Jean Peelen opted to not run for re-election, instead choosing to back Kihm’s campaign for office. Commissioner Pat Morton was re-elected to a one year term and will have to run again in 2018 to maintain his seat on the dais.
It took three years, a site plan review and a lot of negotiation between city leaders and management at Mainsail Lodging and Development, but the Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club finally opened its doors Nov. 29.
The resort is the only full-service hotel on the Island. It has 37 two-bedroom suites, a restaurant and transportation to the Gulf-front Mainsail Beach Inn. The hotel is a part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, an assortment of privately-owned boutique hotels using the hotel giant’s booking and marketing outlets.
Dog park funds found
Funds for Fido came through when commissioners allocated $50,000 to the city’s parks and beautification committee to revamp the dog park. The city’s dog park, located next door to Holmes Beach City Hall adjacent to City Field, has been a point of contention between residents and city leaders.
Regular users are hoping some improvements to the park concerning entrances, grading, ground cover, and shade will be implemented within the next year. Members of the parks and beautification committee are currently researching changes to recommend to commissioners for approval.
Vacation rental ordinance enforced
The year has been busy for city code enforcement officers as the grace period for vacation rental owners ran out in May. Owners and operators of short-term vacation rentals are required to pass a safety inspection and receive a vacation rental certificate, good for two years, in addition to a business tax receipt in order to operate within Holmes Beach.
As the end of the calendar year approached, code enforcement officers had inspected more than 800 rental properties with more inspections scheduled into the New Year. The goal of the program is to provide safer accommodations for visitors.
Form of government questioned
With Mayor Bob Johnson already announcing he won’t seek a third term in 2018, questions have arisen about how the city’s current form of government meets the needs of a changing city. Commissioners formed an ad-hoc committee to study the city’s form of government, a strong mayor backed by a city commission, in comparison to other government types across the state.
The eight-person committee is tasked with studying the various forms of government available, from a weak mayor and commission to a city manager with a commission and a weak or strong mayor. Committee members are entering 2018 in the data collection phase and are expected to present a recommendation to commissioners later in the year.