HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners somewhat reluctantly voted unanimously to pass the first reading of the city’s formula business ordinance, moving forward regulations that would allow formula, or chain, businesses in the city’s downtown business district only by special exception.
Commissioners’ issue with the ordinance is that they couldn’t make the regulations more restrictive and spread it to other parts of the city while also making it legally defensible. Even City Planner Bill Brisson previously stated that if the ordinance were to cover the shopping centers on East Bay Drive, he would not be able to testify in court on the city’s behalf because the ordinance is built on preserving the character of the city. The character of that particular area has been defined as “modern shopping center” which wouldn’t be lost if more franchise shops opened up. The ordinance allows new formula businesses to open in the city’s downtown district by special exception only.
“It’s not what I want,” Commissioner Carol Soustek said, voting in favor of the ordinance.
Commissioner Rick Hurst agreed but also echoed the sentiments of Brisson and City Attorney Patricia Petruff by saying he wants to make sure whatever ordinance passes a vote can stand up in court. “I think we have to be smart about this,” he said.
Commissioners voted in favor of the ordinance, pushing it forward to a second public hearing and final vote in March with Commissioner Judy Titsworth abstaining because her family owns a shopping plaza in the downtown district.
Attorney Bradley Ellis, appearing on behalf of Benderson Development, owner of the largest shopping plaza on East Bay Drive, said as long as the city doesn’t attempt to regulate formula businesses on his client’s property, there’s no intent to challenge it legally.
Attorney Matthew Brockway, on behalf of the owners of the old Regions Bank building, did not agree.
The Regions Bank building, at 503 Manatee Avenue, is located in the C-1 district where retail businesses are not allowed. With his client considering asking for a rezone of the property to C-2 or C-3 to potentially attract more business owners to the property, Brockway said his client is prepared to challenge the ordinance, if it passes second reading, in court.
Titsworth said commissioners would consider the ordinance in the time between meetings and present any changes to be made to the regulations at the second public hearing, scheduled for March 1.