Vol 7 No. 5 - October 25, 2006

 

New �quiet� trolleys up and running

Road fix prompts complaints

Whitmore, Meaker seek commission seat

Five candidates in Holmes Beach race

Anna Maria to choose mayor, two commissioners

Man breaks neck after three-story jump

The fight to beat red tide

Property owners have 30 days to correct violations

 

 

 

New �quiet� trolleys up and running

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The four new trolleys that Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) recently purchased to replace the original five are now in operation and if you haven’t noticed them, it might be because they don’t make as much noise.

MCAT Director Ralf Heseler said that the new vehicles are much more refined and have quieter exhausts, which is one thing the county sought when it went shopping for the replacements. The original models were so loud that residents who live along the trolley route complained to the county.

Heseler said the replacements arrived late last year, but there was a problem that required MCAT to have the manufacturer make modifications. He said those modifications have now been made and the trolleys are running up and down the Island.

Meanwhile, the MCAT is talking with Sarasota County about extending trolley service through Longboat Key after getting approval for a grant to help finance a portion of it. That’s the word from Heseler, who addressed the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

"Over the past three years, we have been working with Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) to go further south in Longboat Key and as far as Lido Beach," Heseler said. "The two counties haven’t been able to see eye-to-eye on how much money they want to spend and the level of service."

Heseler said that the county lost a possible funding source last year and talks stalled, but its goals are still the same.

"The first goal was to connect service between the trolleys and SCAT," he said. "That could be as simple as having a SCAT bus run up to Coquina Beach to connect the two systems. The paperwork is in place and it could start any time."

Heseler said, however, that there is a new funding source that could help pay to extend the trolley service south, but it is only good for three years. Bob Herrington, public transit manager for the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, had details of the Florida Department of Transportation transit grant.

"It’s a 50/50 grant for $370,000, which means the local entities would have to match that amount," he said.

Herrington said that Manatee County originally applied for a $1.6 million grant, which is what they estimated that it would cost to extend the service to St. Armand’s Circle. That was the grant that it did not get last year.

"This grant is not for the full amount," he said, "but the two counties aren’t going to turn it down, and they will try to get some sort of service through Longboat Key."

Talks are ongoing between the two counties, according to Heseler and Herrington, and officials hope to come up with a plan soon.

"It will be ongoing," Heseler said Monday. "The two transit systems will have to reach agreement and since that agreement will require financing, they will have to go to their county commissioners to get their approval."

After the successful launch of trolley service on Anna Maria Island, residents of Longboat Key asked their elected officials to see if they could have it extend south. This was a surprise to officials who had seen Longboat snub and attempt to ban a privately-owned trolley that ran from Anna Maria Island to Lido Beach more than 10 years ago. The residents objected to the advertising on the sides of the trolley that paid for the service. The current trolleys are government owned and have no advertising on the outside.

Road fix prompts complaints

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Some residents and business owners in Cortez say recent improvements to Cortez Road have created new problems.

Villagers had expressed mixed opinions at a public meeting a year ago about the improvements, which included installing a new traffic light at Cortez Road and 119th Street West a few yards west of an existing light and building a dual left turn lane and median in the center of the road running from the bridge to 119th Street West.

Now they’re complaining in writing.

The Florida Department of Transportation is going door to door with a three-page survey that has produced several concerns for future consideration, consultant David Parks said.

One of the problems is the noise created by drivers as they cross each pedestrian oasis – a section of red, brick-like pavers designed to slow traffic down and give pedestrians a safe place to cross the street. The oases are much wider than traditional crosswalks, and therefore cause more noise. Cortez resident Zach Zacharias said he can hear it inside his home two blocks away.

The pedestrian oasis concept is backfiring, said Roger Allen, coordinator of the Florida Maritime Museum. Drivers see pedestrians standing on the new medians and perceive that they are safer than they were standing in the middle of the road before the medians were added. As a result, drivers not only aren’t slowing down, they go even faster, he said.

Other residents have complained that drivers aren’t allowed to turn right on the red light from 119th Street West onto Cortez Road, an intersection bound to get busier as the museum continues its expansion at the corner.

And new traffic islands at the west end of Cortez village have made it difficult to make left turns, resident Linda Molto said, adding that she often drives a few blocks to avoid having to turn left where traffic islands were installed.

Based on the results of the survey, DOT will consider further improvements, Parks said.

Whitmore, Meaker seek commission seat

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Democrat Sarah Meaker and Republican Carol Whitmore are vying for the Manatee County Commission District 6 at-large seat vacated when long-time Commissioner Pat Glass retired.

The pair will attend The Sun’s forum for Holmes Beach Commission candidates at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Holmes Beach City Hall. Voters can meet the candidates at 6:30 p.m. They will make opening statements and then respond to three questions from The Sun’s editorial staff prior to the city commission candidates’ forum.

Carol Whitmore
Carol Whitmore, 51, has served as mayor of Holmes Beach since 1998 and as a city commissioner from 1991 to 1998. She is an RN and currently works in the office of her husband, Dr. Andre Renard. She has a 23-year-old daughter.

Whitmore has served on the Anna Maria Island Community Center Board of Directors, the Manatee Opportunity Council, Manatee Heart Association Manatee Children’s Services, Solutions to Avoid Red Tide and Manatee AIDS Council. She was honored by the Manatee Veterans’ Council for coordinating the MED-VET program at Manatee Memorial Hospital.

Sarah Meaker
Sarah Meaker, 43, is a resource specialist for alternative certification for the Manatee County School system. She has a PhD in leadership education with a specialization in human resource development, a master’s degree in instructional leadership and BA in arts of political science. She is certified in social science, grades 6 through 12 and exceptional student education, grades K through 12. She is single and has a 6-year-old daughter.

She is a member of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators, Florida Association of School Personnel Administrators, National Association of Alternative Certification, Academy of Human Resource Development, Main Line Chamber of Commerce and Professional Association of Diving Professionals.

Five candidates in Holmes Beach race

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Five candidates are in a race for two seats on the Holmes Beach City Commission. Candidates include former Mayor and Commission Pat Geyer, incumbent Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens, resident Sheila Hurst, former Commissioner Don Maloney and Planning Commission Vice Chair John Monetti.

All will attend The Sun’s candidates’ forum at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Holmes Beach City Hall. Voters can meet the candidates at 6:30 p.m. The candidates will make opening statements and then respond to questions from the audience following a brief question and answer session with Manatee County Commission candidates Sarah Meaker and Carol Whitmore.

Sandy Haas-Martens
Incumbent Sandy Haas-Martens has served on the Holmes Beach City Commission since 1998. Prior to becoming a city commissioner, she served on the Anna Maria Fire District Commission from 1992 to 1998.

Haas-Martens is vice chairperson of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, is a member of the Anna Maria Island Kiwanis Club and the Great Outdoors Conservancy Oktoberfest Suncoast Committee and is secretary/treasurer of the board of Seaside Gardens Civic Association.

She is a graduate of the Florida League of Cities International Academy, Leadership Florida for Local Government Officials, the Institute of Elected Municipal Officials, Advanced Institute of Elected Municipal Officials, Leadership Manatee, the Citizen Law Enforcement Academy and the Manatee Citizens Academy.

Haas-Martens, 59, retired in 1995 as vice president and branch manager of First of America Bank.

Has-Martens said that although the city’s voters approved a study of Island consolidation, it was not placed on the Anna Maria ballot. She noted, "It has to be all or none. As for consolidating city services I don’t think it would work. We’ve tried it before."

Limiting the duration of residential rentals "would be nice, but I don’t think we can tell people what to do with their property," she said. "People who rent to visitors need to be good neighbors."

Haas-Martens said she needs more information before giving an opinion on the size of real estate signs, but maintains, "we must be consistent. If we went to 4 square feet, whatever they can get in that space is what they get."

The most critical issues for the city and Island are escalating property values, taxes and insurance she said, and observed, "Not only are the citizens’ costs going up, but the city’s costs are going up too. At issue is affordable living on the Island."

Haas-Martens said she would bring experience to the job "plus having worked and lived here since 1969 and being very involved in the community."

Pat Geyer
Pat Geyer, 75, served as the city’s mayor from 1990 to 1994 and as a commissioner for 20 years. She has owned property on the Island since 1954 and been a full-time resident since 1960. Geyer has owned the popular Duffy’s Tavern since 1971.

She is a member of St. Bernard Catholic Church and she and husband, Ed, have raised five daughters and have four granddaughters and one great granddaughter.

Her community involvement includes the Anna Maria Island Community Center, the Anna Maria Elementary School, the Privateer’s Scholarship program and Island Girl Scout troops.

Geyer said she would favor studying the consolidation of the cities’ public works departments, but not police departments or administration. She is not in favor of total consolidation of the three Island cities.

"We’ll never get the three towns together anymore," Geyer said. "Each city would want things their way."

On limiting the duration of residential rentals, Geyer said there should be a 30-day minimum rental period in the R-1 district.

"Too many people have been doing it for too long in the R-2 district to change it now," she said.

Regarding the debate over the size of real estate signs, Geyer said they all should be a uniform size and that one rider and one tube should be allowed per sign.

Insurance and taxes are two critical issues facing the city and the Island, she said.

"I like what CART (Coalition Against Runaway Taxes) is doing," she said. "I would double the homestead exemption and find a more realistic approach to how they value the business and homes.

"As of 12:01 today (Oct. 18), my insurance has been canceled. If the bank doesn’t make me take it out, I’m not going to worry about it."

Geyer said she would bring common sense, experience and knowledge of the Island’s history to the job.

John Monetti
John Monetti, 45, has served on the planning commission for four years and is currently vice chairman. He has been general manager of the Columbia restaurant on St Armand’s Circle for 12 years and is director of government relations affairs of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association Sarasota Chapter.

He has a bachelor’s degree in management from Notre Dame. He lives in the city with his wife, Rejane , and three children, a 15-year-old daughter and 7- and 2- year-old sons.

On consolidation, Monetti said, "The citizens of Holmes Beach have made it clear that they would like to see the issue studied. I think their wishes should be fulfilled."

Monetti said he stands by the planning commission’s recommendation for 30-day minimum rentals in the R-1 district. He said the 5 percent there that have rental licenses could be grandfathered.

However, he pointed out, "I’m running for commission to represent the citizens and what I’ve been hearing is a lot of people voicing their displeasure with that restriction for R-1. I have an open ear."

On real estate signs, he noted, "You don’t want a proliferation of signs detracting from the beauty, but we are a tourist community and people have to buy, sell and rent homes."

Regarding critical issues, Monetti explained, "In my view, Holmes Beach is a wonderful community. The base is there; it is well run; it has a good structure. But we should not become complacent and assume that it will always be that.

"Issues will come to the commission and be addressed. I would like to think that I have proven myself as one that can digest an issue, boil down an argument and render a decision."

He said his strength is his common sense approach to issues and noted, "Often people get so involved in a specific issue that they create tunnel vision and don’t look at the bigger picture and what will provide for the greater good for the community."

Don Maloney
Don Maloney, 78, is currently on the city’s code enforcement board and served on the city commission for five years. He and his wife, Sarah, have lived in the city since 1992. Their daughter and grandchildren also live in the city.

Maloney is retired from the Harris Corporation, where he worked in management for 30 years. He spent seven years in Japan, where he was CEO of a joint venture company between the Harris Corporation and a Japanese company. He wrote a weekly newspaper column for the Japan Times for three years and is the author of seven books.

Maloney said he is "not pushing Island consolidation, but I want to find out if there’s any sense in it. We finally got it on the ballot and 63 percent of the voters said look into it. I think we have a responsibility to do so."

Maloney said his only opinion on rentals in the city is that the city must address overnight rentals in the residential districts. He said a 30-day minimum in the residential districts would be desirable, but it is unenforceable.

Regarding real estate signs, he said, "The ones we have now are acceptable. The problem is that so many house are for sale, but that won’t continue."

One issue facing the city and the Island is managing growth, Maloney said and pointed out, "We can’t ignore the growth. We have to concentrate very seriously on the effects that growth has."

Another is hiring a professional manager.

"Half the items on our agendas could be resolved by a professional manager," he observed.

A third is escalating taxes on Island businesses, he said and advised, "We have to seriously consider taxing the businesses on their profits like we pay income taxes."

Maloney said he would bring to the job "experience and dedication to making this place better. I have the full time to do that."

Sheila Hurst
Sheila Hurst, 44, has been an addiction therapist at Manatee Glens for the past three years. She lived in the city for 13 years before moving to New York to get her master’s degree at SUNY Albany, then moved back to Holmes Beach with her husband, Mike, and two daughters, 14 and 20 years old.

Hurst is president of Save Anna Maria, serves on the board of directors of the Holmes Beach Civic Association and is a volunteer animal care handler for the well dolphin and sea turtle hospital programs at Mote Marine.

She said the consolidation of city services, such as the police or public works departments, is a possibility but is not in favor of total consolidation of the three cities.

"They need to keep their own identities. That’s why they are unique," she noted.

Hurst differs from the other candidates regarding residential rents and said there should be a 30-day minimum stay in all the residential districts.

Although she had no recommendation on size of real estate signs, Hurt said, "They should be the regular, uniform size with no attachments. The one sign is enough."

She said that critical issues facing the city and Island are the environment, high insurance and taxes and county intrusion.

"If we keep doing what we’re doing to the environment, there will be nothing left," she maintained. "Grassy Point has to be preserved, not enhanced. We need to get a handle on development or we’ll end up selling the Island to the highest bidder."

Regarding taxes and insurance, she said, "The small businesses are dying. They will sell out and we’ll end up with concrete and hotels. Tourists want to come to small friendly places and we have to keep it that way. Changes have to happen in Tallahassee."

Hurst said she would bring youth, enthusiasm, education and heart to the job.

 

 

Anna Maria to choose mayor, two commissioners

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Two candidates are running for the mayor’s office in the Island northernmost city — Fran Barford and Tom Turner.

The races for mayor and commission are non-partisan, and all candidates serve at large rather than representing specific districts.

Fran Barford
Fran Barford has a long political history. She was on numerous boards and committees in Temple Terrace before serving as a city commissioner for eight years and as mayor for six years.

She has a degree in occupational therapy from the University of Illinois. She worked as a therapist for 30 years in the Tampa area.

She currently serves as the chairman of the city’s planning and zoning board.

Barford and her husband, Tom, have owned property in the city since 1987. They moved here permanently in 2004.

Barford sees the mayor’s job as the CEO or executive officer of the city.

"According to the charter, the mayor administers the staff and the sheriff’s contract," Barford said. "The mayor is responsible for making sure we move forward. I will present a lean, no frills kind of budget."

Barford pointed to the $38 million budget she administered in Temple Terrace, but she also said it’s time to be careful of people’s pocketbooks.

"There is a tax revolution in our country," she said. "People are saying, ‘Stop!’"

She said she’d deal with this by lobbying hard at the county and state level for the citizens of Anna Maria.

She noted that insurance rates, tax rates and policy are largely set at the county and state level.

"I plan to use my governmental contacts and experience to work with our legislative delegation to lower those rates and to improve county service on the Island," she said.

Barford also stresses that one of her biggest priorities, as mayor will be to treat citizens courteously.

"Staff knows what I’m about. They know I’m going to expect good customer service. This is what I’ve done in 14 years of government service — customer service.”

Tom Turner
Candidate Tom Turner has owned property in the city for 38 years. He’s lived here permanently for 22 years.

Turner retired from the U.S. Air Force as a chief master sergeant after 23 years of active duty. He then worked in property and casualty claims and real estate.

Turner served for several years as a member of the planning and zoning board and also as its chairman.

Turner said he thinks the mayor’s job is one that should be part-time.

"There doesn’t need to be an assistant to the mayor with three on the staff in the front office already," he said. "The staff can handle 60 to 70 percent of the stuff that comes in and not drop it on the mayor to do it all."

The mayor should administer the city.

"They can speak soft and carry a big stick and they can get a lot done," he said.

Turner would like to see the number of consultants and the amount of money spent on them cut back.

"Too much planning," he said. "Put everything back in the P&Z board. Most of the present LDRs (land development regulations) were written by the P&Z board. I did most of it myself and ran it through the attorney. We don’t need all this consulting. Leave the P&Z to establish policies and formalize them."

Turner said he’d put the code enforcement officer on the street where nothing is being done about some of the numerous violations.

A special bone of contention for Turner, something he said he’d address early on as mayor, is in the building department.

"He (the building official) works for everybody in the city," Turner said. "He should be able to communicate with the public in a more professional manner than he does."

Commission race
Three candidates are vying for two seats on the city commission. Incumbents Linda Cramer and Duke Miller are running to retain their seats. Jo Ann Mattick is making a second run at a commission seat.

Linda Cramer
Cramer is seeking a fourth term on the commission. She’s lived in the city for 26 years. She’s an independent businesswoman. She has served as the commission’s liaison to the Community Center and to the AMI Historical Society.

Cramer said she’s seeking a fourth term because of the importance of the upcoming adoption of the city’s comprehensive plan and the coastal overlay district (COD).

"I especially want to see us protect our dune system," she said. "We can do that with the COD.

Cramer said that overall, she feels the work on the comp plan is pretty much done.

"I’m supportive of the work done with just a couple of reservations," she said. "I’d like to see the plan through its adoption."

She also said she’d like to see a more business-friendly commission.

"The business owners are a vital part of our community," Cramer said. "With the tough times, the tough taxes and insurance facing the business community, it’s in our best interest to give them all the support we can."

Providing oversight of the capital improvement projects funded by the city’s $1 million line of credit is another reason Cramer said she is seeking a fourth term.

"We have to remain very diligent and fiscally responsible to see that projects are completed properly and continue to look for ways to get grants," she said.

Cramer also said she feels that the commission needs to be cautious about hiring outside consultants.

"Certainly it benefits the commission to have an engineer and an attorney and a planner, but we have to be careful how much we are spending," she said.

Jo Ann Mattick
Jo Ann Mattick has been a property owner in the city since 1999. She and her family own Pine Avenue General Store.

Mattick worked for many years in hospital management in Ohio before moving permanently to the Island with several of her children and grandchildren.

She was responsible for securing a $300,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation for the city.

Mattick said she would bring a fair and balanced view to the city commission.

She said she is not in favor of the coastal overlay district because she’s concerned that impositing it would be a violation of property rights.

"This is a perfect example of the ‘big brother’ mentality on the part of some of our elected officials who believe they know better than we do how our property should be developed," she said.

Mattick said she will work to defeat the COD and do all she can to protect private property rights.

Mattick also said that she’d work to generate more money for capitol improvement projects from grants rather from taxes.

"I think there’s a lot of money out there," she said. "We can go after a lot of the grant money to pay for what we need. That way we won’t have to raise taxes."

Mattick would like to see the commission set forth clear guidelines for the administration.

"There have been some problems with the building official getting information," she said. "Nobody’s willing to take the time to explain. Everything should be an open book and everyone should get a response to questions. I think that every citizen deserves an answer to every question.”

One of Mattick’s prime goals if elected would be to oversee the comp plan through the rest of the process of adoption.

"Then we have to re-write all our land development regulations," she said. "We have to clear out the discrepancies in the policies that don’t match."

Duke Miller
Duke Miller is seeking a third term on the city commission. Miller has been an Anna Maria property owner since 1957. He began coming to the Island as a child while he was growing up in Lakeland. Miller and his wife, Linda, moved here permanently in 2000.

Miller said that in this election, the main issue to him is the comp plan.

"The comp plan is not a single issue," he notes. "There are hundreds of issues inside the comp plan. A lot of our neighbors spent a lot of time working to get it to this point, and I’m 100 percent confident that this is going to be reflected in the way we’re going for the next 10-20 years."

Miller said he supports the business community in the city.

"It makes me cringe every time someone on the Island says we’re not business- friendly," he said. "We’ve gone out of our way, but the charges are leveled at us every time a site plan comes before us. We have to make sure a site plan meets the law and we do that."

Another thing Miller said he’d like to see is for the city to be more user-friendly.

"It’s up to the administration to see that we are as user-friendly as possible," he said. "But the buck stops at the commission and we need to consider – in concert with the mayor – just how we can accomplish that."

Miller said he thinks that the line of credit the city has secured is one of the best things the commission has done. He also said he is in favor of the coastal overlay district.

"It makes sense to me to do what’s in the comp plan and to protect the rest of the coastal area," he said. "All anyone has to do is look at Pass Christian and Biloxi to see what over-building in the coastal area can do in a hurricane."

Man breaks neck after three-story jump

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A 37-year-old Parrish man broke his neck last month when he jumped from a third-story balcony toward a swimming pool and missed after an evening of drinking, according to a Bradenton Beach police report.

The victim, Mike Edward Volker, was airlifted by a Bayflight helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center in Tampa. His nephew, 23-year-old Kyle Ranch, of Battle Creek Mich., told Bradenton Beach police officer Roy Joslin at the scene that they had consumed a 24-pack of beer prior to Volker attempting his jump. According to the report, he told Joslin that he and Volker were "responsible adults and it was OK for them to drink a 24-pack of beer."

When Joslin arrived at Club Bamboo, 2502 Gulf Drive, where the pair was staying with two unidentified females, Volker was in the pool bleeding from a laceration to his head and Battle was holding him above the water.

Battle said that after drinking the beer, they were "acting crazy and playing around in the pool and Volker had decided to jump into the pool from the third story balcony" of the resort’s walkway. He said that Volker had to climb over a metal gate that was erected to keep people from falling over the side.

Ranch said that Volker had said all night that he was going to jump from there to the pool, "but Ranch did not think Volker was really going to carry out the act." When he did jump, he missed the pool and landed on his head. One of the women with the two men called 911 after seeing Volker’s injuries.

Police called Club Bamboo manager Richard Dorsey and initially told him that they would not file a report on the incident, which was listed as assisting EMS. Dorsey called police later and said that Volker had broken his neck and he would like a report written in case of legal action by the victim. He also said that Volker was with the other three occupants when they rented the room and that only Ranch and the two women were supposed to be on the property.

 

The fight to beat red tide

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute has received a $4.7 million, five-year grant to study the causes of red tide.
Part of the grant, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ecology and Oceanography of Harmful Algal Blooms program, will fund research on what types of nutrients feed the Karenia brevis microorganism that causes Florida's red tide.
The amount awarded for the first year of research is $814,000.
About $100,000 of the first year’s funds will go to Mote Marine Laboratory to support its red tide nutrient monitoring program, especially its research on the release of nutrients from sediment, Public Relations Manager Nadine Slimak said.
Mote’s overall research is aimed at finding better methods of detecting and predicting red tide blooms and finding ways to reduce or prevent impacts on human and animal life.
At a July red tide workshop at Mote, international red tide researchers agreed that more information is needed about the nutrient sources that support the growth of red tide.
Red tide is caused by the population growth of the Karenia brevis microorganism, which produces a neurotoxin that can paralyze and kill fish, manatees and dolphins and can cause respiratory and gastrointestinal problems in people who inhale it or eat shellfish tainted with red tide.
A record bloom on Florida’s Gulf coast lasted throughout 2005, creating a dead zone in the Gulf. Another, smaller and less intense bloom has been present since July 2006 from Pinellas County south to Collier County.

 

 

Property owners have 30 days to correct violations

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — City commissioners stuck to their guns and ordered the owners of 504 South Bay to remove a wall built in a disputed right of way and to correct other violations at the building site.

Terry and Patricia Oleson were told to get the property in compliance within 30 days, or the city would take legal action.

The problems at the property have come before the city commission repeatedly over the past six months.

Underlying the issue is the question of ownership of a beach access easement that runs beside the property between South Bay Boulevard and Tampa Bay.

The Olesons claim the property is legally theirs and they have the right to use it. The city says no, that property is a right of way, the use of which was granted to the city on the original plat map.

City Attorney Jim Dye explained to commissioners:

"It’s just like the road in front," he said. "The land is owned to the middle of South Bay Boulevard, but its use is granted to the public. The property owner can’t close it off."

Craig Colburn, the Oleson’s attorney said that the five feet of the easement is clearly the Oleson’s property, and they have the right to use it as they wish.

Several months ago, the city issued a building permit for a complete renovation of the house on that land and for the construction of a cement block fence in the middle of the easement.

Building Official Kevin Donohue said he issued the building permit based on a professional survey submitted with the plans.

"I rely on professionals," he said at the Oct. 19 commission meeting. "The plans show the property to be 67 feet wide, but it’s been brought to my attention that the survey shows the property to be 62 feet wide. The site plan is five feet wider than the survey."

The matter came up when a citizen complained that the Olesons had erected the wall in the middle of the beach access path. When Donohue investigated, he found the discrepancy. Because the lot is narrower than what is shown on the site plan, the structure of the house intrudes into the setback. Both are problems.

City commissioners told the Olesons and their attorney in past meetings that if they would tear down the wall and apply for a variance for the intrusion into the right of way, that the commission would look favorably upon that action.

The Olesons have refused that course of action, claiming that to apply for a variance should not be necessary since they own half of that easement.

The commission had authorized Dye to talk to Colburn and the Olesons about those courses of action, but the city attorney said there has been no movement in the impasse.

Dye said there are three courses of action open to the city, as he sees it: a variance request, legal action, or a vacation of the land to the Olesons.

Commissioner John Quam moved to order the city attorney to draft a letter to the effect that the Olesons must remove the wall and bring all other violations into compliance within 30 days.

Colburn charged that the city wanted to make the Olesons tear down their house. He said that the commission had the power to interpret their codes in a way that would allow the Olesons to leave things the way they are, especially since the city permitted the situation as it stands today.

Commissioner Dale Woodland took exception.

"We have bent over backward to help with this," he said. "But we can’t violate our own codes and procedures. We have repeatedly urged the Olesons to apply for a variance."

In the end, the commission voted 4-1 on the motion to give the Olesons 30 days to bring their property into compliance. During the 30 days, they can apply for a variance for the intrusion of north side of the house into the right of way.

Commissioner Linda Cramer voted against the motion.


 

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