The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 42 - July 21, 2010


Recall election date set

ANNA MARIA — The recall election of City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus has been set for Sept. 7.

Chief Judge Lee Haworth established the date on Friday.

Before the election can be held, however, it will have to get the go-ahead from Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas, who has yet to rule on whether the recall petition is legal.

Stoltzfus attorney Richard Harrison maintains that the whole process should be thrown out because the petition was too vague for the commissioner to mount an effective defense.

Harrison says the accusations of malfeasance and misfeasance in office are not defined and therefore are not legally sufficient."To that end, he asked for an expedited hearing on his claim, which Nicholas denied, saying such a hearing should be held after all petition signatures are verified but before the recall election date. That ruling later was upheld in district court.

The required two sets of signatures now have been certified by Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat, and Nicholas is expected to make his ruling either in late August or early September.

The recall committee began the process after learning about a series of e-mails that Stoltzfus sent and later was forced to make public after a records request.

In one of those e-mails, Stoltzfus offered to help fund a lawsuit against the city if his name could be kept out of it.

In another, he wrote comments contrary to the city’s position on a case pending before the Florida Department of Community Affairs. In that instance, he wanted DCA to consider his comments only if doing so would not require that he recuse himself from a vote if the matter were to come before the city commission again.

The city commission has scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, July 20, to vote on a resolution setting the qualifying dates from July 21 to 30.

If there are to be candidates running to replace Stoltzfus on the commission, should he be recalled, the city clerk will handle the qualifying of those candidates.

Woodland backs parking petition

ANNA MARIA — City Commissioner Dale Woodland has signed a petition asking that all parking for new development and redevelopment be on-site and not on the right of way in the city’s ROR (residential/office/retail) district that runs the length of Pine Avenue and takes in some of Gulf Drive and some of South Bay Boulevard.

A group of residents unhappy with the way plans for reworking regulations governing parking and traffic circulation in the district formed a committee to generate a petition initiative.

The city charter spells out the petition initiative process, and five residents formed a committee. Anna Marie DeAugustine, Larry Albert, Carl Pearman, Judith Chable and Charlie Daniel are asking residents to sign the petition, which would require parking to be on-site and accessible only by driveway.

If the committee secures the signatures of 15 percent of the registered voters in the city, they will present it to the city commission, which must either act on it or refuse to act on it, in which case it goes before the voters in the form of a referendum.

Woodland confirmed he signed the petition and agreed he told a committee member he supports them 100 percent.

“But I didn’t mean I support every word in the petition,” he said. “I support the idea of petition initiatives, and I support a revision of Chapter 90,” he said.

Chapter 90 is the section of the city’s land development regulations that govern traffic circulation and parking.

“I also think we are moving way too fast on this,” Woodland said of the efforts to revise Chapter 90. “We need to work harder on getting things spelled out. That’s the key.”

The commission and the planning and zoning board have been meeting regularly since last fall to revise that section of the land development regulations. Woodland asked that the city bring an expert in to talk about how a corridor plan for Pine Avenue would work. That plan was proposed and drawn by Gene Aubry, a city resident who’s an architect with a national reputation and experience with this type of thing.

So Aubry invited his friend Dan Burden, who is himself a national expert on walkable communities, to come to the two boards and explain how such a plan would work.

The plan considers Pine Avenue as a whole and provides parallel parking on some stretches of the road and angled parking on other sections of the road.

Burden urged Anna Maria residents to start thinking outside the box and to think of a community where people can walk a shady street to do their shopping – a place where people can remove themselves from the isolation of their cars.

After that meeting, all commissioners, including Woodland, and all but one member of the P&Z board approved the concept of the plan and sent a directive to the city planner to outline questions the P&Z board can use to make a recommendation back to the city commission.

“That was just sprung on us,” Woodland said. “We didn’t have time to really study it.”

Woodland said he voted for the concept because he wanted to keep the process moving.

“But I think we need to require businesses to take care of their own parking and not use city right of way, we need to require at least one driveway for properties that are 75 feet wide or greater, and we need to require that all maneuvering be on-site,” he said.

Woodland also questioned the interpretation of the city code by the building official, the planner and the city attorney.

“No one has really answered the question of why we are doing things the way we do them,” he said. “They say we’ve always done it that way, but why have we done it that way?”

Locals react to oil cap

Three months after the Deepwater Horizon oil well began to gush into the Gulf of Mexico, the well is capped and the Florida Legislature is convening to discuss a constitutional amendment to ban oil drilling in state waters.

“It’s about time,” said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, a Bradenton Beach resident. “BP should have anticipated the worst before they drilled. It’s all about money, and we’re all going to pay.”

It’s also time to ban oil drilling in the Gulf in both state and federal waters, he said.

The Legislature convened a special session this week to vote on placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to ban drilling in state waters, which would require 60 percent approval from voters. Offshore drilling is already banned in the state, but legislative action could change that, while a constitutional ban would require voter approval before it could be reversed.

Chappie said he hopes political maneuvering does not derail efforts to “help Florida and nature.”

“Everybody says it’s political, but I don’t care, as long as they’re talking,” said Manatee County Commissioner and Anna Maria Island resident Carol Whitmore.

“I think it should be in the voters’ hands.”

With next year’s legislative leadership on the record as pro-drilling, now is the time to let the public decide, said Whitmore, who was instrumental in the commission’s two resolutions against drilling in state waters.

Whitmore and Chappie also favor the latest federal development, the suspension of deepwater drilling in federal waters until as late as Nov. 30.

“It’s about time,” agreed Lawton “Bud” Chiles, an unaffiliated candidate for Florida governor, and brother of Island restaurateur and developer Ed Chiles.

“The Legislature has come very close in the last two sessions to passing drilling within three miles of the coast,” said Chiles, who opposes drilling everywhere in the Gulf and supports the constitutional amendment. “Clearly we need to stop that nonsense.”

Meanwhile, he said, local residents and business owners must communicate to visitors that “the coast is clear” and continue to document their lost earnings claims against BP.

Even if offshore drilling becomes safer, there isn’t enough oil in the eastern Gulf to justify the risks from a blowout, spill or shipping accident, said longtime oil opponent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who introduced the Subsea Hydrocarbon Imagery and Planning Act in Congress last week to direct NOAA to find and map subsea oil and predict trajectories.

Mote Marine Laboratory’s robotic oil tracking system could be used in the project, he said.

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