Charter county concerns city officials

Manatee County logo

BRADENTON BEACH – Vice Mayor John Chappie is concerned about the push to make Manatee County a charter county, and he wants City Attorney Ricinda Perry to monitor these efforts.

During the May 18, City Commission meeting, Chappie, a former county commissioner, requested that Perry attend the County Commission’s charter government workshop on Wednesday, June 14. The workshop will take place in the Longboat Key Room at the Bradenton Area Convention Center, 1 Haben Blvd., Palmetto, at 6 p.m.

After further discussion, the other commission members supported Chappie’s request.

Charter counties are guided by charter documents that serve the same role as a city charter, but on a larger scale. A charter sets forth in writing a city or county’s powers, rights and duties.

Twenty of Florida’s 67 counties have become charter counties since the state of Florida granted that authority in 1968. Supporters believe charter counties provide citizens with greater input in decision-making processes. Opponents feel charter counties imperil city governments’ home rule rights. Nearby charter counties include Sarasota, Hillsborough and Charlotte.

“This is something this city needs to be aware of, and I would like to see our attorney be there. I think it’s important that our commissioners are also there at this discussion. At the very least, we need to have our attorney researching this to see how a charter government for Manatee County would affect the municipalities,” Chappie said.

“It is a really big issue,” Perry said.

She referred to an accord reached many years ago after a previous County Commission led an unsuccessful effort to force the cities into a charter county government.

Perry said becoming a charter county would subject the city to another level of governmental approval. Amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan or land development code would require the county’s blessing and would have to comply with the county’s governing documents.

“It takes the autonomy completely away from the cities. They have the ultimate control over our land development regulations,” Perry said.

“As your attorney, I would hate to see us become a charter county. I don’t want to lose our identity and become a puppet to what the what the county wants to have happen. I just don’t think a charter government is a healthy thing for municipalities,” she added.

Mayor Bill Shearon said a charter county would also have approval authority pertaining to the city-affiliated Community Redevelopment Agency

Chappie said the Manatee County League of Women Voters was among the groups pushing for a charter county.

The League’s website, www.lwvmanatee.org, contains links to a petition form, an METV charter discussion and a charter county information sheet.

“The way the different groups are pushing this charter government, it would not surprise me if they try to get something on the ballot in November. I am not willing to sit on my hands like the city of Bradenton Beach did with regards to House Bill 883,” Chappie said.

Adopted by the state legislature in 2011, HB 883 produced the state law that prevents cities from prohibiting short-term vacation rentals.

“We need to be on top of this. We can’t afford to wait until the last minute. We sat on our hands once before when Tallahassee rolled over us. We need to be aware of what’s going on and understand the issues of charter government, whether it is or is not a good thing for us. We need to act now and be proactive. This is an ‘oh wow’ moment folks,” Chappie said.