BRADENTON BEACH – Voters will soon decide whether Mayor Bill Shearon serves a third term as mayor or Vice Mayor John Chappie returns to the mayor’s seat he held for three terms before spending eight years as a county commissioner.
Next week’s winner will also help determine who’s appointed to serve the remaining year of the Ward 4 term Chappie must vacate, win or lose, when the election winners are sworn in on Nov. 20.
Shearon hopes to continue the progress he feels has been made under his leadership. This includes the 2017-18 fiscal year budget that is the first Shearon voted in favor of as mayor. He considers the current budget to be balanced and devoid of the “deficit spending” he objected to in past budgets.
Chappie disagrees with claims of deficit spending and he cited state law that requires cities to operate with balanced budgets. Chappie said he would play a more active role in the budget process by working directly with department heads instead of simply relying on them to present their budgetary needs and desires.
“The budget is the most important document any government adopts. It’s the outline for how we’re going to operate and a reflection of where we are and where we’re going,” Chappie said.
In August, the commission adopted the amended quality of life ordinance that establishes the city’s first enforceable vacation rental regulations, which staff is now implementing.
“It addresses three major factors: noise, trash and parking. With the revised land development code and the ordinance, we have given staff the tools they need to enforce these issues. With enforcement, life is going to be enjoyable for everybody,” Shearon said.
“Our commission decided to go another route, using the air conditioning load and certificate of occupancy to determine maximum occupancy,” Chappie said. “This basically comes out to two-plus-two and hopefully will insulate us from Bert Harris claims. We have to continue to be vigilant to lessen the negative impact of these party houses and the state legislature’s continued attacks on our home rule rights.”
“I hope we’ve put to bed the discussion of a parking garage. The mayor brought it up in the beginning, over by the marina, and the discussion took off from there. I’ve always been against a parking garage, whether it’s a city facility or private,” Chappie said.
“I did propose a parking facility at the Public Works property for consideration. That was when the anchorage, the day dock and a parking facility were being discussed with TDC funds,” Shearon said.
Shearon said the public works property is the only location where he could support a parking garage, but even there he has concerns that a 200-space parking facility would encourage more people to drive to Bradenton Beach.
“The only way we can take care of the anchorage issue, which is the blight of the city, is to have a controlled anchorage or mooring field; and that’s going to require a submerged land lease. That’s the only way we can control the environment and issues out there,” Shearon said.
Shearon said he was disappointed the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) did not expand the CRA district boundaries to include the anchorage, and if there’s one project he could get approved, it would be a managed mooring field.
“We’ve seen improvement with our additional patrolling of the anchorage and our CRA district. We need to keep that up and the new boat lift is going to play a big part,” Chappie said, noting that his individual meetings with county commissioners helped secure funding for a police department boat lift to soon be installed alongside the pier.
Regarding a managed mooring field, Chappie said, “As I recall, one of the problems is that we don’t have the acreage or the number of mooring areas to make it profitable or self-sufficient. We need to determine a true projected cost. Let’s bring somebody in that understands the actual costs and how we can partner with someone so the city doesn’t lose money.”
“I’m a strong believer if a city’s not going to have a city manager that has the controls, then the strong mayor form of government is exactly what’s needed. Somebody has to lead,” Shearon said.
“I like the weak mayor form of government because of the checks and balances,” Chappie said.” If done as the charter says, the mayor goes by the polices and mandates adopted by the commission. It is truly a work of the entire board. It’s not one individual.”