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Commissioners plan for county meeting

HOLMES BEACH – City and county commissioners are preparing for a face-to-face meeting tentatively scheduled for March, and Holmes Beach commissioners are getting their talking points in order for discussion on several topics.

At a Jan. 25 work session, Mayor Judy Titsworth and city commissioners discussed coming up with a game plan for how to approach the meeting. Commissioners decided they need to present a united front to the county representatives, however, rather than appointing Titsworth to speak on behalf of the city, she asked that all commissioners be prepared to lead and participate in the discussions that they’re passionate about.

Titsworth said she is hoping for a productive dialogue with county commissioners and wants to make sure Holmes Beach city leaders take full advantage of the opportunity. The joint meeting will be open to the public.

Some items for discussion proposed by Titsworth and Holmes Beach commissioners include:

  • Increasing the amount of funding offered by the county for Holmes Beach police officers to patrol county-maintained beaches, beach parking and boat ramps.
  • Expanding the use of tourist development tax funds, a large majority of which is collected from vacation rentals on Anna Maria Island, to include money for bike lanes, sidewalks, street lighting, landscape, pedestrian accesses, stormwater improvements and other projects to make Holmes Beach a safer, more welcoming place for both tourists and residents.
  • Stemming the effects of red tide, blue-green algae and other issues that adversely affect the water quality in and around Holmes Beach and the aquatic ecosystem.
  • Reviewing the improvements planned to take place at the Kingfish Boat Ramp and how they affect parking and picnic facilities at the park. Specifically, Titsworth said she’d like to see the removal of some parking spaces on the south side of Manatee Avenue delayed until construction on the new Anna Maria Island Bridge begins. Removal of the spaces, she said, would adversely affect the boaters who come to Kingfish to launch their boats. Also, the addition of parallel parking spaces by the existing picnic area would remove trees needed for shade and trees used by great blue herons for nesting.
  • Creating a better flow of communication between city and county officials concerning events and additional parking planned at Manatee Beach and the Island Branch Library.
  • Examining unchecked development and growth in Manatee County as it pertains to the increase in the number of potential users for Island beaches. Titsworth suggested speaking with county commissioners about the beach carrying capacity for the Island and asking county officials to fund a beach carrying capacity study, as meets the Florida Department of Environmental Protection beach carrying capacity standard, to determine if the number of people regularly coming to Island beaches is too much for the beach, natural resources and existing infrastructure to handle.

One of the major items anticipated to be discussed is beach parking.

Titsworth said she believes county leaders will push for Holmes Beach commissioners to open more residential street parking during the day for beachgoers, and she reminded commissioners the city provides more than the number of public parking spaces required to receive beach renourishment funding from the state of Florida.

Though required to only provide 324 spaces to receive beach renourishment funding, the city’s interlocal agreement with Manatee County requires just over 500 spaces to be made available for beach parking. Currently, the city of Holmes Beach provides more than 1,200 public parking spaces for beach access.

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