Holmes Beach: The Year in Review

Holmes Beach: The Year in Review
Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge warns city commissioners of consequences from the county if they banned parking garages. Commissioners went through with the decision despite his comments. – Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – City leaders may be more than ready to put 2022 in their rearview mirrors. The year was full of ups and downs in the biggest little city on Anna Maria Island.

The Island Branch Library celebrated 40 years in its Marina Drive location beginning in January and concluding with a springtime party featuring speakers including elected officials, residents and members of the Friends of the Island Library.

At the city commission level, leaders began the year embroiled in a lawsuit with local developer Shawn Kaleta over fines for unpermitted work and operations at the Bali Hai Beach Resort. In 2023 that case remains in court.

City leaders made the decision in early February to reduce the speed limit citywide to 25 miles per hour on city streets. The reduced speed limit does not apply to Manatee Avenue which is a state road and controlled by the Florida Department of Transportation. A registration program for golf carts was also enacted at the same time, requiring residents to obtain a sticker for their vehicles in order to drive them on city streets.

Issues between city and Manatee County leaders came to a head in March and April when a meeting between the two groups of elected officials ended with no solutions for either side’s problems discussed. Mayor Judy Titsworth and commissioners held firm on their stance to not reopen residential streets for public parking. Residents, however, are allowed to park on the street with a valid parking permit. Relations with county commissioners further deteriorated when city officials began discussing a ban on multi-level parking garages. County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge appeared before city commissioners during a June meeting to warn them against instituting the ban, saying that there would be negative consequences to the decision.

Holmes Beach: The Year in Review
Great blue herons nesting in an Australian pine at the Kingfish Boat Ramp temporarily halted the removal of trees at the site though those plans were ultimately abandoned by the county after funding for a renovation project was lost due to excessive delays. – Kristin Swain | Sun

In addition to parking, county and city leaders also clashed over plans to renovate the Kingfish Boat Ramp. The project would have seen more than 100 trees at the county-owned boat ramp removed along with a popular shaded picnic area. Public outcry against the project fell on deaf ears at the county, though the renovations ultimately didn’t take place due to a loss of funding after numerous project delays.

The April closure of a private beach access point on 78th Street pitted neighbor against neighbor as nearby residents united to first protest the closure and then sue property owners Travis Resmondo and the neighboring Oceana Condominium Association in Manatee County Circuit Court for access. While Judge Charles Sniffen ruled against issuing a temporary injunction in August, neighbors vowed to continue the fight in court for beach access through the path to be restored.

The November election brought two new faces to the city commission in the form of Dan Diggins and Greg Kerchner. The two, along with Mayor Judy Titsworth, ran unopposed after former Commissioner Kim Rash decided to not run for re-election and former Commissioner Jayne Christenson dropped out of the race to retain her seat on the dais.

Holmes Beach: The Year in Review
Signs block the beach access at 78th Street in Holmes Beach from public use after a busy Easter weekend resulted in trespassers invading adjacent private properties. – Kristin Swain | Sun

Construction began on long-awaited road improvements at city center, the intersection of Gulf and Marina drives, in the fall, causing traffic delays and headaches for drivers. Though planned to take place separately, the road construction intersected with a county water main project in the area, resulting in additional delays and road closures. Public Works Director Sage Kamiya said he received a round of applause from drivers and onlookers when he authorized the reopening of both lanes of Marina Drive just in time for the Christmas holiday.