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Date of Issue: September 27, 2007

Citizens seek to close door on adult business

The city commission left behind talk of signs and docks last week for a G-rated discussion on an R- and X-rated businesses in Holmes Beach.

City commissioners are exploring the best method to deter sexually explicit businesses in the city while steering clear of a lawsuit and the courts.

“We need to see if we can dig deeper,” said Sandy Haas-Martens, chair of the Holmes Beach City Commission.

Haas-Martens and other members of the commission, as well as Mayor Rich Bohnenberger, have been hearing from people concerned about the potential for an adult-entertainment operation in Holmes Beach.

A discussion on the topic during a commission meeting Sept. 18 drew residents of Holmes Beach and Anna Maria.

“Holmes Beach does not need this kind of business,” said Holmes Beach resident Pat McConnell.

Vacationers have also expressed concerns to city officials after learning of a fax letter indicating a company’s interest in opening a Web-based, sexually explicit business.

“This isn’t my back yard or even my hometown,” said Chicagoan Phil Burgess. “But I come here to get away from the dirt and grime and smut of city life. I think they should have an abstinence-only policy, so to speak.”

The fax that fueled the fretting arrived to Holmes Beach City Hall on July 13 on stationary for a company called Power Vision. It was signed by Ts Todorova, director of Power Vision. The address given for Power Vision was Bulgaria, 1000 Sofia, 25 Vitosha Blvd.

The letter began, “We are a Bulgarian company. In the goals of our management it is included the creation of a settlement of American corporation based in the city of Holmes Beach. The manner and the structure of its establishment is a question of future decision.”

The American company, according to the correspondence, would contract with iModels Limited in the Bahamas in partnership with Web Power Inc. in the United States.

The letter suggested that Power Vision wants to rent office space where it can set up a Web-based operation - with computers, cameras, speakers - to produce and broadcast “specific anatomical zones and specific sexual activities.”

Concerned, city commissioners asked city planning consultant Bill Brisson and city attorney Patricia Petruff for advice on drafting a measure dealing with sexually oriented businesses. The directive was to identify an area where such a business would be allowed, but probably wouldn’t want to locate because of high costs and inconvenience.

Brisson proposed creating a small zone “on East Bay Drive, either in the immediate vicinity of the Publix or within the shopping center to the south, up to but not including the southernmost part of the shopping center.”

Sexually oriented businesses would be restricted to a C-3 commercial zoning district and at least 2,500 feet from schools and 500 feet from single-family homes, parks, churches and libraries.

Citizens last week objected to the proposed ordinance in part because it did not include protections for residential areas other than single-family zones.

“I live in R-4,” McConnellsaid. “I don’t know why R-4 doesn’t get the same protection.”

McConnell suggested prohibiting sexually oriented businesses from locating near any residential zones. “If that means we don’t have any place in Holmes Beach, then so be it,” he said.

Commissioner John Monetti said he’s heard a lot of comments similar to McConnell’s and that citizens support a strict ordinance, even if it results in a legal challenge.

Even before hearing from citizens, the city commissioners had decided not to take up the proposed ordinance last week. Instead, they asked Petruff to further research the issue, especially exploring whether the city must make allowances for such a business if the county already provides potential locations.

In other business last week, the city commission took up two long-pending ordinances, one governing docking and mooring rights and one regulating signs.

The docking ordinance, which received a final reading Sept. 18 and was approved 5-0, requires that mooring areas be not less than 10 feet wide and the dock not less than 2 feet wide. The dock cannot extend into the waterway more than 20 feet from the outer edge of the seawall.

The ordinance also requires that accessory mooring and boat docks be associated with a principal use on an abutting lot, but allows for “grandfathering” mooring areas and docks not associated with principal uses at certain locations.

A key component to the ordinance is a provision for property owners to negotiate their own agreements for mooring areas and docks, which can then be registered with the city. Another provision “allows boats and davits to extend beyond the 20-foot limitation imposed on docks at the terminus of a dead-end canal” provided the boats don’t interfere with navigation or impinge on others’ mooring rights.

The proposed sign ordinance, which received a first reading last week, details the size, number and location of signs allowed in commercial and residential areas.

The sign ordinance would amend the city’s land-development code. Key revisions include a new definition of a flag, regulations for advertising in murals and changes in real estate signage.

The city commission’s next meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 9, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

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