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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Police pension board wants 'our way or no way'

Members of the Holmes Beach Police Pension Board told city commissioners at their Feb. 22 meeting that they wanted the commission to consider their originally proposed ordinance for additional retirement funding, or consider nothing at all.

The pension board wants the commission to approve an ordinance that would meet state minimum benefit requirements and increase police retirement funding by about $24,000 annually. According to the board's ordinance, the funding would come from the city budget if there was not enough money refunded to the city by the state excess premium property tax, which city homeowners pay through their property insurance.

The commission previously had agreed to the benefits and additional funding, but had linked the increase directly to the state premium property tax money, not the city budget.

Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson, a pension board member, asked the commission to send the original ordinance to a first reading and "vote it up or down."

Pension board attorney Lee Dehner agreed. "We want either a first reading or the commission to take no action at this time." If the commission votes down the ordinance, the pension board will return at a later date with another proposal, he said.

Commissioner Don Maloney acceded to Dehner's request. "We owe that to them" after all the meetings, debate and legal opinions on the issue.

Other commissioners agreed and the first reading of the ordinance as proposed by the pension board was scheduled for the March 8 commission meeting.

Lot coverage

Commissioners seemed unswayed by a request from property owner Rebecca Smith that the percent of building coverage for non-conforming lots be changed.

The current lot coverage requirement is 30 percent, but for those who own a 50-by-100-foot lot, they are restricted to a house with just a 1,500-square-foot footprint, said Smith. Lots of 8,000 square feet can have a structural footprint of 2,100 square feet, she noted.

This is a "disparity," and causes "hardship" when trying to build a house on a non-conforming lot and she believes such "hardship" was not the intent of the code.

Smith, who owns three non-conforming lots, requested the commission remove the 30-percent coverage rule for 50-by-100-foot lots. The setback requirements would remain in place, she said.

Commissioners seemed unimpressed by her arguments, but agreed to investigate further.

Granting such changes would just "mushroom," said Commissioner Pat Morton.

Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger pointed out that this is a land development issue that would require a comprehensive plan amendment. It would first have to go to the planning committee to determine if it would meet the city's comprehensive plan requirements.

Mayor Carol Whitmore questioned why the commission would want to discuss such a code change, but Bohnenberger said there were "issues" that should be looked at.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said it would be a good idea to have city planner Bill Brisson look at Smith's proposal, as he is currently rewriting the city's comprehensive plan and land development codes.

Commission Chairperson Sandy Haas-Martens agreed and will make Brisson's report available to Smith and the public when it's completed.

Skateboard park fees

Commissioners agreed to a $10 registration fee for every user of the skateboard park and will hold a first reading of the ordinance at the March 8 regular meeting. Currently, city residents are charged $10 for registration, while non-residents must cough up $30 to register.

Waste Management contract

Petruff said she had several issues with the proposed new contract with Waste Management Inc. for trash and waste hauling service that calls for automated pickup trucks and service.

The contract requires the city to decide who gets an exception to the requirement for a 96-64-or-35-gallon trash container, then process the paperwork, she said.

People who are granted exceptions can utilize a plastic garbage bag instead of the required WMI container for their waste, noted Maloney, but everyone will still get a $1 per month increase in their bill.

If the contract is approved, WMI has estimated it would take six to eight months before automated service could begin. At present, WMI has automated pickup service in Palmetto.

Petruff said she would clarify issues with WMI and present an ordinance at the March 8 meeting.

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