Guest Op/Ed: Island Ploy Part of Bigger Plan

Guest Editorial
I would like to thank The Bradenton Times for its coverage of the controversial local bills being introduced by Representative Will Robinson regarding island cities. It is extremely important that we educate all on the dire consequences of loss of home rule.

Cities were founded on the belief that local government understands best, the needs of local citizens. The state then determined that cities could legislate themselves. We are currently in a time where the state had giveth and now, with precedent, the state can taketh away.

Representative Robinson has stated that the reason for the first bill on mandating a parking garage at the public beach is because the city would not budge on the reduction in parking in Holmes Beach. On the contrary, the City of Holmes Beach agreed to the use of AME school, the library, and city hall for additional overflow parking. A suggestion was also made that the county purchase the large Bank of America lot that has close and safe access to the public beach for overflow parking. Although county and state leaders choose to lob insults at the City of Holmes Beach, we have historically been, and continue to be, a part of the solution for the county's failure to plan. 

Representative Robinson has stated that the sole reason for the second bill, a study on consolidating the three island cities, is due to declining populations on the island. He even went so far as to state that this is a proactive approach instead of a reactive one, as this will get ahead of the time when there are no longer enough residents to maintain 3 cities. What he said is entirely different than what I heard. Being that this study was not initiated by the city leaders and local bills are historically not controversial, it brings me to ponder whether the proactive approach that our state representatives are taking was generated years ago with the intended outcome being the elimination of cities.

You see, when state legislation caused the cities to lose their ability to regulate vacation rentals that were taking over the residential districts, this brought an onslaught of developers from all over the country gobbling up every beach house in site. The market value and rental prices soared, and the local hard-working citizens were pushed out of their homes and forced to move inland. The holdouts remain but are subject to declining quality of life due to noise, trash, nutrient loads in bays, congestion, and less ability to know their neighbors.

As mayor, it is my job to support our residents and businesses and to make decisions to maintain and improve the quality of their lives. Because of these efforts, full-time residents are returning. I have witnessed the drastic increase in property tax that the county receives by no longer being constrained by homestead caps ($17m in the past 10 years). Add to that, the Tourist Development Bed Tax that was sold to the voters even though it lacked foresight. 

The voters thought this tax would be a good thing, that it would bring money to our cities from visitors instead of just property owners. What they didn’t understand is what a cash cow it became. The City of Holmes Beach alone has contributed well over $30 million in bed tax to the coffers since its inception, with little in return. It isn’t because we haven’t asked. It is because the county commission chose to use it elsewhere.   
I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is all happening at the same time entire boards of county commissions are being replaced by potential "yes men” for developers. Campaigns are being driven by strategists, all heavily funded by big developer PAC money. I believe our state representatives have been taking a proactive approach for many years now, and it is setting up Florida's coastal cities to fail.

Judy Holmes Titsworth
Mayor of Holmes Beach


Reader Comments
Steve Kowalski
JAN 26, 2023  •  I completely agree with Mayor Judy. We have seen a dramatic upturn in the development of large homes clearly geared towards renters. Five and six bedroom with one car garages!?!? And many of these giant homes are starting to look the same, and I believe these new homes exasperate the flooding when it rains. Homes that cover 80-90% of a lot can only drain into the street. Key Royale becomes almost impassable after a heavy rain, yet trucks continue to exceed the speed limit spraying water everywhere. The building of these types of homes will only increase until ALL of the old charm of the island is gone. The island cannot be made larger, so more mega-homes and parking garages will destroy the island. I can’t imagine how we’ll deal with the consequences of more people, more pollution, more waste, etc. We thought this was to be our forever home, but we may have to leave if the efforts to deprive us local residents of local rule goes against what a democracy is supposed to be about. I feel powerless with no voice.
Janis Ian
JAN 23, 2023  •  Thank you Mayor Judy. As a full time resident, I want to stay - but the politicians are doing all they can to drive us out. I believe the ultimate goal is to drive out all residents and replace us with absentee owners who'll rent their properties without a care for this beautiful place - and provide more tax money. Just wondering how much island property these politicians already own, and how soon they plan to cash in by turning it into high rises
JAN 23, 2023  •  Mayor Titsworth how can the people help? You are doing what every island resident wants and needs from their local government, they are very fortunate to have you working for them!! Keep up the good work to help save AMI!! Is there an opportunity to build two smaller parking facilities?
Janet Aubry
JAN 23, 2023  •  Word for word everything Mayor Judy Holmes Titsworth wrote is 100 percent true and accurate. As a 40 year resident of Anna Maria driven out of what I thought would be my forever home by the escalating “take” I am but one victim of what she describes. I made decent money when I had to sell because on a fixed income I could no longer afford the taxes, insurance or loss of quality of life. I would still rather be there in my home than a 74 year old vagabond squeezed out by greedy politicians. Now they openly admit they want to remove your last chance to save your homes by eliminating your government and diluting your vote by forcing you to vote at the county level where your voice will not be heard as we already know from experience. I urge those left on the island to stay and fight and I urge those who are new property owners to join the fight or you may one day find yourselves in the same situation. As I have said many times, I would never vote for a commissioner on the present commission and I would expand that to certain state representatives as well. This is a statewide issue and what you do now will shape the future for many. Think carefully and do the right thing. Do not let them take away your rights!
Paul D. Smith
JAN 22, 2023  •  Stand your ground Mayor Judy. I remember when this was a great place to grow up and raise children. Sad that it is gone.
Richard J Correnti
JAN 22, 2023  •  Excellent article Mayor! Keep up the good fight. From another disenchanted and disgusted Republican!
JAN 22, 2023  •  John and Arlene, I agree we shouldn't say it's all Rebublicans, but the Rebublicans are in charge make no bones about being "in charge" and have a super majority. Ask any elected official of that party. It's on their watch all this is happening. Elections have consequences and more to come I'm sure.
JAN 22, 2023  •  Thank you Mayor for doing your job
John S
JAN 22, 2023  •  Alene G, I agree, just because someone is Republican doesn’t mean they agree with the thugs on the county commission. KVO is a disgrace !
Alene Gauthier
JAN 22, 2023  •  I agree with Larry except for your perception that this is being done because they are "Republicans". This has nothing to do with being Republican. I and many (most?) Republicans do not agree with what is and has been happening to our homeland. When I first started coming to Bradenton back in the 80's, I loved to go to the beach at Holmes or Coquina, and on another day, go for a ride in the country, just on the other side of 75. Well, now, I go to neither because it is simply very unenjoyable and a cr**shoot at best as to how many hours it will take to go either direction, just to see yet more traffic. When I first lived here in an apartment on the island across the street from the beach, I thought I was in heaven. I even considered looking for a cracker-box sized apartment I could afford and continue to have the beach life. But after 2 years there, the veil came off and I saw what it was really like .... less and less stationary homeowners and more and more rentals, more and more tourists and more and more traffic. And? I would sacrifice a nice home and yard off-island to live in a tiny condo on the island IF I could find one, and one that didn't have a huge monthly fee, just to live on a packed touristy island. No thanks!
Larry Kenneth Grossman
JAN 22, 2023  •  Mayor Judy understands that there is a game plan by the powers that be Republicans and that is to make Anna Maria Island a money machine to fill the coffers of State Government and the pockets of developers. Without local government and controls and without a resident population who is invested in a healthy and safe Barrier Island sensitive to a fragile environment which needs loving and persistent care the island will become a polluter's Paradise where no rules rule and disorder reigns. This battle for local control is not over parking. A garage at Holmes Beach would largely displace the existing parking. So, what is at issue is local zoning controls which protects the health, safety and welfare of island citizens. Vacationers love the island because of its low- scale charm and quiet beaches. They are not coming to be at a raucous and never-ending party place. Barrier Islands provide protection from storm surges and flooding while providing habitat for nature's creatures and endless natural beauty. However, it can't absorb endless streams of human visitors with their cars absorbing precious land for asphalt parking lots and garages and roadways. Road access is limited and constrained by the bridges and local streets. The enormous bed tax revenue the island generates should be viewed as impact fees that should be returned to the local governments on the island as compensation for the enormous damage and strain visitors place on the island's infrastructure and services by heavy seasonal visitation. Even cash cows can fail to deliver if over worked and be udderly rendered useless.
JAN 22, 2023  •  Good Bye Will Robinson if he continues pushing this !
Janice M Elkins
JAN 22, 2023  •  I am right there with you Mayor! Greed and politics is going to change this beautiful Island into a concrete jungle. I live inland, but enjoy the hometown feel of the North end of the Island. I hate to think it is disappearing.