BRADENTON - When cars and boundaries collide, the results can be inconvenient.
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That's especially true if you're driving through Kingfish County Park on the way into or out of Holmes Beach up to the bridge, and you get into an accident. It could take as long as two hours for law enforcement to arrive, said Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.
His city's police department can't investigate the accident or even clear the scene because State Road 64 west of the bridge to the city is a state road, and that requires the intervention of a trooper from the Florida Highway Patrol. Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine said his officers can do some other things, but mostly they can only tell those involved to wait patiently for the man or woman in FHP regalia to show up.
The area, called Kingfish County Park, is a place Holmes Beach would like to annex and it has initiated talks with Manatee County on an interlocal service boundary agreement. On Thursday at the county commissioners' land use meeting, the commissioners voted 7-0 to approve a motion directing the county attorney's office to accept the city's offer to negotiate the interlocal agreement.
Starting the process
"What's before you today is the first step in a series of steps that could potentially lead to an interlocal agreement and potentially annexation of this area," said deputy county attorney Maureen Sikora. "The next step in the process would be to actually bring this resolution back before you for adoption to send back to the city if the board wants to pursue the interlocal agreement, then that resolution would accept the city's invitation.
"Essentially, what the city's looking for is to annex the area from the city's eastern boundary all the way to the Manatee Avenue bridge."
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said the issue came before the board when she was the city's mayor,
and the thought was to annex it but they voted no because the county wanted to make sure it would maintain the Kingfish Boat Ramp. But it turns out that the boat ramp was never approved, but it was built. It's on a state right of way.
"Right now, Manatee County is working with the state to get authority to manage Kingfish Boat Ramp," she said. "All the city of Holmes Beach wanted then and I think now is to have police in authority."
There was an accident on the bridge recently, she said.. "It was an hour and a half before they finally got the right law enforcement agency to come to them. Holmes Beach didn't respond and they called me and they said, 'Why?', and I said, 'Because it's not their jurisdiction.'"
There were no injuries and no need for an ambulance, but they had to wait.
"The city of Holmes Beach thought they owned this for 50 years, so I support this 100 percent," Whitmore added.
Commission chairwoman Gwendolyn Brown asked if policing authority couldn't be turned over to Holmes Beach, but Sikora said that it had been tried.
"It's my understanding, and I don't represent the Sheriff's Office, that there were some issues," she said. "At one time, the Sheriff's Office had been deputizing city police officers but because of liability reasons and bonding requirements, they stopped doing that."
There could be a new agreement entered into and one may in fact exist, but that may just apply to accidents with injuries and not accidents where no one is hurt.
Commissioner John Chappie noted that it's always been considered a part of Holmes Beach, and it's also a safety issue.
Commissioner Joe McClash said he was concerned about what might happen to the boat ramp if Holmes Beach received control.
"It seems like it's just policing powers. That's something that, talking to the sheriff, that hasn't been a problem," he said. "I hear this complaint all over the place, along 64 the Highway Patrol has jurisdiction I guess on those roadways. My understanding has been the local police come out there and typically they can't do anything unless the Highway Patrol comes."
"You have an asset that belongs to Manatee County, and that's the Kingfish Boat Ramp. We have permission by DOT to operate that boat ramp," he said, noting that the county maintains the ramp, so it's not an illegal boat ramp," McClash said. "What it really gets down to, and one of the issues that you need to deal with is, is it in the best interests of Manatee County to relay it over to another jurisdiction that may have the ability to restrict your operations of the boat ramp?"
Sikora replied that all issues would be on the table with an interlocal agreement.
"Ultimately, what would have to happen is the area would have to be incorporated into the city of Holmes Beach," she said.
Some language in a special act in Bradenton Beach several years ago restricted in some circumstances the city's ability to regulate what goes on in the waters adjacent to the city, she said, adding, "We discussed the possibility of incorporating some language like that. This would probably be going to the Legislature for a special act annexation and language could be incorporated into the special act."
McClash replied that it was better for the commissioners to disclose their intent. If it's for policing, he said he didn't have a problem with that.
Commissioners Ron Getman and Larry Bustle said the annexation issue had gone on for many years, and they wanted to hear from Holmes Beach's police chief.
A simple thing to do
Whitmore said she supported what was before the commission, "not what Commissioner McClash is trying to break this up to be."
Holmes Beach must be doing this for a reason, she said. They thought they had it for 50 years, and they want to do it.
"I support also what's before us," Chappie said, "I think it's important to realize, what's important for the city of Holmes Beach is also important for the county. The city is part of the county and we have to look out for the city's best interest too in a lot of cases.
"I think it's important to realize and understand, and I know you all do, that the city residents live right adjacent to this area, across the street, and just to the west, and they should have some say as to what goes on out there at the boat ramp, especially if at times, and it happened in Bradenton Beach, if the county is a little slow to react to situations that have developed over the years.
"The city residents are directly exposed to that and they should have a say in that."
Donna Hayes said it was a simple thing that was becoming more complicated than it needed to be.
"The five-minute response time for Holmes Beach certainly is a plus, there's no two ways about it," she said. "By allowing Holmes Beach to annex this property, the county is also saving on operational costs."
The change would be a public benefit that would provide better service to the public and better response time and comfort.
"It certainly looks like a very clear-cut request," Hayes said. "Manatee County just doesn't have to own everything."
The county is working on a lease with FDOT, Sikora said, and it wouldn't necessarily be assigned to Holmes Beach. Manatee County would still maintain the property, unless it agreed with the city that the city would maintain and operate it. There could be an assignment of that lease agreement, or the city could enter negotiations with FDOT for it, she added. It would just be who controls it for issuing building permits, whose regulatory authority it's under, not who is actually going to physically maintain it.
Hayes asked if the county could still be responsible for maintenance, and Sikora said it would be a county responsibility and a county financial obligation.
The city would have control over what development may take place there and that would be addressed in an interlocal agreement.
Matter of public safety
Bohnenberger, the mayor, said the city has no interest in managing the boat ramp, and there is no revenue.
"It's purely a public safety matter, the citizens and visitors who come across that bridge believe they're in the city of Holmes Beach. If something happens, they call our police department and they're told they have to wait for the sheriff to respond or the Highway Patrol," he said. "We would like the policing authority. We also would like to be able to go out there and cut the grass.
"That's what it's all about, it's public relations."
Romine, the police chief, said, "This is not a power grab by any sense of the imagination. We've been discussing this."
It was quite a surprise several years ago to find that the boat ramp was not in the city, he noted. "We policed it for almost 50 years and when we found out that it wasn't, it was quite a surprise to everybody."
"All it will do, as far as the police department goes, is increase our responsibility and our crime stats. The sheriff and I have had several conversations about it and the bottom line is it's one of those 'You take it, no, you take it, no you take it.' It's not a matter of wanting to take over something that's in the county.," he said, emphasizing that he was not saying anything negative about the Sheriff's Office.
"It's just simply a matter of logistics. When you have a boat ramp sitting right there, adjacent to our jurisdiction, there's a good chance I might have one or two people who are not five minutes away but one or two minutes away for a response, whereas a deputy might have to come from five miles away or more."
The next move
"The statute that we are operating under provides for an interlocal agreement to address service issues," Sikora said. "My next step is to bring back a resolution for your adoption which I had intended to place on the consent agenda to have you adopt the resolution sending back to the city of Holmes Beach an expression that you want to negotiate an interlocal agreement. The details of the annexation as well as the service issues and any limitations will be addressed in an interim agreement.
"In the meantime, it's my understanding, in discussing this matter with their city attorney, that they would like to try and start to have the process moving forward to annex through a special act of the Legislature, which will have to go before the legislative delegation and be introduced in the next session of the Legislature."
If an interlocal agreement cannot be done, the county reserves the right to say it doesn't support the annexation and the special act, she said.
"The interlocal agreement has to come back as an ordinance. If there's anything objectionable, we will not have an interlocal agreement."
In other land use meeting action
Commissioners at the relatively short meeting also:
Voted 7-0 to send the board's comments on the Coast Guard's Final Environmental Impact Statement for a natural gas pipeline.
Voted 6-1, McClash dissenting, to allow the University Park Country Club to extend its buildout by three years and one day, and amend terminology and other provisions to reflect changes in the ordinance.
The following items were deferred to Oct. 1:
PA-09-09/ORDINANCE 09-43 - PORT MANATEE MASTER PLAN
PDMU-04-51(P)(R4) - CENTRUM PROPERTIES, INC, (CURIOSITY CREEK)
PDMU-99-07(G)(R5) - SARASOTA MANATEE AIRPORT AUTHORITY
PDC-08-02(Z)(P) - SM DUCK DOG 2 LLC / LORRAINE & SR 64 COMMERCIAL PARK
The following items were approved on the consent agenda:
Tribute to Heroes Day - Sept. 11, 2009
Teen Court/Teen Court Too Month - September 2009
Litter Removal Program - Execute agreement with Florida Department of Transportation
Domestic Violence Coordinator - Execute Second Amendment to Interlocal Agreement for Personnel Services with Twelfth Judicial Circuit and authorize adjusting County's staffing levels to reflect new grant-funded court position*
Bennett Park - Adopt Resolution R-09-208 authorizing submission of grant to Florida Department of Environmental Protection under the Florida Recreation and Development Assistance Program for development of Bennett Park, and authorizing County Administrator to execute all related documents
Final Plat: Forest Creek: Approve corrected documents relative to the Final Plat (approved at the 8/25/09 meeting)
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