(This story originally appeared in the Bradenton Herald)
HOLMES BEACH — Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson has vetoed an ordinance creating parking by permit for a roughly 15-block area along Manatee Public Beach.
In a Jan. 29 letter addressed to the Holmes Beach Commission, Johnson said ordinance 16-01 is “contrary to what has been the nature of this island coastal space through its history to date.”
“It is contrary to our other island municipalities with whom we share this limited 2 1/2 square miles of sand,” Johnson’s letter read. “It is contrary to the desires of this administration and commission to retain a family focused, inclusive and welcoming community for all who come to share and enjoy.”
The main reason behind the proposed parking program is to protect the quality of life of residents, many of whom complain about people blocking their streets and driveway entrances with parked cars.
On Jan. 12, officials voted 3-2 (with Chairwoman Judy Titsworth and Commissioner Pat Morton dissenting) to move forward with the draft form of the ordinance, which would establish:
A parking by permit only zone in the rights-of-way of the blocks closest to the beach between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., including the area between Manatee Avenue and 52nd Street west of Gulf Drive, from Manatee Avenue north to 43rd Street from 74th Street to 81st Street and Aqua Lane.
The trial program was worked on by the Holmes Beach Island Congestion Committee for some time. According to committee Chairwoman Jayne Christenson, those qualifying for a parking permit would include property owners, individuals who have a vehicle registered to a Holmes Beach property and individuals with a lease longer than 30 days.
Johnson sent his notice of disapproval three days after the ordinance’s second reading Jan. 26. He did not respond to messages Tuesday.
“I’m very, very disappointed in the mayor for doing this. I respect him and I’m very disappointed that he decided to do this,” said Holmes Beach Commission Vice Chairwoman Jean Peelen. “There are very few cities in Florida that give veto power to their mayors — very few. For my thinking, in order to exercise this rare power, it should be something that is very serious, like endangers the lives of citizens or threatens to bankrupt the city. This is simply a difference in opinion of what the plan should be.”
Peelen said she was disappointed Johnson “interfered” with the normal legislative process.
The ordinance will now go back to the commission, which would need a supermajority — four of five votes — to override the mayor’s veto and adopt the ordinance.
Titsworth said Johnson made the right decision.
“I just feel it’s too costly. To really truly deal with congestion, doing it in one little neighborhood is not going to affect congestion one little bit,” Titsworth said. “I don’t feel we’re there yet.”
Titsworth said she has heard from some members of the committee strangers are coming into their neighborhoods.
“Who says island people would be more trustworthy than mainland people?” she asked. “I don’t agree with their claims, and I didn’t agree with their solution.”