Council Denies Chair Rental Appeal

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Monday night’s Council meeting was considerably less controversial than their afternoon workshop, though some residents were surprised to hear the Town owes more than $3 million in unpaid invoices for their water rehabilitation project.

Charlie Whitehead spoke during public comment, asking Council to waive the $750 field use fee for Beach Soccer’s five-day camp, as they have done in the past. At the end of the meeting, Council agreed 3-2 (Boback, Hosafros dissenting) to waive the fee.

“As a member of the Beach Area Civic Association, I’d like to thank you for standing with us – your neighbors across the bridge, in opposition to a project that it is simply too dense for a little island,” he said. “Finally, this Saturday is the closing event for Little League – awards ceremony at noon – and you are all cordially invited.”

Resident Bill Fagen urged Council to accept Developer Tom Torgerson’s offer of the CPS study, more than $250,000 worth of design and planning work. He reminded them its been offered with no strings attached.

MRTF Chair Bill Veach then asked Council if they would like the committee to develop a policy regarding non-motorized vehicles on the beach and that they raise the fines for off-leash dogs to match the County’s fee of $200.

Town Manager Don Stilwell then gave Council an update on the financing of the ongoing water rehabilitation projects, saying that the Town ‘has some outstanding invoices’ – dating from September to March – owed to the contractor that the Town hired to upgrade the Town’s water system.

“This week we got notification from the state we’d be getting a contract for the State Revolving Fund, if that doesn’t come through we’ll look at alternative sources,” he said.

It was council member Tracey Gore who pointed out that the invoices are for just over $3 million.

“So hopefully the state fund will cover that and then some?” she asked. “How did we get to this point in just a few months?”

Stilwell replied that neither Tetra Tech or Mitchell and Stark are going to charge the Town any late fees.

“When the Town set up these projects years ago they did it with funding from the reserves and we don’t want to do it that way anymore,” he said. “We’ve got to have a funding source when we make a commitment to do something. It’s not a situation where we’re about to go under or anything.”

Next on the agenda was an appeal by the owner of properties on Avenue C and I Street over the Town’s denial of his beach chair vendor permit.

Attorney Matt Uhle spoke representing the property owner.

“I disagree with staff’s finding that the rental of beach furniture prior to the adoption of the ordinance as non-conforming is incorrect,” he said. “My clients purchased this property on January 15, 2015, at the time the regulation showed the use was permitted by right, and had existed in an unbroken fashion for years – this is why purchase was made,” he said. “It was the Town’s decision to put my clients in the position where they can’t get their investment back.”

Town Attorney Dawn Lehnert said that – when the ordinance was adopted – council decided that vendors who were making their livelihood at locations that are non-conforming would be able to continue to do so should they get their chair vendor license by a time certain.

“What Mr. Uhle is asking you to do is ignore that because the vendor who was renting beach furniture at that location is no longer there,” she said. “The current property owner – SJ Property Management – purchased the property 15 days after the drop dead date, so there is no way he could prove to us he had a business there.”

Hosafros said she concurs with staff’s analysis. Gore agreed. Senior Planner Megan Will said that the applications had to be submitted prior to March 2016, stating the business had been in existence prior to January 1, 2015.

“Council directed us to interact not with the property owner but with the vendor – the person who would be having their livelihood taken away,” she said. “The idea was to stop perpetuating non-conforming business, but not put anyone out of business while doing it.”

Council agreed unanimously to deny the appeal.

Finally, Council agreed to grant a two-year extension on a development order for Matanzas Inn.

“I was hoping that we could go forward with the extension, but take care of some of the things he promised when we gave him his permit – the music issues,” Gore said during the discussion. Community Development Director Kara Stewart pointed out that the request was for the site development order only.

“But I was only trying to condition it,” Tracey protested, and Lehnert replied that one thing applies to zoning and the other to construction.

“You can’t mix apples and oranges,” Dawn said. Doug Speirn-Smith said that Matanzas has complied, and intends to continue complying, with the music commitments made during the resolution.

The extension was granted by unanimous vote.
Keri Hendry Weeg