An era came to a close on Monday afternoon, as – after six years of service that included a period of town regrowth and prosperity following the rebuilding after Hurricane Charley – Councilman Alan Mandel voted and made motions for the last time as a member of Town Council. He will be present at the meeting following the elections on March 21st, but only as the new members are sworn in.
During public comments, Joanne Shamp said she’d worked on a dune-planting program seven years ago when she served on the Marine Resources Task Force.
“When the new walkovers were put in at Newton Park, those plantings were not done and they are needed to maintain the dune and protect it from erosion,” she said. “It’s really time that the Town act as the environmental stewards they are and get the plantings done.”
Primo resident Christine Patton spoke next, saying she’s seen men urinating behind their cars at the new parking lot on Crescent Street.
“I’m asking that the Town revisit the idea of putting a comfort station there so our children and grandchildren aren’t exposed to this,” she said. “What happened to the barriers planned for the edge of the canal?”
Charlie Whitehead thanked Mandel for his six years of service.
“I told you how important I think Bay Oaks is, but what hasn’t happened is any meaningful discussion concerning it’s future,” he said. “I was a little troubled to hear who was going to construct the five-year plan – I hope the community is involved.”
Whitehead told Council that the adopted budget is just over $800,000, or $118/per resident, less than the state average of $146/per resident.
“I’m glad that you’re reappointing BORCAB, I hope they are involved with any new plans,” he concluded.
During Local Achievements and Recognitions, Mayor Anita Cereceda recognized Doris Grant and her team; Al Durrett, Dan Parker and Hank Zuba; and the Chamber for their hard work on the candidate forums.
Council approved the purchase of new parking meters – which will likely include an app that allows day-trippers to see a live update as to what spaces are available and where they are. They also approved special events for Nervous Nellies’ St. Patrick’s Day party and for the 21st Annual Taste of the Beach on May 1st.
Next up was a public hearing that would allow the owners of a six-plex located across from Beach Elementary to legally transform their units into a bed and breakfast called Myerside.
“They have already been using the buildings as a bed and breakfast, which is not allowable in the Residential/Commercial district without a special exception, that’s why we’re here,” said Senior Planner Meagan Will.
Councilwoman Rexann Hosafros, Vice-Mayor Dan Andre and Councilman Alan Mandel said the upgraded buildings are a ‘big improvement’ and approved the request – which was previously approved by the Local Planning Agency (LPA) 5-0.
Principal Planner Matt Noble opened the second public hearing for PierSide Grill’s COP expansion into Time Square by explaining that the Land Development Code (LDC) does allow the PierSide Grill expansion into that area.
Doug Speirn-Smith – representing PierSide – said there is a long history of PierSide being in the Square, going back to when the restaurant was remodeled out of previous building before incorporation.
“I think this is an opportunity to clean up that area of the Square,” he said.
Hosafros said that Council has been given nothing in the way of pictures or diagrams to show them what the project will look like, and Speirn-Smith replied there would be ten small tables and small umbrellas, with a door that would take people into the interior of the restaurant. After Smith agreed to remove two benches at his own cost, Council approved the request.
During Town Manager’s Items, Don Stilwell reported that staff has selected Parker-Mudgett to be a Special Projects Coordinator for the Town and that he will be bringing it to Council for a vote at a meeting soon.
Finally, Town Environmental Technician Rae Blake reported to Council as to the viability of plants placed in front of Newton Park.
“There is a lot of wave action there – meaning saltwater – that would kill the plants, as well as erosion that would destroy the roots,” she said. “It may not be viable there, but I have been looking at other properties whose owners are interested.”
Cereceda disagreed, saying she’d like to at least try and see if it works.
“If it’s a funding issue, I suspect I could find a way to get the plants donated,” she said, and Rae said each plants costs about $1.
Mandel said that – at his condo – the plants have trapped a great deal of sand.
Council agreed to approve the project, with the $250 needed to be funded from an outside source, and to do the plantings in the spring.
During Councilmembers’ Items, Stockton recommended that all LPA meetings be archived, as Council meetings already are.
“And I’m very upset because I just became an aware that an employee that was terminated from Bay Oaks nearly a month ago and we didn’t know about it,” she said. “Shouldn’t we be updated about that?”
Cereceda said that’s not Council’s job, and Stilwell said there are ‘legal issues’ and that the privacy rights of the person should be considered.
“I can’t tell you right now if there’s going to be a termination or a resignation,” he said. “Once it gets out in the public, people will take sides and it will become political.”
At the end of the meeting, Mandel thanked everyone for allowing him to serve.
Keri Hendry Weeg