Residents requested that this speed calming sign on 20th Avenue be removed.
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – Seldom do commissioners pass an ordinance unanimously while actually condemning what they were doing. But, that was exactly the case at the Indian Rocks Beach City Commission meeting July 24, because of a rare and unusual request.
Resident Terrie Breidell and her fiancé, Kevin Rafferty, came to the meeting and revealed that they were getting married on Wednesday, Aug. 1 on the beach. The issue, however, was that they wanted their two golden Labs to be at the wedding at sunset and especially in the pictures. Dogs are not allowed on IRB’s beach and it is a law zealously guarded by the commission. Yet, there was sympathy for the couple, particularly Breidell.
“I believe a bride should have at least one wish on her wedding day,” remarked Commissioner Cookie Kennedy.
City Manager Chuck Coward pointed out, however, that the commission could not make an exception to the law. By doing so they would be breaking the law themselves.
Breidell promised that the dogs would only be there for a short time, just long enough for pictures. She said it would be a small wedding with no more than half a dozen people and the two canine companions.
Still, what about the law? Acting City Attorney Chris Sierra said the commissioners could pass an emergency ordinance to allow the dogs for this one occasion.
“It can be any emergency,” he told the commissioners. “If you say it is an emergency then no one can question it.”
Coward pointed out that certain procedures had to be followed and the commissioners could not just create and pass a new ordinance without due process, and that would take some time.
Sierra said, however, the emergency aspect of the ordinance trumped other procedures and the commissioners could go ahead. Vice Mayor Terry Hamilton-Wollin said, “Okay, we’ll go with our mouthpiece,” referring to the attorney.
Mayor R.B. Johnson agreed to go along with the plan, all the while protesting that this was not an invitation for others to bring their dogs to the beach or to create other “emergencies” to make it happen.
“We don’t want people to say we can now get whatever we want,” he said.
Hamilton-Wollin suggested to Breidell that she makes sure the dogs did not cause any issues. But she did say she would support allowing the dogs on the beach.
“It is time we did something fun, something nice,” she said.
Kennedy pointed out the tenuous nature of the request.
“People in Indian Rocks Beach don’t want dogs on their beach,” she said. “We are going out on a limb, but this is a special day. In 10 years we have never had such a request so we have to ask the citizens to go along with this for one time.”
The actual ordinance is as specific as it can be. Drafted by Hamilton-Wollin, with prompting by the mayor, the ordinance only allows dogs on the beach on Wednesday, Aug. 1, from 8 to 9 p.m. only, at the 12th Avenue access. Even then the dogs can only be there for a wedding.
As to the “emergency” nature of the ordinance? “The welfare of the bride” is what the ordinance says.
That prompted Johnson to remark, “Only in Mayberry.”
Speed sign to be removed
Residents of 20th Avenue got their wish to have the electronic speed sign removed from their street. The sign was erected last year after complaints from some residents that speeding was a problem on the street. The city conducted a traffic study that showed that there was minimal speeding going on, but decided to erect the $6,000 solar-powered sign anyway.
Resident Bob Linderman asked that the sign be removed. Linderman, who represented 71 residents who signed a petition against the sign, told commissioners that the sign was constantly blinking and disrupting the neighborhood.
“We were stunned when the sign went up,” he said. “The neighbors didn’t know there was a problem and there was no log or information kept as to who complained or how many.”
Linderman said there might have been an isolated problem or two.
“But if it was the kid down the street, well he’s gone off to college now,” he said. “We’re a tight knit neighborhood and if anyone is constantly speeding then we’ll talk to them and fix the problem.”
Two dozen 20th Avenue residents showed up at the meeting and several spoke against the sign, including Dennis Kimball.
“The sign is obtrusive. It flashes in people’s windows and we don’t need it,” he said.
Vice Mayor Hamilton-Wollin, who is a resident of a different section of 20th Avenue, took issue with the residents.
“To say there isn’t speeding on 20th Avenue isn’t reasonable, it isn’t responsible,” she said. “One of my neighbors says she is terrorized by speeders, she’s afraid to back out of her driveway.”
She suggested if the sign is taken down from its present location it might be moved closer to where she lives.
As the discussion continued there was little doubt the residents would get their wish. Commissioner Jim Labadie remarked, “We’re servants of the people and these people want that sign removed.”
Commissioner Phil Hanna said, “I don’t think we need a $6,000 sign to fix what amounts to a 5-car problem.”
In the end the commissioners agreed to remove the sign from its present location on 20th Avenue, conduct another traffic study to see if it should be moved to a location near Hamilton-Wollin’s house, and if future signs need to be purchased, look into buying portable ones that could be more easily moved.
Linderman said he was very happy with the commission’s decision.
“I feel very good about it. There was a lot of emotion around this issue and cooler heads prevailed. We got it done.”
Tentative millage rate set
Commissioners voted to keep the tax millage rate at 2.0, which if kept, will be the sixth year the rate will not have changed.
The city has seen a drop in property tax values of .44 percent, which means it will collect roughly $7,500 less in property tax. If the city wanted to maintain that dollar level of taxes the mill rate would have to be 2.0148, but City Manager Chuck Coward said they could budget around the loss of the $7,500.
Now that the commissioners voted to tentatively set the rate at 2.0 they cannot increase it. They can however lower it if the budget changes to allow that to happen.
The first public meeting to consider the tentative millage rate and the tentative budget will be on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 7 p.m., at City Hall.