BELLEAIR BEACH – Registered voters in Belleair Beach have an important decision to make, regarding the use of a magistrate when there’s not enough members at the monthly board of adjustment’s meeting to make a quorum.
The Supervisor of Elections Office has mailed 1,353 ballots to residents for the Nov. 5 election, which is being conducted by mail ballot only. Twenty-one ballots went out Sept. 20 to military personnel and residents overseas. Another 1,332 were mailed Oct. 16. As of Oct. 17, only one ballot had been returned.
Belleair Beach City Manager Nancy Gonzalez took some of the mystery out of the legalese of the single referendum question that appears on the ballot. Residents are asked to vote yes or no to approve a charter amendment to appoint a special magistrate for board of adjustment variances as needed.
The specific question reads, “Shall section 6.03 of the Belleair Beach City Charter pertaining to the board of adjustment be amended by adding the appointment of a special magistrate by the city council to adjudicate requests for variances and other duties assigned by the city code to the board of adjustment under certain circumstances?”
Gonzalez explained that the special circumstance would only come into play during times that the board of adjustment didn’t have enough members at its monthly meeting to form a quorum.
Belleair Beach has a seven-member board of adjustments that meets once a month. Applications for variances must be submitted to the city by noon on the second Tuesday of the month to be heard the next month.
“In the summer, it is often difficult to get a quorum when many of the members are away,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes decisions get put off for three or four months.”
The city believes that having a special magistrate would solve the problem.
“We would use the special magistrate only when we couldn’t get a quorum,” Gonzalez said. “It’s not fair to the applicant to have to wait.”
A quorum is four members, she said, and even if four members can make it to a meeting, decisions have to be unanimous. She said applicants are given the option to table the matter until more members can attend.
“But it is a hardship on the applicants and contractors trying to keep a schedule,” she said.
Variances are required anytime someone wants to build something that does not comply with the city’s code. Residents apply for building permits from the county, but the county won’t grant them if they see something in the plans that violate code. Residents have to go to the board of adjustment for permission via a variance.
Gonzalez said variances could be needed because a project encroaches on setbacks or perhaps plans for fence call for it to be higher than the code allows. She gave an example of a recent project where residents living in a two-story home wanted to build a staircase from the second story down to the garage. City code didn’t allow them to build as planned, so they had to go before the board of adjustments.
If resident say yes to the referendum, many problems would be solved, she said.
“We owe our residents the courtesy of being able to do this (grant variances) in a timely manner,” she said.
All mail ballot elections
The Belleair Beach Nov. 5 election marks the fourth all-mail ballot election conducted by Pinellas County’s Election Office. All registered voters within the city should have received their ballot. Anyone who has not received a ballot should call the Elections Office at 464-vote (8683).
Mail-only election ballots are the same as those used for a regular election. However, voters must add their address of their home to the envelope they are required to sign. Ballots must be returned by mail or in person to a Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5.
The last date a ballot can be mailed is Nov. 1; however, residents, who are registered to vote and have not received a ballot, can pick one up at an Elections Office. Ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. Nov. 5.
For more information, call Patti Gentry, Belleair Beach city clerk, at 595-4646, ext. 124, or visit VotePinellas.com.