Council hears about rental ordinance petition drive

Steve Stefanides
City Attorney Alan Gabriel and City Manager Roger Hernstadt field inquiries about the status of The Esplanade legal discussions.

City Attorney Alan Gabriel confirmed that a petition to require a vote to nullify the recently passed rental ordinance was being formulated.

The attorneys said the petitioners were making adjustments to their paperwork and associated filings and that after that, his office would be viewing the documents to determine their sufficiency under the state statue.

If the documents are ruled to be in order, then the petitioners would be required to collect the requisite signatures to force a referendum.

Council would have three choices on how to act at that time:

• Make amendments to the ordinance to satisfy the petitioners;

• Voluntarily repeal the ordinance;

• Schedule the referendum.

Councilman Ken Honecker welcomed a vote of the citizens. He went on to say he had reviewed noise complaints and that 25 percent had come from condominiums.

"I want this to go forward and to let the people vote on this and do nothing to interfere with their efforts and let the people decide," said Honecker.

"The people elected me to make laws," said Councilman Joe Batte. "My job is to legislate and make laws, and is not subject to future referendums, now if the process goes forward and its overturned so be it."

He said he didn't favor placing the new ordinance on hold and passionately made his point about moving forward to implement the new registration process for rentals.

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Wrestle with tough issues

City council took on a number of issues on Monday, beginning at 3 p.m. when they held a mini-workshop on how to set up individual municipal taxing districts to deal with issues surrounding parking solutions.

However, several council members, including Amadeo Petricca, felt the question of the taxing district was putting the cart before the horse. Both Petricca and Honecker were more interested in the policy issue of giving away city property to deal with solving challenges facing private businesses.

City Manager Roger Hernstadt agreed with Petricca and Honecker, focusing on the public policy issue quandary.

Council member Larry Honig was inclined to wait for a specific proposal from an affected group of individuals and look at the specifics of that proposal and work out the details from there.

Council member Victor Rios questioned what would happen if not all of those in a district were in favor of the changes and subsequent costs. City Attorney Gabriel responded that it would be up to the council to determine the mechanics of the process.

Council member Brown referred to the two divergent areas being discussed – one being the alleyway that runs parallel to Collier Boulevard between Saturn and Amazon courts, The other is in Old Marco where the commercial parties have come together with the residential owners and agreed to the placement of permeable pavers in the swale areas adjacent to the condominiums.

That agreement has been approved since November 2014 by the Planning Advisory Board and the parties on Bald Eagle Drive. It has been in limbo since that time and not brought to the council due to the issues surrounding the change in city attorney.

Susan Ackerson, owner of the Old Marco Pub and Anchor Realty on Bald Eagle Drive has been a point person for the swale and parking improvements to be funded by the commercial owners in the Old Marco area.

"We've worked out the issue and are willing to proceed," said Ackerson.

Joe Olivero said the alleyway issue is a similar challenge as Old Marco.

"We don't want the city's money – the commercial property owners will be able to fix a city asset with no cost to the city," said Olivero.

"We have a parking problem caused by previous councils and it's not going away," said Petricca.

Honecker would then propose a basis for a policy:

* Land is free;

* Funding mechanism shall be a dependent taxing district;

* Minimum of 50 percent approval of people within the proposed district;

* Charging by tax ID number;

* Maintenance costs shall be included in the overall cost matrix;

* Any costs incurred by staff will be charged back to the district.

Council reached a 7-0 consensus on the merits of Honecker's proposal and will use that as a basis for future discussion.

Uncomfortable exchange

The evening session would find an uncomfortable exchange between Honig and the City Attorney about the discussions between the attorney for The Esplanade and the City Attorney's Office.

"You don't live on the island, I don't know you at all, and you've been fired by a former council," said Honig, which caused an uncomfortable moment at the dais.

Honig was concerned that council has had no discussions on the issue.

"You don't know us and there has been no education of us on this issue," said Honig. "I'm begging you to do a better job of bringing us along."

"The reason I have not updated you is that we have been moving in a positive way and the information and discussions have been very cooperative. It makes sense to keep things moving," said Gabriel.

Honecker did allude to the fact he was told that one or more councilman have been in contact with some of the parties at The Esplanade, prior to the Gabriel's coming aboard as city attorney.

"I feel that is totally unacceptable," said Honecker.

Batte commented that he had total confidence in the City Attorney.