MANATEE -- Four candidates running for the Holmes Beach City Commission battled over development and "good government" issues Wednesday during a debate.
Sponsored by the Bradenton Herald and held at its downtown Bradenton office, the debate featured a panel that asked questions, some submitted by members of
a live audience, addressing the foremost issues in this year's race.
Bradenton Herald Executive Editor Joan Krauter wanted to know whether developers have too much influence over the commission.
Incumbent commissioner John Monetti said he could answer that in one word: "Zero."
Challenger Judy Titsworth said she thought developers "do have some influence over the commissioners" because possible solutions to problems all seem to get shot down.
"It's disheartening," she concluded.
Marvin Grossman said he thought it was just how things are. When an individual comes in and tries to make changes, they are scrutinized, but a few builders seem to know how to get around everything, he said.
Incumbent Sandra Haas-Martens said she was offended by the suggestion that commissioner could be bought by developers.
Builders consult the Building Department for what can legally be done on their property, she said, noting that commissioners are there to set policy instead of handling day-to-day operations.
Much of the discussion involved a development trend some are calling "out-of-scale" vacation rentals that destroy the small-town feel of the area and disturb residents.
Herald Editorial Page Editor Chris Wille wanted to know how to preserve the city's residential character.
Haas-Martens said the commission has been steadily working on various facets of the problem, such as parking for residents and visitors.
"Change happens sometimes," she said.
Monetti said he believed "there needs to be a balance," saying the city has addressed parking, landscaping, noise, rental agencies, and has also attempted to educate visitors about the quiet beach community they're coming to enjoy.
"We've done a lot, folks," he said.
Titsworth said next to her home, someone demolished a house, divided the land, and now, there are two homes, two pools and two docks.
"Before we think about new rules, let's see what current rules are not being followed," she said.
Grossman said his position is clear: The outscale duplexes "need to stop."
"It's just incredible to me this can happen," he said, complaining that the commission had ignored citizens' complaints for a year.
Holmes Beach is located on Anna Maria Island, with Anna Maria on its north and Bradenton Beach on its south.
The Herald also held a candidates' forum Wednesday about the mayoral race in Holmes Beach. Answering many of the same questions, incumbent Rich Bohnenberger emphasized the value of stability and his accomplishments in office for the past eight years, while challenger Carmel Monti stressed the need for change in leadership of Holmes Beach.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.