Politics & Government

Bradenton Beach candidates open to possible building moratorium; mayor declines to participate in forum

BRADENTON BEACH -- A possible building moratorium -- a hot topic throughout Anna Maria Island and in particular Bradenton Beach -- has resurfaced in a candidate forum between an incumbent Bradenton Beach commissioner and her challenger in the Nov. 3 election.

Commissioner Janie Robertson and local businessman Ralph L. Cole addressed the issue during a candidate forum hosted Tuesday night at City Hall by the League of Women Voters of Manatee County. Robertson and Cole are running for the Ward 3 commission seat.

"How can Bradenton Beach protect its residential areas while welcoming tourism?" LWV president Rosalie Shaffer asked the candidates. "Is the answer a moratorium or regulation -- or a combination of the two?"

The Bradenton Beach Commission recently axed plans for a building morato

rium and decided instead to move forward with a quality of life ordinance. Now a four-month moratorium will be brought up under new business at a city commission meeting Thursday evening.

"I'm very happy to say I'm pleased with the moratorium plan," Robertson said. "At this point in time, I see no reason why I wouldn't be voting for it."

Cole, who owns Bradenton Beach-based Coastal Watersports and has been living in the city for 30 years, said Shaffer's question is tough because the other cities have struggled with this same issue.

"Vacation rentals are part of the island, and they have been for years," said Cole, 53. "When you make a new regulation, every time you do, it might affect something else along the way and take away peoples' rights."

According to Cole, private property is best regulated by the owners. He said owners can implement a code of conduct on their properties as they rent it out. One example Cole suggested is an owner shutting off a pool at 10 p.m.

The candidate said he wouldn't have a problem with a moratorium enacted in residential areas if it was "all worded right."

Cole's father, Gail Cole, is a former mayor of Bradenton Beach.

"As far as a moratorium goes and the regulation -- as she (Robertson) said -- it's a work in progress," Cole said. "The other cities have struggled with it and no one's got a real answer for it at this particular time that I know of."

LWV had also planned on hosting a mayor's debate between Bradenton Beach Mayor Jack Clarke and ousted Mayor William Shearon, who is trying to win back his old job, but Clarke declined to participate. Reached by phone Tuesday night, the mayor said the primary reason is because "issues haven't changed in four months."

Clarke became the city's mayor on May 19 after winning a recall election ousted Shearon. Clarke added that there are so many things to do to pull the city into shape.

"I didn't really feel it would be worthwhile," he said. "It doesn't mean I wouldn't do it again."

Shearon, who listened in on the candidate forum Tuesday with his guide dog Reese, said he was disappointed that Clarke wasn't there so they could have debated the issues.

"They were all good questions, all good issues that should have been addressed," Shearon said. "Not only for the commissioner's position -- but for the mayor's position."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.