Madeira Beach Vice Mayor Pat Shontz abruptly resigned in the middle of Tuesday’s commission meeting.
Her resignation came immediately after she and other commission members voted to approve an agreement that would let a developer go ahead with a controversial plan to redevelop property at the entrance to the city from the mainland. But she did not stick around for a second and third vote when the remaining commission members voted to approve a separate development agreement and zoning change on a second parcel of property.
Shontz’ announcement caught the standing room only crowd by surprise. After the first vote, Mayor Travis Palladeno said Shontz had something to say.
“I have never seen so vicious, nasty, disrespectful people,” Shontz said of the members of Madeira Beach United, a group formed in part to oppose the development proposals.
Shontz called the group a “hate committee.”
After her announcement, Shontz, 83, received a standing ovation. She handed a written resignation to Palladeno and the commission took a break. Shontz did not return after the break.
Her four paragraph letter said in part:
“In the past, numerous achievements were accomplished in the city because [of] the community, the city administration and the focus of the city commission. Our beautiful community has been by its active residents and the hard work and dedication of the city manager and his administration, both who have spent a tremendous amount of their time to literally re-create the city and make it a better community.
“Tragically, over the past several months, the city of Madeira Beach has been turned upside down, and the city manager and his administration and the residents of this city are secondary to the nasty politics in our city.
“Therefore, I am resigning as your vice mayor and a city commissioner, effective immediately.”
City Manager Shane Crawford said the commission must chose a successor to Shontz within 30 days. The commission will accept applicants for the position. Her replacement will fill out the remainder of her term, which ends in March.
This beach community has been fractured by a boiling argument the last few months over the proposed developments. The two together will flank the entrance to the city at the foot of the only bridge joining the mainland to Madeira Beach. When complete, there would be 11 buildings ranging from eight to 11 stories. They would include a hotel, a condominium complex, recreational space, a restaurant and marina.
Supporters say it’s a badly needed boost for Madeira Beach’s economy and will bring in millions of dollars from tourists as well as giving residents a place to go. Opponents, on the other hand, say the developments will bring in too much traffic and people.
The battle has become heated at times with accusations and charges being filed against Shontz, Palladeno and commissioner Elaine Poe with the state Ethics Commission. Complaints with other agencies have been filed against Crawford and against a contractor who worked on Shontz’s home. Opponents gathered petitions with more than 1,000 signatures in an attempt to stop Tuesday’s vote and take the issue to a referendum, but the city attorney disallowed those and the votes went ahead.
Tuesday’s crowd was standing room only. Some supporters of the proposal wore green T-shirts with “Yes Madeira Beach” on the front and “Beautify, Unify, Solidify, We love to live where others love to vacation” on the backs. One opponent took one of the shirts and crossed out the word “Yes” and wrote “No” over it. On the back of the shirt, she crossed out “Unifiy” and darkened the “B” and “S” in Beautify and Solidify. She added her own slogan at the bottom: “It’s a jewel, not your tool.”
Later, she showed the commission a handmade tombstone with the inscription: “Rest in Peace, Democracy in America, Born 1776 Boston, Died 2016 Madeira Beach.”
All votes were unanimous with the exception of Poe, who was not at the meeting. Palladeno said she was nursing a sick pet. But the votes likely do not end the controversy. Members of Madeira Beach United had already filed one lawsuit and were vowing to continue the fight.