Acting on the advice of the city attorney, Madeira Beach City Clerk Aimee Servedio has rejected the majority of more than 1,000 signatures on a petition geared at stopping a proposed development.
The decision to reject the petitions means final votes on the proposals will likely go ahead at Tuesday’s commission meeting.
“It was done wrong, and it’s not being accepted,” Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno said.
The city sent a letter to members of Madeira Beach United, a group formed to fight the development proposals. The letter set out three reasons for rejecting all but 84 of the 1,025 signatures that were delivered to City Hall on Friday morning. Madeira Beach United had relied on a clause in the city charter that would have stopped the vote at least while the signatures were validated by the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.
Had they been validated, the proposals would have been held until a referendum gave voters a chance to decide whether the developments should go forward.
But city attorney Tom Trask said signatures did not need to be verified because the petitions themselves fell short of charter requirements. The petitions, according to city officials, misstated the language of the ordinance the activists were relying on. The petition said that a 2014 ordinance “added” a planned development zoning district. But, the city pointed out, that ordinance did not “add” such a district. The planned development district was actually added in 2005.
“In addition, this statement [in the petition] misrepresents the fact that the ordinance increases height and in fact there is no reference to height” in the disputed rule, the letter says.
The city rejected the petition on two other grounds: Only two of the people who gathered the signatures were members of the petition committee. The other 29 were not. The charter, the city says, requires that all circulators of a petition be a member of the committee. Thus, only the 84 signatures gathered by those two committee members could even be considered as being valid.
And it is useless to consider those because about 800 signatures — 25 percent of the registered voters in Madeira Beach — are required to put an item on a ballot. Eighty-four signatures does not come close.
The city also raised an objection to the petitions’ failure to reflect that a notary placed the people who circulated the petition under oath, as required by the charter.
The objections are “totally specious,” said Sam Baker, a member of Madeira Beach United. “He’s really digging.”
Baker said he and the other members of Madeira Beach United had just received the letters and were just beginning their research. The fight, he said, is not over.
This beach community has been consumed for the past few months in a battle over the proposed developments.
The proposals would see the redevelopment of two parcels of land at the foot of the only bridge from the mainland to the city — the main entrance to Madeira Beach. The two would have 11 buildings, some with 11 stories, that contain a hotel, condominiums, a restaurant, marina and parking garage.
Both sides agree the parcels need redevelopment. But those civic activists who oppose these developments say they will bring traffic congestion and too many people to an already crowded area.
They also say the buildings would create a concrete “tunnel” of sorts not in keeping with the beach community ambience of Madeira Beach.
Madeira United members plan to be at Tuesday’s commission meeting to let their objections be known.
Palladeno said they’re welcome to come air their views. But, he said, their objections have “nothing to do with what we’re doing tomorrow.”
The items before the commission are the approval of development agreements with Madeira Beach Development Co. LLC, C&T Enterprises, and MHH Enterprises. Madeira Beach Development wants to create the Madeira Beach Town Center. C&T and MHH want to develop the Holiday Isle Marina.
The development agreements would govern the details of the proposals, such as the square footage of the buildings and the number of rooms allowed in the hotel (837).
It’s the development agreements, Palladeno said, that give the city control over the projects, which will prevent them from becoming the overblown construction that the activists fear.
Without those agreements, he said, the city has relatively few ways to limit the projects.
The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Madeira Beach City Hall, 300 Municipal Drive. The meeting is open to the public.