INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – On and off and getting hotter – that’s the issue over dune preservation in Indian Rocks Beach.
Afer much sturm and drang with the public over establishing a zone that would preserve dunes on the beach between Gulf front properties and the beach, the commission decided to send it to referendum.
But property owners turned up the volume on their already loud cries of protest and the commission faltered and now, it appears, the question may not go to the people.
The commission will discuss the hot subject at its December 6 workshop meeting.
The political hot potato could affect the political future of some elected officials here.
Property owners who front on the beach were, for the most part, adamantly opposed to a dune preservation zone on the basis that it interfered with their property rights.
Meetings at city hall turned quite noisy and bellicose at times.
In the end, the commission decided to send the issue to the people and the question will appear as a referendum on the ballot in March. Then it reversed itself last week and to some degree left the issue up in the air.
Proponents have argued that the zone, to be set up as a 50 or so feet wide strip that would run between the Gulf and beach front properties, would provide protection against surging waters during sea storms.
But property owners felt their rights were being impinged on and have vigorously opposed the idea. Proponents made a public property, public benefit idea in respect to the beach.
After a hot and heavy debate, Mayor Bill Ockunzzi, along with Commissioners R.B. Johnson and Jean Scott voted to send the issue to referendum. Colleagues Jeremiah Carmody and Jim Palamara opposed the idea.
Property owners are not happy and with all four seats except Palamara’s at stake in the March election, incumbents who choose to run might be on thin ice.
With the election more than three months away, the issue might ordinarily have faded into oblivion, but with the question on the ballot, the controversy will most likely stay very alive.
The unusual situation of having four seats on the commission up for election was brought about by the resignation as mayor earlier this year of Bob DiNicola, who retired.
Ockunzzi, the vice mayor, succeded DiNicola and Jean Scott was appointed by the commission to fill Ockunzzi’s seat which normally would not have been up until 2007.
The seats of Carmody and Johnson come up. From the temperature at the city hall meetings over the dune issue, it was a better than even guess that some new candidates might be seen in March.
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