With a new familiar face on the board, Port St. Joe city commissioners resolved a nagging piece of old business.
Mayor Rex Buzzett, sworn in prior to the meeting, rejoining, after a two-year absence, a board on which he spent a decade, was among the majority that approved a lease agreement with the St. Joe Company for dockage at Clifford Sims Park.
Whether it sinks or swims with the charter boat captains the city hopes to assist is an open question given the decidedly negative reaction from a charter captain’s family member to Tuesday’s vote.
The city had been seeking an agreement for months to permit what ultimately proved to be four charter boats to dock along the city-owned bulkhead.
The key portion of the agreement, and the most contentious, was the period of the lease, originally offered by St. Joe to expire at the end of this year; it was extended to the end of 2020.
Boat captains have said during meetings that a lease lacking any kind of long-term occupancy of the city bulkhead would have a significant negative impact on their businesses.
Commissioner Scott Hoffman, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he would not agree to any lease of such a short term and also urged the board to take no action.
Hoffman said he wanted to further investigate the lease put in place several years ago when the docking of one charter boat became an issue between the city and the St. Joe-owned marina.
If no language in that lease addressed access to the city-owned property at Clifford Sims Park, he said, the city should not enter into a lease that could restrict access to its property.
“I don’t think we need to ask permission for something we’ve been doing for years,” Hoffman said.
The St. Joe Company, throughout discussions on the lease, has contended it had to the right to limit egress and ingress over submerged lands around the marina the company claims to own.
Commissioner David Ashbrook said the city was permitting illegal activity when it gave the go-ahead for the charter boats to move along the bulkhead at Clifford Sims Park without a lease agreement in place.
At the time of that action, Hoffman said he would also be a no vote on any permits St. Joe sought for redevelopment of the marina; a special hearing was established to hear those plans, but they were pulled from consideration after the dust-up over the lease.
Ashbrook “the cure” to that city’s prior action was to sign the agreement.
Commissioner Brett Lowry said commissioners needed to stop “kicking the can down the road.”
Buzzett added the city also needed to enter into contracts with the charter boat captains to cover city costs for utilities, which City Manager Jim Anderson suggested should be lower than previously charged by the marina.
Modular home settlement
The definitions over the differences between a modular and mobile home ultimately cost the city $28,500 as a settlement with a couple that proposed locating to the Ward Ridge area several years ago.
Neighbors were against the home, which arrived, permitted by the city, in two pieces and lacked certain requirements of the building code and its presence was the source of considerable controversy for months.
Ultimately the city placed a stop-work order on the project and the couple sued.
City attorney Adam Albritton, while not disclosing all aspects of the settlement, said the payment would settle all claims against the city.
The city held a first reading for advertisement of an ordinance which would ban all medical marijuana dispensaries from within the city limits.
In doing so, the city followed the lead of the Board of County Commissioners which recently imposed a similar ban.