Battle at Bali Hai continues – The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper
HOLMES BEACH – Special Magistrate Michael Connolly ruled in the city’s favor in two code compliance cases against the owners of the Bali Hai Beach Resort, but attorney Louis Najmy says the fight’s not over.
Closing out an April 26 code compliance special magistrate hearing were two cases involving Bali Hai – one for having more units than allowed and another for renting electric low-speed vehicles on the property.
The first case involved renting GEM cars on the property without the rentals being an approved use under the site plan. Representing the resort’s ownership, including majority owner Shawn Kaleta, Najmy said that while the GEM cars are on the property at any given time, they are not rented by the resort. Instead, he said, they’re owned and rented through a third-party affiliate business, AMI GEM Cars, and he provided communication from the owners stating that they’re not otherwise involved with Bali Hai.
After looking at documentation from code compliance officers showing that the cars were available for rent through the resort’s front desk, Connolly ruled that the resort’s owners cannot rent or store the cars on the property and they cannot advertise them for rent through Bali Hai. He did acknowledge that if a guest of the resort has rented a GEM car and it’s parked on the property that it would not be a violation.
The resort’s website has since been updated to reflect that GEM cars are available but are rented through AMI GEM Cars, not Bali Hai.
The second case, concerning the existence of a non-permitted 43rd unit on the property, caused Najmy to ask Connolly to recuse himself, saying that he feels the special magistrate is biased against his client, Kaleta. Connolly said that he’s sorry Najmy feels that way but if the attorney puts his concerns in writing he’d have to consider it.
After hearing statements from code officers along with City Planner Bill Brisson, Connolly ruled that the resort’s owners are in violation of city codes, having one unit over the maximum of 42 that Bali Hai is grandfathered to have. While the various building plans presented by city staff and Najmy showed the unit in question as a rentable unit on some and a flex space without sleeping quarters on another, staff noted that they had observed the unit to have sleeping accommodations. Najmy argued that while the unit does exist, it’s used as a backup in case one of the other 42 units is in need of repairs and is unable to be rented. He said the resort never rents more than 42 units at a time.
City Attorney Erica Augello said it doesn’t matter if the resort only rents 42 units at a time; having a 43rd unit available puts the resort over its maximum density because of the ability to rent 43 units.
Connolly ordered that the resort’s owners come into compliance by removing the 43rd unit on the property and provide documentation to the building official proving that there are only 42 units available on the property.
The battle over uses at Bali Hai isn’t ending with the special magistrate hearings. Several cases are pending in Manatee County court appealing Connolly’s rulings against the resort owners and the site plan approval granted by Holmes Beach commissioners restricting uses on the property.
As of press time for The Sun, no hearings were scheduled in any of the pending cases.