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Date of Issue: January 13, 2010

Committee agrees: issues, yes; emergency, no

Anna Maria ad hoc parking safety committee vice-chairman Terry Schaefer examines a document on parking safety at the initial committee meeting Jan. 8. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The initial meeting of Anna Maria’s ad-hoc parking safety committee Jan. 8 went better than many people expected, considering the problems associated with a similar committee in early December headed by Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus.

Larry Albert was elected to chair the ad-hoc committee, while Terry Schaefer was named vice-chair.

 The committee was formed by the city commission in mid-December after Stoltzfus claimed there were parking safety problems on Pine Avenue and in the city’s retail-office-residential district.

Other committee members are Mike Coleman, Gene Aubry, former Commissioner Tom Aposporos and Mike Pescitelli, with Stoltzfus as commission liaison. Stoltzfus was absent from the Jan. 8 meeting.

The committee at first had difficulty establishing its direction.

Coleman, a Pine Avenue developer, brought direction when he said he wanted to “make sure we are all on the same page,” and that his understanding was that the first order of business was to determine if there is a parking issue on Pine Avenue.

The committee also has to quantify any problem, measure the effect of the problem on future development and offer suggestions for mitigation, he said.

Schaefer said that was also his understanding of the commission’s charge to the committee. He said the committee must also consider the how future development in the ROR might impact parking safety.

Aubry, however, said the word “development” scares him, as it does other Anna Maria residents.

“People are going to come here. Pine Avenue is going to develop. It’s the reality,” he said.

Aubry did not want the committee to get bogged down in technical issues, rehashing past projects or regulations, but look to the future.

The city has enough ordinances that were passed to “solve the problem” with no thought of the consequences to the future development of the city, he said.

Anna Maria is a unique city, Aubry contended, and the committee and the commission have an opportunity to make a positive change.

Schaefer, who headed a development authority in Illinois several years ago, agreed that the committee must look to the future. It’s important to know the past, but Pine Avenue has a unique configuration that presents parking problems.

“I believe we have a parking safety issue,” he said. “The first serious injury or fatality on Pine Avenue will not be a chamber day.”

Coleman initially sought an agreement that there is no parking safety issue on Pine Avenue, but other members disagreed.

Albert said there might not be a safety “emergency,” but there are “always safety issues.”

Likewise, Aubry said there are always parking issues. For him, just getting in and out of a car during the season is an issue, he said.

The committee eventually passed a motion finding that there was no parking safety emergency on Pine Avenue, but parking safety issues do exist.

“It’s like the guy who smokes and drinks,” said Albert. “He might not have a heart emergency now, but he does have a problem.”

Coleman agreed and asked the committee for suggestions on the issues.

“The question now is where to put the sidewalks,” he said.

Aubry said the city might want to consider sidewalks that “modulate” up and down Pine Avenue. The road might look a bit strange at first, but over the years, as more properties are developed, “It would all work out,” he said.

The idea struck a chord with Aposporos.

“I like the proactive ideas,” he said. “These are good comments about what is and what could be.”

Aubry, an architect, offered to prepare a drawing of a modulating sidewalk along Pine Avenue and present it at the committee’s next meeting.

His offer was quickly accepted by Mayor Fran Barford, who asked Aubry to work with staff on the project so they could provide input.

Aposporos said he worked better with a drawing or picture as a start to a solution. Building, legal and law enforcement questions about a wandering sidewalk could be discussed later after the committee has an opportunity to examine the drawing and provide input.

“This has the potential for broader discussion,” he said.

“And it’s something the public can see,” Aubry added. “You can throw tomatoes at it, but it’s a start.”

The committee agreed to accept Aubry’s offer and he will send copies of his plan to committee members prior to the next meeting.

Albert scheduled the next meeting for 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at city hall.