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Date of Issue: November 11, 2009

Former commissioner says tree-rumor still alive

Former Anna Maria City Commissioner Christine Tollette, who lost her seat at the dais by 93 votes in the Nov. 3 election, said that, even after the election, she got telephone calls from people telling her that tearing down a tree at 303 Pine Ave. cost her the election.

 “I got a call after the election from a lady who said she would vote for me again, but I really shouldn’t have torn down that tree. The tree rumor really was a hatchet job,” she said.

The rumor spread quickly in the city in the days before the election that a tree cut down on property at Pine Avenue and North Shore Boulevard was the action of Tollette and Pine Avenue Restoration LLC in preparation for a retail-office-residential project on the site.

According to the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office, the property is owned by Waterside Homes, a company owned by Robert and Nicki Hunt of Anna Maria.

The Hunts submitted a site plan in 2004 for a retail-office-residential project on the property, but construction has yet to begin. Only the land has been cleared.

PAR officials denied any connection to Waterside Homes or the Hunt project, but the damage was done, Tollette said.

“It was hard to overcome that rumor,” she said.

 “I took a lot of abuse in the campaign for that rumor and it shouldn’t have been that way. I hope that in future elections, there won’t be this kind of abuse and I hope that what happened in this campaign doesn’t stop people from seeking political office.”

Tollette thanked everyone who voted for her and thanked the people of Anna Maria for her four years in office.

“I had a blast. It was wonderful. I learned a lot and we got a lot of things accomplished on the commission,” she said. “I got a tremendous education in city government and how a city operates.”

Tollette said that working on the revisions for the comprehensive plan was a highlight of her time as a commissioner.

It took the commission nearly two years of debate on the plan, discussing each item line by line, before a document was created that was satisfactory to commissioners and the public, she said.

 “The comp plan will last the city for 20 years,” Tollette said. “It maintains Anna Maria as primarily a residential city that supports a viable business district. Considering all the differing views and opinions everyone had, I think what we approved was quite an accomplishment.”

Tollette said she has no plans to seek another political office, but will remain involved in civic activities, including the Anna Maria Island Community Center and other charitable organizations and events.

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