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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

'Informal' building moratorium in Anna Maria

The Anna Maria City Commission at its Dec. 11 workshop declared an immediate "informal" building moratorium on certain projects while the city develops formal guidelines for new construction projects.

A long-term moratorium ordinance with a specific deadline is being prepared by City Attorney Jim Dye while the informal moratorium is in effect.

Dye told the commission that a local government is allowed by Florida law to declare an "informal" moratorium by commission consensus while it develops a "formal notice" of the moratorium.

The "informal" ban on new building affects only lot-splits, commercial construction and planned sub-divisions, not single-family homes, the commission determined.

The planning and zoning board will hear the ordinance at its Dec. 29 meeting, while the commission's first reading will take place at its Jan. 8 workshop.

Mayor SueLynn said the moratorium should only be in effect until the city establishes procedures and guidelines for new construction and development in the city.

The P&Z board is currently preparing a site-plan review process, the mayor said, and a draft document is nearing completion.

Building Official Kevin Donohue said the site-plan review "is not saying 'no' to development, it's just having applicants study the impact [of the proposal] and offer appropriate mitigation" to the city.

A site-plan review procedure will "expedite development, not hinder it," he added.

Donohue said that when he reviewed the application procedures for the Villa Rosa project on South Bay Boulevard, he realized the city needed a single application that would address all impacts of any building proposal.

"We realized we didn't have any means of sitting back and looking at one single document that addressed the impact" of a proposed project, SueLynn said.

City Commissioner Dale Woodland said he didn't mind a building moratorium, but wanted it to be "as short as possible."

Commission Chairperson John Quam wondered about a time limit for the moratorium.

Dye said the city could set either a specific date or the accomplishment of the site-plan application and review process to end the moratorium.

In other matters, the commission asked for more information from Waste Management Inc. on a WMI proposal to introduce semi-automated garbage pickup service.

WMI said it would supply the garbage containers for residents, and the monthly rate would rise from $13.42 to $14.49. WMI also wants a five-year extension on the current franchise contract to implement the service, but would offer "concessions" on duplex charges in return.

WMI charges a duplex owner twice the usual $1.95 each month for yard-waste pickup, but the units are on a single lot. Single-family home owners pay only the $1.95, while duplex owners pay $3.90 each month.

However, WMI's Dave Smith told the commission that if it agreed to the contract extension, WMI was willing to consider "concessions" to duplex owners.

The city doesn't have to take the WMI offer, Smith said, but if it does, it would lock in the $14.49 rate for the next 10 years.

Otherwise, in five years when the current contract expires, prices are likely to rise considerably, he indicated.

"You can stay with what you have, but realize we are charging just $12 more per year over the life of the contract," Smith observed.

Quam believed the amount of garbage in the city was decreasing and extending the contract was unfair to city residents. It would be better to "wait and negotiate" when the current contract ends, he suggested.

Some members of the public voiced opposition to a contract extension, and the commission deferred any action.

Smith said he would return with information on annual garbage tonnage in Anna Maria and what concessions WMI could offer duplex owners.

The commission also worked through a list of previously discussed issues, deciding which should remain a commission priority.

Commissioners were divided on the issue of funding improvements at the city pier to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

City Commissioner Linda Cramer said she never supported the city assisting the lease-holder with paying for the improvements, but Commissioner Carol Ann Magill argued that a prior city commission had "obligated" the city to pay 50 percent of the cost as a "goodwill" gesture.

"If we made an agreement, let's be a city of our word," said Magill.

But that "agreement" was based on an estimate of $15,000 for the repairs with the city to pay half, countered Cramer.

Now, the cost has risen considerably, to more than $25,000, she said, and that doesn't include ADA-compliant restrooms at the pier.

The previous city commission had removed any pier improvement funding in the 2003-04 budget approved in September 2003.

"I still think the city is obligated for 50 percent of the cost and I'm uncomfortable with changing that," said Commissioner Dale Woodland.

Maybe, countered Cramer, but that was 50 percent of $15,000, not half of $40,000 or more.

City Attorney Jim Dye said in December 2002 that under the lease, the leaseholder is obligated to meet and pay for all local, county, state and federal requirements.

The commission agreed it needed accurate cost estimates before any further discussion.

Mayor SueLynn said Baskerville-Donovan Inc., the city's engineering firm, would provide an up-to-date estimate of improvements for the pier to meet ADA standards, and at the same time, she would inform the leaseholder of the commission's budget decision.

Commissioners agreed to hold the next special meeting on parking at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 14.