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Date of Issue: February 11, 2009

Anna Maria commission to finalize ROR ordinance Thursday

Anyone wishing to attend the Anna Maria city commission’s Feb. 12 public hearing on the city’s retail-office-residential ordinance should plan to arrive at city hall early.

If the planning and zoning board’s Jan. 20 public hearing is any indication, it will be a packed house that will greet the commission.

The issue has created a division in the city not seen since a parking ordinance split those people who favored various parking regulations and those opposed.

But the commission must pass an ordinance that complies with the provisions of the comprehensive plan approved in October 2007. And what those provisions will be has stirred debate on both sides of the issue.

On one side, there are residents who oppose several changes to the ordinance, including removal of the requirement that an ROR structure be owner occupied, and an allowance for a swimming pool at any residential structure in the ROR district. Some people even oppose construction of the ROR projects already approved by the P&Z board and city commission.

Conversely, other residents say the ordinance ensures the city will have a business district that is fitting with the old Florida ambiance and that Pine Avenue will be spared from “mega-mansions” and a canyon of residences.

 Similarly, others have said it’s better to have a local developer building on Pine Avenue than an outsider who doesn’t care about the city’s history or character.

Some Spring Avenue residents believe their quality of life will be harmed by changes that they predict will result from the ordinance. Spring Avenue runs parallel to Pine Avenue to the south.

Former City Commissioner Carol Ann Magill, a Spring Avenue resident, said she plans to speak at the meeting about “issues that concern me and the residents of the area” and the impact the proposed ordinance would have on her quality of life.

“My major concern is how the ordinance will affect the residential character of the community,” Magill said.

She invited everyone to speak at the public hearing, regardless of his or her position on the ordinance.

“Now is the time to speak, even if the outcome may not be what you want,” she said.

Magill would prefer an “owner-occupied” requirement remain in the ordinance, but understands that the current economy may not make that practical.

Other residents, including Janet Aubry of Spring Avenue, have expressed approval for the ordinance.

At the planning and zoning board’s Jan. 20 public hearing on the ordinance, Aubry noted that the proposed changes are not new. They’ve been discussed for several years by the city commission and planning and zoning board, she observed.