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Date of Issue: February 11, 2009

Pine Avenue Restoration explains PAR projects

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Ed Chiles of Pine Avenue Restoration talks with Anna Maria residents Betty Yanger, right, and Sissy Quinn at the Studio at Gulf and Pine Feb. 4, where PAR held a neighbor meeting to discuss its Pine Avenue projects. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Ed Chiles and Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration LLC held a neighborhood meeting Feb. 4 at the Studio at Gulf and Pine in an effort to clear up misunderstandings about their Pine Avenue projects.

One misconception about the projects and the company, said Coleman, is that the proposed changes to the city’s retail-office-residential ordinance that city commissioners will debate in a public hearing Feb. 12 were initiated or sought by PAR.

That’s just not the case, he said, particularly the change that deletes the requirement that an ROR structure be “owner occupied.”

Removal of that language in the city’s comprehensive plan was first discussed in 2005 at an ad hoc comp plan committee meeting, said Coleman.

That ad hoc committee also suggested language in the comp plan to support mixed use in the ROR and the city commission agreed, he said.

The construction of 37-foot-high homes on Pine Avenue several years ago sparked a protest from a number of residents that Pine Avenue was turning into nothing but “mega-mansions,” noted Coleman.

With supporting language for mixed use in the ROR district written into the goals, objectives and policies of the comp plan, Coleman said he and Ed Chiles set out to ensure that the business community would be revived and that mega-mansions would not take over Pine Avenue.

 They formed PAR in 2007 and were joined by Holmes Beach resident Ted LaRoche. They began purchasing properties in the ROR for the purpose of developing them as two-story, mixed-use structures, not three-story residences.

“Our concept was to keep the historic design of the district and build two-story structures, not three, as allowed by the ordinance,” said Chiles.

“We are trying to do it the right way and according to the comprehensive plan. The idea that mixed-use was put on the table at the last minute is not true,” said Chiles.

Coleman also explained to the estimated 50 people who attended that removing the owner-occupancy requirement in the ROR was “supposed to be just house-keeping” after the change was approved at a joint city commission-planning and zoning board work session in August 2008.

Removing the owner-occupancy requirement will allow small businesses on Pine Avenue to remain and people who have been in business 30 years in Anna Maria will stay in their businesses, said Coleman.

If an ROR structure has to be owner-occupied, people such as hairstylist Loretta Hopps and podiatrist Claire Starrett would be forced to leave the city, he said.

 “Small business is the fabric of Anna Maria,” said Chiles. “We like to know who we are doing business with and we don't want to go off-Island if we can help it.”

Both Hopps and Starrett said they supported PAR’s efforts to build ROR structures.

“It allows us to stay here in business. All our friends are on the Island. We don’t want to leave,” said Starrett.

Coleman also observed that some people have concerns about vacation rentals on Pine Avenue. But daily rentals are now allowed, he said, even for a single-family residence. The city has nearly 400 registered vacation rentals. he said.

PAR is only building nine residential units, Coleman noted.

But some neighbors still had concerns.

Sally Eaton of Spring Avenue said she was upset because at a May 2008 planning and zoning meeting about PAR's project at 315, 317 Pine Ave., the documents all said the units would be “owner occupied.” She blasted city officials at the meeting for not informing the public that “owner occupied” had been deleted in the comp plan and that she had been looking at the old requirements.

She and other Spring Avenue residents also are concerned about the noise from the project and the “constant turnover” of short-term renters.

“What’s wrong is that we were not given the whole picture. The city had a responsibility to inform us. I am concerned that Pine Avenue will become more touristy,” she said.

Coleman said he appreciated the dialogue and input from the neighbors of Pine Avenue, even if those views were opposing points.

“I’m just glad that people with opposing views came and got a chance to speak. It just gives everyone a clearer picture,” he said.