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Cottage may come down for parking

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

The board tasked with overseeing projects in Bradenton Beach’s downtown district last week backed tearing down a city-owned cottage to expand public parking.

The Monroe Cottage, built circa 1950 and used most recently for the now defunct city project/program management department, is on property just south of a public parking lot and the city public works department.

Earlier this year, the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency committee began looking at ways to expand use of the parking lot, which is between Church and Highland avenues.

Matt Morris of the Bradenton firm LTA Engineers appeared before the CRA committee Sept. 14 to present several ideas. The firm is under contract with the city to work on the project.

Two of four concepts were immediately dismissed by the committee, which is made up of the city commission and the mayor and business representative Ed Chiles, who was absent. Those two concepts involved changes or the elimination of the small Lou Barola Park across the street from the parking lot. The committee learned last week that such actions would require a referendum under the city charter.

“I’m glad we have to keep the park,” said Commissioner Gay Breuler. “In the course of time, we need to maintain some green areas.”

One of the remaining options, exhibit one from LTA, involves reconfiguring the existing parking area with a row of angled parking spaces, as well as added spaces adjacent to the park and on Church and Highland avenues. The preliminary plan shows a total of 38 public spaces, as well as city spaces.

The other option, the one the committee favored, is labeled exhibit three and involves the changes proposed in exhibit one, as well as the demolition of the Monroe Cottage and a shed and garage at the site at 304 Church Ave.

The plan shows a total of 47 public parking spaces, as well as city staff spaces.

The city purchased the cottage property several years ago for about $300,000 with plans to renovate — the cottage is not up to code and fails to meet access requirements under the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

Eventually, city officials agreed that renovation was too expensive and that there was no good use for the structure. There had been some discussion about it becoming a welcome center, but there was consensus on the CRA committee earlier this year that the cottage is not close enough to Bridge Street to serve that purpose.

“From what we’ve already concluded, it’s a pretty messy place,” Breuler said. “And not very good for anything.”

The Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office has assessed the value of the land at 304 Church Ave. at $155,330 and the value of the structures at $19,399.

City clerk Nora Idso said the property has not been designated “historic” by the state, and that the city “can do whatever we like with it.”

The added public parking likely would be used by people who work in the CRA, which consists of the downtown area from Cortez Road south to Fifth Street South.

The CRA district was established about 18 years ago to revitalize what was deemed a blighted area of the city. The CRA is a tool to dedicate certain property tax dollars for revitalization within the district.

During last week’s meeting, resident Bill Shearon urged the committee to keep in mind the city’s regulations as it designs the parking lot.

“I believe that any parking lot and parking plan should meet the requirements of our land-development code,” Shearon said, emphasizing surface, lighting and landscape rules. He said the city should follow the same rules that exist for commercial enterprises.

Mayor Bob Bartelt said, “I really don’t think any project in this city is going to be built unless it goes through the proper permitting process.”

The committee wants the surface to be a 250 sand mixture, which would allow for better drainage, and, based on a reading of the LDC, would be allowed.

Exhibit one would cost the city about $41,000 in CRA money, according to Morris. His preliminary estimate for exhibit three was $55,000.

Bartelt said, “Obviously this isn’t all final.”

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