Anna Maria residents should brace for more meetings with Pine Avenue parking as the main topic of discussion.
City commissioners at their Jan. 13 meeting appeared ready to move closer to a solution. They informally agreed 3-2 to move forward with a parking plan for Pine Avenue that will include an option for parking in the rights of way for new retail-office-residential projects.
The Pine Avenue Public Parking and Pedestrian Plan was one of three plans presented to commissioners by city planner Alan Garrett.
Each of the proposed plans would “prohibit vehicles from backing over a sidewalk to enter or exit the space,” although residential parking spaces would be exempt from the sidewalk requirement, according to Garrett.
The controversial portion of the plan commissioners are moving forward is that some parking spaces could be located “partially within the city right-of-way.” A future business needing such space would be required to obtain a right-of-way use permit from the city. On-site parking could also be used by the new business.
Perpendicular and angle parking on Pine Avenue also are in the plan, and future sidewalks would be located between the parked vehicles and the structures of the development. No separate loading space is required under the plan.
The 3-2 informal vote was not without debate.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said he wanted to know “what is the problem we are trying to solve?”
In his opinion, there is not a parking problem, so “why do we want to change?”
A number of residents have said they don’t want the city giving up any right of way for parking, Woodland observed. If a public parking plan is approved, a lot of people are going to be unhappy.
But Commission Chair Chuck Webb said it’s time for the commission to move forward with a plan. Everyone agrees that backing out across a sidewalk is unsafe. Where the disagreement comes is over parking in the right of way.
Webb said he was a planning and zoning board member 12 years ago and a commissioner from 2002-2004. People agreed then that they did not want strip mall development on Pine Avenue. The proposed plan ensures strip retail centers won’t be on Pine Avenue, he said.
“This is a balance between more green space,” Webb said. Additionally, studies have been done showing there is enough existing parking on Pine Avenue to accommodate new developments.
“I don’t want to see lots paved over” for parking, he said, but would rather “preserve the green area” and put parking on the street.
“My position is this is the way to go,” Webb concluded.
Woodland disagreed, as did Commissioner John Quam, who favored a parking and pedestrian plan that did not include parking in the right of way, but does eliminate back-out parking.
Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Gene Aubry agreed to proceed with the plan for more discussions.
Planning and zoning board chair Sandy Mattick favored Quam’s suggestion that back-out parking be prohibited and no right-of-way parking allowed.
Resident Larry Albert said that before the commission approves any new parking plan, it should “park some cars up there on Pine Avenue and see what it looks like.” He disagreed with parking in the right of way.
Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration LLC invited commissioners to visit PAR’s retail-office-residential project at 216 Pine Ave. and observe how the parking arrangement works.
Parking at that location is based on the plan commissioners are moving forward, he said. A sidewalk Coleman constructed is between parking spaces and the buildings and there is enough room along the right of way for delivery trucks to parallel park.
Aubry observed there already are a number of Pine Avenue locations where right-of-way parking is permitted.
P&Z board member Tom Turner argued for the formation of an ad hoc committee to develop a plan.
“For the past 14 months, discussion has gone nowhere,” he said. The solution is to change the parking requirements or the lot coverage to create more open space on the property. An ad hoc committee can come up with a good plan, he said.
Jo Ann Mattick observed the parking plan is still in the “discussion” phase and nothing has been decided.
Correct, said Webb.
The plan will be discussed at either the Jan. 27 meeting or the commission’s February work session before it goes to a first reading.
Any ordinance change requires two readings and a public hearing, but Webb said it was too early to ask city attorney Jim Dye to prepare an ordinance.