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Parking U-turn in Anna Maria

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria commissioners have made a sharp turn in discussing parking options for Pine Avenue.

At the commission’s Jan. 13 meeting, a majority of commissioners wanted to continue discussion of a parking plan that would include parking in the rights of way.

But opinions were reversed at the Jan. 27 meeting.

City planner Alan Garrett presented a parking plan option that calls for all parking to be on site, but would lower the maximum building coverage to “allow as many parking spaces as possible,” he said. The plan also reduces the length of a parking space from 20 feet to 18 feet.

“This maintains the city’s right of way and gives motorists a greater viewing distance,” Garrett said.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb, along with Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Gene Aubry, favored this option, while Commissioner Dale Woodland said it adds too many access points to Pine Avenue.

Woodland said the comprehensive plan calls on the city to limit the number of access points to major thoroughfares, not add more.

Mattick, however, said she’s talked to a number of residents who favor this option over the ROW-parking option.

“My poll consensus is this is the way to go. I was leaning toward option 2, but after discussing this with the mayor and residents, I’m happy” with this option, she said.

Aubry said the on-site plan gives the city more options for changes to parking in the future.

Commissioner John Quam said he also favored the plan, but suggested further discussion before drafting an ordinance.

Webb expressed concern about motorists backing out of a parking space across a sidewalk, but Garrett said the ordinance could require the developer to design parking so no vehicle backs across a sidewalk.

Mayor Mike Selby suggested eliminating tandem parking for resident-parking at an ROR complex, along with deleting the designated loading zone.

“This will give an additional parking space,” he said.

Former planning and zoning board member Frank Pytel was opposed to the plan.

“To me, we are changing all the ground rules for on-site parking. We are going to have meandering sidewalks,” he said.

Resident Mike Coleman suggested commissioners look at the parking arrangement at 216 Pine Ave., a retail-office-residential complex his company, Pine Avenue Restoration LLC, recently completed.

“This is the exact same parking plan you are now talking about. It works,” Coleman said.

He noted there has been an “emotional component about on-site or off-site parking” in the city the past few years and he believes this will solve the issue to the satisfaction of the vast majority of residents.

“Congratulations on the initiative to develop a rational plan,” Coleman told the commissioners and mayor.

Webb noted that if the ordinance passes, it would only affect new developments on Pine Avenue.

“We are not going to require existing structures to comply,” he said.

Coleman, however, said PAR is ready to “retro-fit” its existing ROR properties to conform to whatever plan is eventually approved by the commission. That includes relocating sidewalks between parking spots and the structures.

After wrangling about Pine Avenue parking for at least the past year, Webb was ready to move.

“Let’s get this resolved,” he said.

The majority of commissioners agreed and Garrett will present a draft ordinance at the commission’s Feb. 10 meeting.

In other business, commissioners approved a variance for the Waterfront Restaurant to add a vinyl awning on the porch facing Spring Avenue to cover diners during inclement weather. The variance will not add seats to the restaurant, owner Jason Suzor said.

Selby updated commissioners on the cell tower issue, saying he had met with several cell-tower providers and has a meeting with another this week.

After talking with cell tower experts, Selby said he was told the direct antenna system, which places numerous small satellite antennas on poles around the city is “unworkable” in Anna Maria.

The city needs a cell tower, he said, but it won’t look anything like the Holmes Beach tower. New technology allows a cell tower to appear as a flagpole.

Selby pledged to “facilitate” between property owners and cell tower companies and get a company to bring an application to the city.

“We need a cell tower in Anna Maria.”

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