Small wonder so many officials are in disbelief. It’s unthinkable, unbelievable that Anna Maria Island has lost so many residents. The recent census results are causing a rip current of concern.
Whether you measure by homestead exemptions (homeowners mostly living year-round in their homes), voters (folks with a vested interest) or use the new U.S. census numbers (a so-so head count), the numbers are down.
Down. Down. Down.
Wow. Just when it looked like there was evidence of a renaissance in some areas — after all, business is on the up, up, up on Bridge Street and Pine Avenue, and Holmes Beach is holding its own.
And contractors and investors are developing new homes and rejuvenating the surge of elevated duplexes that resulted in the 1970s after FEMA all but eliminated ground-level homes here.
Apparently, what we are to surmise is that these homes will be purchased by investors who won’t ever live here.
Are we becoming more than what we wished for — more a tourist town and less a residential community where families raise their kids?
Like our late friend Snooks Adams, born in Cortez and having spent most of his adult life on Anna Maria Island, would say when asked what he thought of all the folks that have come here: “Hell, I didn’t want you to come here.”
But, he proceeded to comment, “Now that you’re here … we Islanders have to provide for those folks who want to come and live here. Roads, bridges, beaches, schools, lifestyle, safety, sustenance.
Remember when AMI had three grocery stores and a market? More than 400 students at the elementary school? Five competitive Little League teams? A full roster of members at the Key Royale Club?
How will we provide for the future? A future of more visitors than residents? That’s the big question.
If you’ve frequented any top tourist destinations, you’ve seen the “big picture.” And that picture comes from visioning. From people challenging one another to think ahead and consider “what if” scenarios.
Just five to six years ago Islanders were cashing in their chips, selling at top dollar and moving back North or short distances to “town,” where their dollar stretched in housing options.
Then, the bubble burst on real estate, and Islanders found themselves coming up short. Low prices are bringing investors — deal-makers who only want to make money.
And so it starts again.
The difference will be, they don’t want to live here.
They won’t homestead, vote or count in the census.
We will have a new brand for paradise.
And who could have guessed 10, 20 or 30 years ago that we were headed into a declining population?
Who knew we Islanders could become such rare birds?