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Legal challengers told density on Pine a ‘dead horse’

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Matt Anderson of Woodruff and Sons Construction discusses the status of the Anna Maria City Pier boardwalk at the March 24 city commission meeting. Construction is scheduled to begin in mid-May and completion should be by Sept. 30. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

One Anna Maria commissioner told attorney Jeremy Anderson at the March 24 public hearing on a Pine Avenue Restoration LLC site-plan hearing for 210 Pine Ave. that his challenge to the city over density is a “dead horse”

And city attorney Jim Dye took offense to claims by Anderson that he might have deleted some terms in the city’s comp plan, saying he’d like to know what Anderson was smoking before the meeting.

Anderson represents Anna Maria property owners William and Barbara Nally and other parties who claim the city wrongly calculated the density of the PAR project at 7.5 gross units per acre. He said that amounts to more units than what he claims is the limit of 6 units per gross acre.

He questioned who had eliminated provisions from the comp plan that allowed the city to approve the site plan and forward it to the commission.

“This city has incorrectly assisted in deletion of policies” when it comes to approving new developments, Anderson insinuated.

“This is an integral part of whether this or all the other (PAR) projects are valid,” he claimed.

But Dye took offense that Anderson appeared to be accusing someone in the city of deleting or ignoring language from the comp plan to approve a site plan.

Nothing has been deleted from the comp plan in approving site plans, and nothing has been ignored, he said.

“It sounds like he’s accusing me of deleting language in the comprehensive plan. I’m not sure what he’s smoking, but it’s good stuff. And I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Dye responded.

“You are dancing around the questions,” Anderson said to Dye and Garrett after being denied the opportunity to directly question Garrett about density calculations. Anderson claimed the city was avoiding an “on the record” statement and to say it uses gross acreage to calculate density in the ROR.

“Let’s not get into cross-examination,” said Commission Chair Chuck Webb.

But, Anderson told Webb, the commission might be “violating due process” for his client.

Dye responded that density was calculated on this project in the same manner it was calculated for other developments on Pine Avenue. The method is the same as that which was challenged in a complaint to the Florida Department of Community Affairs in 2010. The DCA “found the city conforming to the comp plan,” Dye replied.

Anderson’s law firm, Lobeck and Hanson, P.A., of Sarasota, also represented the client in the complaint to the DCA, and currently represents the Nallys and Robert and Nicola Hunt in separate legal actions against the city.

“You’re beating a dead horse,” said Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick to Anderson. “We’ve talked about this numerous times and we agree with the DCA, and I don’t think our planner needs to keep answering questions.”

Mattick’s statement prompted applause from the gallery.

Webb said the under-size lots on Pine Avenue, although non-conforming, have been grandfathered for use by the city, and the DCA has agreed.

But Mike Coleman of PAR was unhappy with Anderson’s comments.

He said Anderson knows how the city calculates density and knows of the DCA decision of July 2010.

Coleman said Anderson’s law firm has been shopping for clients to sue the city, resulting in three legal actions against Anna Maria that have cost the city money.

“Enough is enough,” he said.

Webb asked Coleman to stay with the site-plan issue.

Before adjournment, Coleman apologized to commissioners and Mayor Mike Selby for his comments about Anderson.

The commission eventually approved the site plan 4-1, with Commissioners John Quam and Gene Aubry voting yes with Webb and Mattick. Commissioner Dale Woodland cast the dissenting vote.

Woodland said he still holds the view that the city is not calculating density according to the comp plan.

Parking

In other business, commissioners agreed to continue the public hearing of an ordinance for Pine Avenue parking to 6 p.m. Thursday, April 14.

Aubry wanted to vote that night on the ordinance and amendments suggested by the commission, but Webb said that the special exceptions have “not yet been pinned down,” and it would be better to have a correct ordinance when the vote takes place.

The proposed changes will create Chapter 91 of the parking ordinance and require new developments on Pine Avenue to have all parking on the property, provide a sidewalk between parking spaces and the structures, and reduce the maximum lot coverage to allow developers more room for parking. Any restaurant plan would have to conform to the original ordinance and configure parking based on the number of seats at the restaurant.

A suggestion by Garrett to have developers plan parking using parts of both chapters was rejected by the commission.

Woodland expressed concern that the proposed ordinance creates too many access points along Pine Avenue and does not follow the comp plan objectives to limit access points on major roads.

Commissioners also got an update on the planned boardwalk along the city pier shoreline that is funded by a federal grant administered by the Florida Department of Transportation.

Matt Anderson, of Woodruff and Sons Construction, no known relation to Jeremy Anderson, said much of the background work on the boardwalk has been done. The company expects to begin actual construction a few days after the May 13-14 Anna Maria City Pier Centennial Celebration. The project should be completed by late September, he said.

During some of the construction, the Island Trolley will make stops in the city pier’s south parking lot. A new trolley stop and shelter will be built on the north side of a new pier entrance.

In other business, the commission gave preliminary approval for a two-lot subdivision at 216 Archer Way to allow the owner to remove a duplex and build two single-family homes. The owner offered to dedicate some of the property to the city as a right of way and obtain approval in the form of signatures from adjacent property owners.

Commissioners also approved spending $5,218 for a system that will digitally record meetings. The recordings can be put on the city’s website minutes after a meeting ends.

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