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More parking headaches approach Anna Maria

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

These Anna Maria visitors last week couldn’t find a parking space in the city pier lot on Bay Boulevard, but found a spot in the city-owned vacant lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard being used as overflow parking across from the pier. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Many Anna Maria residents, including Mayor Mike Selby and city commissioners, may have thought the city’s parking problems were solved with the 2010 passage of a Pine Avenue parking plan.

That plan, plus the redesigned parking for the boardwalk at the city pier and permission to allow overflow parking on three of six city-owned lots across from the city pier, appeared to be a long-sought parking solution.

But the overflow parking lot is only temporary.

City commissioners recently adopted a resolution to close the three lots to public parking May 7, following the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce annual wedding festival and Food and Wine on Pine events.

That resolution prompted City Pier Restaurant leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder to send Selby a letter asking the city reconsider closing the overflow lot on the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard.

Schoenfelder claims the city has taken away parking spaces from the restaurant. The closure of the overflow lots will create more parking problems for all businesses, not just the pier, he said.

What’s happening, claimed Schoenfelder, is that the pier has become more attractive as a visitor destination as a result of the new boardwalk.

While he’s pleased with the boardwalk’s appearance, the unintended consequences are “this new facility not only brings added traffic, but may have cost several public parking spaces as well,” he said.

“There were three spaces on the right of way in front of 101 Bay Blvd. that were removed for safety reasons,” Schoenfelder said. “There were also two spaces in front of the right pavilion at the base of the pier that were removed for (Florida Department of Transportation) concerns.”

Those two spaces are now marked for exclusive use by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies, he said.

Additionally, the added sand on the Tampa Bay shoreline on both sides of the pier will “undoubtedly bring more beach use and put added pressure on existing parking.”

Schoenfelder said he’s not looking for special treatment, but a “viable city pier (and Pine Avenue businesses) depend a great deal on available parking” in an area where attractions and traffic have been added “without the commensurate growth of parking to support them.”

He asked Selby and commissioners to “reconsider” the overflow parking lots. If the city turns the six lots into an open-space park or other attraction, it will only draw more visitors.

After the overflow lot closes in May, “What will happen?” in subsequent high-demand periods, he asked.

“As you move forward, it is my hope that some accommodation can be reached,” Schoenfelder wrote to Selby and commissioners.

Adding to the parking woes, the City Pier Restaurant and other area businesses should no longer count on the parking lot at Roser Memorial Community Church, 510 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, to handle overflow parking.

Congregation chair Roger Roark also sent Selby a letter last week, noting the church parking lots are “increasingly being used for unauthorized parking by the general public while visiting, shopping or sight-seeing in the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard area.”

Roark, like Schoenfelder, said the city needs to address adequate parking “for the increased commercial development and tourist attractions on Pine Avenue.”

Roser is an “active community church,” said Roark, and there are few days each month the facility is not being used for church-related events or “authorized community activities using Roser space.”

The congregation’s concern is that increased public parking at Roser would “have a negative impact” on Roser’s ability to “serve the congregation and those other authorized events,” he said.

Roser has worked with a number of its commercial neighbors to provide parking for their customers and staff, Roark said, but the limit of accommodation has almost been reached, if not already.

“We are unable to determine ‘authorized’ from ‘unauthorized use,’” Roark said, and the congregation’s concern is that Roser parking lots are “fast becoming the parking lots of last resort for the increasing size of the general public” visiting the pier and Pine Avenue.

“We’ve always been good neighbors and we’ll continue to be good neighbors. We’re always happy to help when we can,” Roark said. That’s why the church is addressing the issue now, he said, not waiting to be overrun with parking issues.

He said the church would welcome an invitation by the city to discuss the issues before the parking problem worsens. Roark said he hopes the church and the city can find a solution.

Congregation concerns about parking began a few years ago, Roark said, as Pine Avenue became developed and as more visitors came to the city.

A team of church members recently formed to develop recommendations “to solve the increasing problem,” and “make everyone happy,” he said.

As soon as the team completes its recommendations, Roark said he would ask Selby for a meeting to discuss the issue and possible solutions.

Selby said he would talk with Roark and Schoenfelder before seeking commission input.

5 Responses to More parking headaches approach Anna Maria

  1. Ah says:

    So do I have this right? Less than a year ago Anna Maria City decide on a new parking plan (contrary to the Comp Plan and the advice of parking expert Dan Burden) which says that the developers no longer are required to provide on site parking and instead can cover their tiny 5000 sq ft lots in huge buildings. Now they are wondering why there is nowhere for the tourists they have advertised for to park! How long before Ed Chiles demands the City buy up lots to provide parking for his developments exactly as he did in Bradenton Beach? When are we going to have a Commission that can competently handle the requirements of the residents in this City and not the developers. It’s shameful that they pass a parking plan which was voted against by hundreds of citizens in a Citizens Petition and within months have to admit its not working.

    • Ah Hah says:

      I am on Pine Avenue every single day and there are many, many empty public parking places. There are even a few public parking spaces that have illegal No Parking signs placed next to them.
      The whole point of a walking community as pointed out by Dan Burden is that people stroll up and down Pine. If we would have wanted big paved parking lots in front of the Pier or any other business we should have all have moved to the big city. Most people “get it” and walk on the path systems being developed and are well into the spirit of creating and enjoying a true walking community.

      There will always be those who “don’t get it” and complain because they want to pull up into a Publix style parking lot as close to a building as possible. Ugly. I like it that one street in town is viable, busy and enjoyed by so many locals and visitors daily. Pine Avenue is a very friendly stree with many walkers who enjoy it. Quit moaning and join in the fun and get a little exercise!

      • Nicolas says:

        that the developers no lngoer are required to provide on site parking and instead can cover their tiny 5000 sq ft lots in huge buildings. Now they are wondering why there is nowhere for the tourists they have advertised for to park! How long before someone demands the City buy up lots to provide parking for developments exactly as they did in Bradenton Beach? When are we going to have a Commission that can competently handle the requirements of the residents in this City and not the developers. It’s shameful that they pass a parking plan which was voted against by hundreds of citizens in a Citizens Petition and within months have to admit its not working.

  2. Ah says:

    AhHah – you have totally missed the point of the article. They are saying they don’t have enough parking spaces for Pine Avenue. Nobody thought ahead as to what the consequences would be of the developers not having to provide on site parking.
    And you are quite wrong as Dan Burden said back out parking was the most dangerous parking you could have and that is what we now have and it’s ugly – all you see is cars up and down the road. Worse backing out into the road – highly dangerous. Alternative plans suggested parking discreetly hidden with a lot more planting screening the parking. But heck no that would have required the developers providing parking for the businesses and therefore reduced the size of their buildings. As to a walking district – they have to park SOMEWHERE to start walking or are you suggesting they are dropped in by helicopter! I am sure you can get your friends/developers to come on here and talk up Pine Avenue. The truth is most the locals avoid it like the plague. Pine Avenue was a beautiful street full of cracker cottages prior to the development. It has been totally overdeveloped with oversized cloned buildings – hard to see that as a plus for our City. Question? If you are on Pine Avenue every single day and there are lots of empty parking spaces can we assume that the businesses are not the draw you hoped they would be? Either way I suggest you tell the Commission that parking is not a problem as this article clearly indicates they think there is.

  3. beth says:

    i googled “public parking on anna maria island” because we are/were planning to visit in march. originally, we wanted to stay on the island, but i’m not finding much availablility. so, i decided that maybe we would stay in bradenton and drive in. i can tell you from a tourist’s perspective, having been there, but not stayed on the island, that day parking is very hard to find. the lack of parking has discouraged me from making the effort to come to the island if i am not staying there. it is such a beautiful place. good luck as you seek to balance holding on to the beauty of the island and providing an easily accessible tourist location.

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