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Parking ‘yes,’ restrooms ‘no’ for future Pine Avenue park

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry discusses his park drawing at the commission’s April 25 meeting. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

By a 3-2 vote, Anna Maria commissioners at their April 25 meeting approved a park and parking plan for the vacant land owned by the city at the east end of Pine Avenue, but they rejected providing public restrooms at the park.

The original plan proposed by Commissioner Gene Aubry called for parking on a portion of land that would be surrounded by live oak trees, including some along North Bay Boulevard and the seawall on the Lake LaVista inlet. The trees and landscaping are being donated by resident Rex Hagen

An open space in the middle would be sufficient for public events such as Bayfest, Aubry said. He also clarified the city would not put in turf, but grass would be allowed to grow naturally in the open areas.

At the April 25 meeting, commissioners revised the plan, allowing angled parking only along North Bay Boulevard, providing between 15 and 19 spaces. No parking would be allowed within the park.

Commission Chair John Quam proposed straight-in parking on Bay Boulevard, but Commissioners Nancy Yetter and Dale Woodland preferred a 60-degree angle for parking spaces. Commissioner Chuck Webb was opposed to any parking.

Webb, Quam and Yetter rejected adding public restrooms, citing objections from the public, as well as maintenance and safety issues.

Quam, Yetter and Woodland voted for the angled parking plan, while Aubry and Webb were opposed.

Quam asked building official Bob Welch to take the parking project through the site-plan process, while noting that the commission already accepted Hagen’s donation.

Commissioners at a previous meeting approved a rendering by Aubry that showed the trees planted around the perimeter, with the park interior vacant except for some parking.

The restroom portion appeared doomed from the start. A number of members of the public spoke against that option, including Ernie Moon, president of the Bayou Condominium Owners Association.

He said the 32 owners at the Bayou, which is adjacent to the lots on the west side, were concerned the park and restrooms would become a haven for vagrants, who could jump the fence and burglarize their condos.

Resident Jim Conoly called for documentation, showing the cost to the city, but Aubry responded that Hagen would donate the trees along with an irrigation system, while Pine Avenue Restoration LLC pledged $100,000 toward improvements, including the parking.

Aubry said he would help Welch lay out the parking.

The added parking will help alleviate the crowding at Bayview Plaza, where residents check their mail at the post office, planning and zoning board chair Tom Turner said.

Quam said the final parking plan will be whatever is safest and not near the humpback bridge. “We may not get 19 spaces but we’ll see,” he said.

Turner also favored the restrooms, but the motion to build them failed 2-3.

Commissioners asked Welch to begin the tree-planting process as soon as possible. The oaks will be young trees that will eventually grow to considerable heights, Aubry said.

In other matters, city attorney Jim Dye told commissioners, in response to a request by the Olive Oil Outpost to sell takeout organic wines, that the Florida statute on take-out liquor sales preempts any local statute. In addition, said Dye, if a store can sell beer for takeout, it can also sell wine.

Quam asked if that meant any store could sell wine for takeout. Dye responded that if a store sells beer for takeout, the store could also sell wine, but only on a takeout basis.

Randy Dillingham of the accounting firm of CS&L then gave the city a “clean and unqualified opinion” of city finances following an audit of the city books for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

He said it was the highest rating the city could receive.

Financially, the city is in “good shape,” Dillingham said, with a surplus of $212,000 left at the end of the fiscal year in the city treasury.

Commissioners congratulated city treasurer Diane Percycoe for her efforts, and Mayor SueLynn added that no one realizes how much work Percycoe puts into preparing financial reports, while at the same time performing her other duties.

“We really have to stay on top of this” at all times, the mayor said.

SueLynn said Percycoe also helped significantly to gather the public records requested by St. Augustine attorney Rick Rumrell. The cost includes staff time, prorated based on the salary of the worker, considering the record request was extensive. The cost to Rumrell was $409, but SueLynn said it cost the city considerably more, because staff could have been performing work for the city.

Rumrell’s request came after commissioners discussed a moratorium on new residential construction that includes an ordinance limiting the height of some new construction to 27 feet, once the moratorium is lifted.

Commissioners then unanimously approved a new fee schedule for the building department, and agreed with Welch that his department needs a new software program.

Commissioners agreed the evaluation phase of crushed shell and other permeable materials for sidewalks on Pine Avenue has concluded, although Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration argued the evaluation should continue to August.

Coleman has used permeable substances — a shell mix — to build sidewalks fronting PAR’s Pine Avenue projects.

Commissioners, however, said it was time to install either concrete or decking.

Welch said no one is going to put in wood decking for a sidewalk because of the cost and maintenance.

Aubry said PAR has done some good things with its sidewalks, but everyone needs to get on the same page.

He motioned for Welch to draft an ordinance and the commission to schedule a special work session solely to examine the ordinance and “fine tune it if necessary.” The motion passed unanimously.

SueLynn appointed a cell tower committee to study the three proposals the city received to build a cell tower. She nominated Jon Kane, former Mayor Mike Selby, former Commissioner Tom Aposporos, Welch, Woodland and Yetter to the committee. All meetings will be noticed and subject to the Sunshine Law, she said.

Commissioners unanimously accepted the committee members as proposed.

3 Responses to Parking ‘yes,’ restrooms ‘no’ for future Pine Avenue park

  1. Sam says:

    The residents of the condos and much of the ‘public’ mentioned in this article are very much with an attitude as are the merchants in AMI. You know the ‘we are better than everyone else’. Well, if you want our money and the isle is for public enjoyment! Where do you suppose families such as mine take our children & ourselves ‘when nature calls’? Putting a restroom in this new area would be fine and really? – “concerned the park and restrooms would become a haven for vagrants, who could jump the fence and burglarize their condos.” How awfully hateful and over-reacting are all of you…for shame!

  2. william j peoples says:

    As a 3 month visitor (jan,feb, mar) I know I would welcome restrooms, as well as parking. Im surprised at the people who are “concerned the park and restrooms would become a haven for vagrants, who could jump the fence and burglarize their condos.” Is crime a real problem in A.M.I.?

  3. Maureen Dahms says:

    Thank goodness this conversation has been opened up. It is unbelievable to that restrooms would not be installed in this “new” park/parking lot. I agree that the comments about vagrants is absolutely from the minds of frightened, hysterical people and is an insult and shortsighted. I was a resident and property owner directly across from Bayfront Park for 8 years. Not only did I never encounter ‘vagrants’, but I never had anyone climb over my fence or burglarize my home. Let’s slow down and take another look at the positive aspects of putting restrooms in our new park. It is not fair to have the shop owners make their restrooms ‘public’ and it is not fair to our visitors to make them beg to use a restroom. Gene Aubrey drew up some lovely plans, with restrooms. Let’s use his talent and logic.

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