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Public comment sought for AM park proposal

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria Commissioner Gene Aubry, at the April 11 commission meeting, describes his plan for a new city park with 15 parking spaces at the east end of Pine Avenue. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Anna Maria commissioners asked for more public input on a proposed park, consisting of live oak trees, a grass lawn and 15 parking spaces at the corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard North.

Commissioner Gene Aubry presented his plan, noting that resident Rex Hagen, who previously had asked to remain anonymous, will pay for all the live oak trees, installation and a watering, while Pine Avenue Restoration will pay for grass and other expenses.

The proposal also calls for two bathrooms and park benches.

Commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter opposed the project.

Webb noted that the commission had said when the six vacant lots across from the Anna Maria City Pier were purchased there would be no parking on them.

Yetter agreed, and further stated opposition to public restrooms. “Who would clean them?” she asked.

Commission Chair John Quam said the idea made sense to relieve the congestion that occurs near the post office, city pier and shops at the east end of Pine Avenue, but he also opposed the bathrooms.

Aubry said the city needs to be more tourist-friendly and public restrooms are needed there.

Commissioner Dale Woodland sided with Aubry. He said it makes sense and is a good use of the property.

“And it’s the best compromise we’ve had” for the property, he added.

The 25 live oak trees would be planted around the property and several would separate the parking area from the park grounds. The live oak trees already there would be saved, Aubry said.

Webb said he might give approval for a portion of the plan, but he wanted public input before a final decision.

Aubry said he would bring a rendering of the restrooms — a design similar to those found in European cities, which need little maintenance — to the April 25 meeting.

Quam agreed to add the presentation and discussion as the lead item for the commission’s April 25 meeting.

 

Moratorium enacted

Commissioners unanimously approved a moratorium ordinance on all residential construction above 27 feet, while they continue to revise the city’s bulk-, lot- and yard-size regulations.

No expiration for the moratorium was included in the ordinance, but the commission has been working on a living-area-to-lot-size ratio for residential structures to replace the 37-foot height-limit ordinance.

Commissioners also learned that SueLynn has had discussions with Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder to assume responsibility for pier maintenance in exchange for an increase in lease payments.

The pier needs at least $80,000 in repairs immediately, the mayor said.

Commissioners said this was an issue for the mayor, but asked to be kept informed of the negotiations. The commission would have the final approval on any new lease agreement.

Schoenfelder presently pays $9,600 per month to lease the pier, restaurant and bait shop.

Schoenfelder also favored Aubry’s plan for a park and more parking spaces.

“I am not asking for parking. This plan just simplifies everything there and relieves the congestion,” he said.

He said that although he has dedicated parking spaces in the lease, he has never enforced that provision. He has some signs in the pier parking lot noting the parking space is for restaurant customers only, but enforcement is difficult.

SueLynn said if Schoenfelder did start enforcing his lease and towing vehicles, it would be a nightmare for the city and bad publicity for tourism.

The mayor said if the commission agrees to transfer responsibility, she’ll go to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council for funding because the pier is an integral part of area tourism. She’ll also start looking for any grants or public funding available for beautification and repair of a historical structure.

Also, commissioners agreed they no longer need to meet every week, which they have been doing the past two months.

Additionally, commissioners unanimously gave the approval to sign a cooperative funding agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, adopted the Manatee County animal control ordinance for the city and passed a public nuisance ordinance.

The next commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 25, Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

One Response to Public comment sought for AM park proposal

  1. Tim Johnson says:

    As a frequent visitor to the island from the Mainland, and one who has been visiting the Pier for 30 years, I am dismayed by the signs that say “Parking for Pier City Restaurant only” How can there be parking restrictions there when the pier is open to the public?
    I like the developmental idea for the land across the street. We need more parking, especially during special events, and if half of the property is used only for parking, then the other half with the oak trees would still be available for special events. I don’t know about the rest rooms, though. The ones at Bayfront Park are maintained pretty well, but they are not kept open long enough. There are rest rooms on the Pier, but they are not the best. We should probably see the plans for the rest rooms before we reach a decision. They will take up a lot of space.

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