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Anna Maria mayor: TDC success ruins island lifestyle

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Manatee County Tourist Development Council member Barbara Rodocker, left, chats with Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy, right, as TDC member David Teitelbaum, attends to his smartphone before the Aug. 19 TDC meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Not all Anna Maria Island elected officials are pleased with the growth of tourism to the island, particularly the increase in the number of visitors who come to the island on weekends and holidays.

Members of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council heard from Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn and Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti at their Aug. 19 meeting that all is not well in paradise.

SueLynn said there is “no question of the success of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau,” but some of that success comes at the expense of the quality of life in her city.

For the six-day period from July 3-9, which included the July 4 holiday parade and fireworks celebrations, SueLynn said a Florida Department of Transportation traffic counter recorded an average of 11,500 vehicles per day entering Anna Maria.

While that’s good news for the BACVB, SueLynn said Anna Maria “simply does not have enough parking spaces for all the visitors. We can’t keep up with parking requirements.”

She said “greed is ruining the island” because the BACVB continues to promote Anna Maria Island as the area’s top tourist attraction.

Tourism continues to rise monthly, putting a strain on infrastructure, she said. But the city cannot use resort tax money collected by Manatee County for improvements to roads or to add parking, she said.

The BACVB data for May shows tourism increased 4.5 percent from the same month in 2012.

SueLynn said resort tax data provided by the Manatee County Tax Collector also indicated tourism was up in June and July, and she expects a similar increase in August. The resort tax is the 5 percent collected by Manatee County on rentals of six months or less.

She said the more marketing the BACVB does, the more visitors come to the island. This results in more resort tax being collected. As more visitors come, more homes are converted from residences to vacation rentals. As more homes become short-term rentals, more tourists arrive, creating problems for a small city such as Anna Maria.

It’s a “vicious cycle,” the mayor said.

The mayor said the city is particularly susceptible to problems caused by “day-trippers.”

She said traffic congestion, parking, trash left on the beach or in a resident’s yard and a shortage of restroom facilities are all issues faced by the city because of day-trippers.

“I’ve been asking and asking for help from the TDC. Where is the agenda item that discusses giving back to the island?” she asked.

“All I keep hearing is we get beach renourishment from the funds. That’s not good enough for us to preserve why everyone comes here,” the mayor said. “The TDC success is destroying the Anna Maria Island style of living.”

The mayor acknowledged that state law limits the use of TDC funds to tourist development.

“Still, I think the TDC should find ways to give back to the island cities,” she said.

She said Anna Maria and Holmes Beach are discussing paid parking and a toll to enter Anna Maria Island “is no longer a laughing matter.”

“We will do whatever we have to do to protect our way of life, and we are hoping for TDC assistance,” she said.

SueLynn said one area the TDC can allocate resort tax funds is the refurbishing of the Anna Maria City Pier, which is permitted by the resort tax statute.

However, terms of the city pier lease require the leaseholder to maintain the pier, and pilings, stringers and plank replacements are an ongoing project of the tenant.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti said there is “no more free ride” for the day-trippers who visit his city. He called for open dialogue with the TDC on “what type of visitor we want” to the island,” and how best to use available funds and resources to help island cities.

“We can’t just say we don’t want tourism. We do, but we want a balance in the type of visitor” that comes to the island, Monti said.

TDC chair and County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, an island resident, said she understands the issues. She said she’s asked county administrator Ed Hunzeker to get a legal opinion on spending resort tax funds.

“We understand your stress, but we can’t wreck what we have. We have to go through the process. At the same time, we are at a tipping point. Let’s try to maintain a balance,” Whitmore said.

BACVB executive director Elliott Falcione said he’s discussed island issues with Hunzeker. He suggested island officials contact Hunzeker and meet with him to find solutions and funding. It’s more appropriate for Manatee County to disburse funds than the TDC, which is limited by law on how resort taxes are spent.

“It’s important we maintain the character of the market, but we need to start with good dialogue. Let’s work together and find a good balance,” he said.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy asked the TDC to help the city fund rebuilding the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Whitmore suggested the mayor bring a plan back to the TDC with cost estimates and studies.

In other business, Jack Rynerson of the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport said he just returned from the world rowing championships in Sweden.

“I heard from many international rowing officials that there is almost no way we won’t get the 2017 world rowing championships,” he said.

Sarasota-Bradenton is in competition with Bulgaria to host the 2017 International Rowing Association’s world championships.

The championships are expected to draw about 40,000 people, in addition to about 1,200 competitors and coaches, Rynerson has said.

The next TDC meeting will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 21, at Bradenton City Hall, 101 12th St. W., Bradenton.

13 Responses to Anna Maria mayor: TDC success ruins island lifestyle

  1. G. Martin says:

    I am in complete agreement with the Mayors. We recently purchased a home on AMI after years of renting. The increased traffic and commercialism is obvious everytime we visit. Officials cannot promote the “Old Florida” lifestyle and encourage all this tourism. It is the “Old Florida” that attracted the residents in the first place, increased rentals, and day-trippers do not promote the “Old Florida” lifestyle, it is not laid-back and quiet, it’s hectic and dirty with misuse and inconsideration. The people who promote all this advertising obviously don’t live on the island and don’t really care about its residents and the islands’ natural health. Money and greed speak much more loudly to them. Residents deserve better. They came to live the “Old Florida” lifestyle and they help preserve the island. As I have experienced, visitors, come pay their money, have there fun, and leave, regardless of the mess and havoc left behind. This will eventually leave its toll on AMI.

  2. Dale Scmitdz says:

    No doubt that all these day trippers and short term renters are ruining our city. The day taggers come from Polk,Hillsborough, and Lake county and don’t buy anything. We need to enforce the codes that we already have. Set up a gate at the entrance to the city or make them pay to cross the bridge. The day trippers create a mess and the rentals cause havoc. Just because they buy a soda or an ice cream cone does not pay for the inconvenience. The rentals need to buy their license and pay resort taxes. Most do not. Stop bleeding the home owners and coming back every year with your hands open begging for money. Everyone has their hand in the kitty and talks out of both sides of their mouth. Most are benefiting by the current situation.

    • Mike Caudill says:

      So people who grew up on the island but had to move due to all the price hikes would have to pay to enjoy the beaches they had when they were children? Make the island a private gated community? What’s next, racial and economical profiling to find the “right fit” for your neighbors? I “love” how people want to privatize public domain. You are part of America, not your own gd country. If you feel ok charging us then a tax and fee should be placed on all island residents coming into town to use our theaters, businesses and what not….. See how messed up that view is? Glad to see how much of a fascist state the island is becoming. Guess we should also shut off power and water to the island so they can figure out how to supply themselves with utilities since they don’t want “townie” interactions. I didn’t fight for my country to privatize land and my ability to enjoy my home. You sir, should be ashamed of yourself as well as the mayors. We are not animals, we live in a society.
      This country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a good place for all of us to live in.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

      • Matt Roback says:

        You sir are extremely correct, why privatize an island? It is apart of Manatee County, I think the islanders need to lay off the reefers and see the bigger picture. There is always room for improvement but not like this.
        As for the toll booths on the bridges, I am still skeptical of that proposal. I will be there at the TDC meeting Monday to get more information and listen to the banter :]

  3. richard Killinger says:

    IF I REMEMBER RIGHT, WE LIVE IN A FREE SOCIETY . FREE TRAVEL IS A PART OF IT. AS LONG AS FEDERAL MONEY IS BEING USED WE SHOULD HAVE THE RIGHT TO TRAVEL WHERE WE WANT. I AM SURE AMI IS GETTING THEIR SHARE. WHAT IF ALL TOWNES AND CITIES WANTED TO KEEP “DAY TRIPPERS” OUT OF THEIR BOUNDRIES? BY THE WAY, MAYBE YOU SHOULD STAY OUT OF OUR CITIES

  4. Larry Watson says:

    I have been vacationing in Bradenton and on AMI for 25 years. I hope to retire in three years and buy in Bradenton (I cant afford house prices and taxes on AMI. I am a “day tripper” but I purchase more than a soda or ice cream). Please don’t lump all non-residents together. I love the beaches and the island lifestyle. So, please solve the problem, but don’t shut out all of us who love to come to the island. Here are a few suggestions for thought:
    1. Put a toll booth on the bridges. Hopefully that can pay for the new Cortez bridge. Let Manatee county residents purchase a year or seasonal pass. AMI is still part of Manatee county so county residents should have some kind of privilege.
    2. Purchase land on the mainland for a park and ride and run the trolley to the parking lot. That way people could get onto the island for free if they are willing to leave their cars on the mainland.
    3. Utilize county jail inmates or welfare recipients for cleaning up the trash. Trash is a fact of life in our disposable society. Cleaning it up is better than complaining about it.
    4. Ticket or tow people who can’t read a “NO PARKING” sign. How hard is that?

  5. jillmcgee says:

    What did you think would happen? You’ve destroyed the island already… Everything that was good has been taken away and those who are originally from Manatee County are the ones who have witnessed the loss. Our last piece of Old Florida for those of us who are not tourists is GONE. Are there any real islanders left? Doubtful, just those who come with their retirement money and after a couple years think they are islanders and start complaining about how their little piece of paradise is gone…and for those who keep complaining about their “businesses” you have had an integral part in RUINING the island.

    • bonnerj says:

      What was “good” that is now gone? I’ve only been here 38 years, and I still enjoy every day on AMI. — Bonner Joy

      • jillmcgee says:

        Our small town feel is gone. Real local Islanders are GONE. Our small local fishing is gone, replaced by overfishing of our waters. Small, quaint housing is gone, replaced by outlandish, lavish, homes, most of which are for rentals. Most native islanders are GONE. Its a tourist trap now. If you’ve been here 38 years and you think it’s changed for the better..please tell me how.

        • bonnerj says:

          I love living here. I know plenty of people who have been here as long, or longer than me. Not that it matters. I have a great neighborhood and know everyone in my block. I know many business owners, who live here and take part in sponsoring events for nonprofits. I find nothing endearing about the old one-story duplexes, no quaint features, nothing worth saving. The new homes are building character in neighborhoods, they’re attractive, and they are increasing the tax base. I love meeting people from other places in U.S. and abroad, and I usually try to engage new people in conversation and make them feel welcome. I love riding the trolley, too. I enjoy the beauty of the beach, the bay and looking out the window at palm trees. That never changes. I don’t let traffic or lines at Publix annoy me and I try to never be in a hurry so I can enjoy everything around me. Maybe it’s a new attitude people need, because the plague of intolerance and elitism is spreading. — Bonner Joy

          • Jenny McGovern says:

            I find your comment about nothing worth saving about the old properties shocking to be honest. Why did you move here 38 years ago if you felt that way? Old homes are being torn down and being replaced by what that you find so attractive? The boxes that fill the lots being built by developers who then sell them on as large rentals? All the same design with just a change of color. Just as bad the tasteless monstrosities now appearing all over the island.
            From the comments online you really do appear to be in the minority. I understand you have to support the businesses, after all they provide the revenue for your paper. But let’s call a spade a spade shall we.

          • bonnerj says:

            But there are no endearing qualities, no architectural features, nothing attractive about old rundown concrete-block, one-story attached duplexes in the R-2 zone. There’s nothing even to salvage when they’re torn down. And I do know the difference between those and an older home worth keeping. FEMA doesn’t find those homes worthy of maintaining on the ground level. Drive 66th Street from Gulf Drive to Marina Drive and you can see how new, three-story (some people LIVE in them year-round) homes are far more attractive than the ground-level “rubble” with worn landscaping and mud driveways. In the 1970s, FEMA changed the housing market by requiring elevated homes — not tourism. The result was a proliferation of brown duplexes on stilts, parking underneath, and they were UGLY. Thankfully we have evolved to “cottages” and these new homes are reviving both the real estate and rental markets. The majority of residents won’t enjoy Anna Maria Island without the addition of the tax revenues — property, sales and bed tax, or minus stores, shops and restaurants. It’s just a way of life we can’t do without. And so if the island has room for you and me, I believe we should embrace others who follow us…. Or maybe we should go back to the time before houses?

  6. Casey VanOstenbridge Russell says:

    For many of the old island families, the “Old Florida” and “island living” lifestyle ended years ago due to the ever increasing cost of living and newcomers that are now lamenting the potential loss of their supposed “island living.” They do however, have no problem continuing to benefit from the rest of our county tax dollars for upkeep, improvements, and other benefits for their “island lifestyle.” While my family no longer primarily resides on the island (my grandfather was a contractor who built many homes on the island in addition to serving on the city council and volunteer fire department), I had hoped my children would enjoy the same beaches and island beauty that myself, my parents, and grandparents did. Instead they are now labeled as undesirable “daytrippers”…..

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