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Anna Maria mayor strikes back at critics

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn indicated displeasure last week over recent emails sent her and press coverage resulting from suggestions of tolls and paid parking to limit visitors to the northernmost city.

A conversation about tolls to the island began after the Memorial Day weekend, during the June 17 Island Transportation and Planning Organization meeting, where SueLynn said the holiday resulted in the city being “inundated with cars.” She also said a toll to enter Anna Maria Island is no longer a joking matter.

At a July 25 city meeting, she told commissioners that traffic congestion in the city is so bad at times, it threatens to “degrade the character of our city.”

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said she received numerous emails in recent weeks that were “hateful and misconstrued” her position on a toll to Anna Maria Island.

She said she’s also been criticized for a paid-parking plan, one that has yet to be presented to the Anna Maria City Commission for discussion. She expects that presentation to take place at a September meeting.

What has really upset the mayor is some people believe she wants a toll booth to enter Anna Maria Island.

“I’ve gotten such hateful emails from people on the mainland,” she said.

“I have not proposed ever that there should be a toll to get on to Anna Maria Island. It is true there are those who would like it to be considered, but for me, the toll is a non-issue,” the mayor wrote in her response to critics.

Commissioners discussed at an Aug. 25 meeting putting a booth at the Gulf Drive entrance to the city from Holmes Beach, where day visitors would be required to purchase a parking pass before entering the city, but SueLynn proposed developing a parking plan and discussion was delayed.

She acknowledged Anna Maria and Holmes Beach officials are in discussions about paid-parking and parking-by-permit. Anna Maria commissioners asked her to present a parking plan but the plan, the mayor stressed, is not ready for presentation.

She said a majority of parking problems on the island are caused by people coming from outside Manatee County.

“A number of these people have little, if any, respect for the area they visit,” she said.

“When all is said and done, those of you who wrote the ugly and threatening emails to me will see that there was never a discussion of a toll to get on the island and that especially those of you from Manatee County are welcome as always to enjoy the island’s beauty and beaches,” the mayor said.

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