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Anna Maria introduces pieces to parking puzzle

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Mayor SueLynn is joined by Anna Maria public works superintendent George McKay in presenting her parking plan options Sept. 24. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Anna Maria residents Betty Yanger, left, and Lynn Brennan, take part in a discussion on parking issues following the Sept. 24 commission meeting. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Put on a blindfold and try to solve the 3-D puzzle Rubik’s Cube.

It might be as difficult as solving parking problems in the city of Anna Maria.

But the city is giving it a try.

At the Sept. 24 Anna Maria city commission meeting, Mayor SueLynn introduced her parking plan, four long-awaited options to solve what some perceive as a growing parking problem.

The mayor also gave her take on positive and negative aspects of the step plan she devised with the help of staff, including public works supervisor and former Commissioner George McKay.

She then left it to commissioners to mold the four options into a solution.

• Option 1: No parking in the rights of way for “anyone, any time,” except in the retail-office-residential district, the commercial zone and at the Rod & Reel Pier. Other exceptions would be for vendors, contractors and service providers doing temporary business and during approved special events.

Day visitors would park free in city lots, at the city park at Pine Avenue-North Bay Boulevard and at designated spaces at the city pier parking lot and at Bayfront Park.

The mayor said staff determined this would be in the best interest of residents and control the volume of vehicles, and also encourage parking in business areas.

• Option 2: Each property in the city would receive two free parking permits. The permits would have a two-year expiration. Exceptions would be the same as Option 1.

Permit parking would be authorized in all designated areas and would include parking in the rights of way. Day visitors would be allowed to park free at city lots, including at Bayfront Park.

The mayor said the pros and cons of Option 2 were about the same as No. 1.

• Option 3: This includes Option 2, plus an annual fee-based pass for people who do not qualify for the free two-year property permit.

The annual pass would allow parking 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily and retain the current plan that calls for alternating parking on opposite sides of the street each year.

“Fees would be tiered,” the mayor said, with island residents paying the least.

“What the city charges would be up to the commission,” she said.

Option 3 includes a revenue stream for passes, allows more public parking and eliminates questions about the number of public parking spaces needed to qualify for beach renourishment funds, according to the mayor.

The downside is the upfront cost, adding more public parking, reduction of parking for property owners, administration time and pushing beach parking to business areas.

• Option 4: This option includes the second and third options, plus fee-based parking for designated parking areas.

That means pay stations — meters or kiosks — for which the commission would determine parking fees.

SueLynn said option No. 4 would be the “best revenue generator,” the most equitable and would allow the most parking.

On the negative side, she said, are startup costs, maintenance, the probable need for more city staff and more cars coming into the city, and it’s not likely in the best interests of the city.

After her presentation, the mayor said it’s now up to commissioners as to how to proceed.

 

 

SIDEBAR STORY

Taking off the blindfolds …

On hearing the options presented by the mayor to solve the city’s parking problems, Anna Maria Commission Chair Chuck Webb charged commissioners with the task to “identify the problem.”

That’s easy, said Commissioner Dale Woodland.

It’s the population growth of eastern Manatee County the past few years, he said. Residents out east are all coming to the island on weekends and holidays, he said.

Commissioners Gene Aubry and Doug Copeland said they didn’t think any of the options, on their own, would work.

But Commissioner Nancy Yetter was not ready to reject any option.

“I am tired of sitting here like a do-nothing commissioner. I’ve seen parking problems on every street,” she said, and the commission needs to find a solution for residents.

“I don’t care if others think we’re elitist. This is our city and our duty,” Yetter said.

Woodland agreed that the commission “has to respond” to the ever-increasing volume of traffic.

He said until four or five years ago, parking wasn’t a serious problem. But every advertisement by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau features the “beautiful beaches of Anna Maria Island,” he said.

He said any solution should be “kept simple.”

The solutions presented include paid parking, permit parking, paid parking in designated areas and no parking on the rights of way — or a combination of all the above.

SueLynn reminded commissioners that Holmes Beach’s mayor is talking with Manatee County about instituting paid parking at Manatee Public Beach. If that happens, she said, beachgoers will head to Anna Maria for free parking. She suggested the city discuss with county officials creating paid parking at Bayfront Park.

Several residents spoke to commissioners about their problems with day-visitors.

Mary Gee of Palm Avenue said a major problem for the city is that there are no public restrooms on city beaches and the city needs a public area to accommodate day-visitors.

Resident Mike Coleman said restricting access to beaches would restrict revenue for the business district. He said commissioners should “make the process rational, and do it over time.”

But Lynn Brennan of Oak Avenue disagreed. She said day-visitors on her street, which has a beach access, don’t bother going to the shops. She said they bring everything with them. She said people who shop in the businesses either park at the city pier or at a business.

Commissioners agreed that most parking problems seem to be on beach access streets that lead to the Gulf of Mexico on the city’s west side. Interior streets don’t appear to have those issues, Copeland said.

Aubry and Copeland said they were not saying there wasn’t a problem just that they didn’t think any of the four options would work.

“So let’s put our heads together and compromise a solution,” Webb said.

“We’ve had a huge increase in use of our roads the past few years. There’s just more people here. Yet, we have to pay for the roads, trash pickup, police and our beaches can only take so much use,” Webb added.

Webb said he would schedule a work session on parking and each commissioner should bring a definition of the problem and suggested solutions.

“Everyone has given a position. Now, we’ve got to sit down and hammer out a compromise,” he said.

It might be a long and winding road to a solution, considering the city’s first known committee to study parking problems was formed in 1978.

5 Responses to Anna Maria introduces pieces to parking puzzle

  1. Daryn Ramos says:

    How about stopping ALL advertising. This advertising is destroying the beauty of the Island. I find that all the traffic and parking problems started when all the advertising of the beaches and wedding advertisements began. Next you will want to raise our taxes to support the unwanted traffic that is destroying the island. How about supporting the residents that financially support the island.

    • Sandy Marks says:

      Daryn if only that were possible. Unfortunately, and no doubt what has played a huge part in the massive increase in tourism, is clear for all to see if you take a look at the names that sit on one of the main Manatee tourism boards. They belong to people behind some of the largest commercial enterprises on the Island who have a vested interest in seeing as many visitors as possible, Ed Chiles, David Teitelbaum, Carol Whitmore (daughter has a business on Pine Avenue). They plead how concerned they are, blah blah blah while at the same time they are pushing tourism for all its worth. This is the root of the problem. Forget parking issues. Go to the source.

  2. Tim Johnson says:

    As a day-visitor/main-lander who has been coming here since the late seventies, and has commented on this issue before. I think the best solution is a combination of option 1 and option 2. AS a visitor on disability I have limited income and struggle to make ends meet. If You would have free parking at Bayfront Park, I could walk to the Pier, (one of my favorite Restaurants on the Planet!) the Pine Avenue Shopping district, and to the entrance to the boardwalk to Bean Point.
    If you keep free parking there and in city lots, day-visitors can walk wherever they want.

  3. Dave Fechter says:

    How does charging for parking solve anything? The problem is lack of public parking, do something about the root cause!

  4. sue filips says:

    After 15 years of coming here on vacation with all my family, my husband and I decided to pack up and move here however since we are seniors, we could no longer afford to “live” on the island so we are renting on Perico until something affordable comes along..however, we still shop at your Publix, your Walgreens, your pharmacist, doctor, vet and we are members of St. Bernards Parish. We always spend our money at “your” restaurants, gift stores and I am sorry but we do use “your beach”
    HOWEVER..can we really say that the beach is yours? Do you have
    proof of creation? Did a Supreme Being give you entitlement to
    be insulting and discriminatory as to who can appreciate this
    beautiful sight and if so, where is your patent?-
    Are you not a part of Manatee County? Hmmm. Must make you “day visitors to the airport, on the highways, Walmart, the mall??
    If Parking is really the issue, then during those busy times, either keep the drawbridges up so no one can go. Busy times, have volunteers who are most against visitors wave them away and put up cones to the Beach Accesses that should not be there in the first place for the public.
    DON’T let everyone bring their houses on the beach. Those huge tents should be banned along with everyone bringing fold up tables, and food to feed an army and then the bird. That’s what the picnic area is designated for.
    AND smoking should be banned. I cannot tell you how many people I see in the water with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths and then dropping them into the water. That should be a big fine and maybe monitored by volunteers. I would do that but I am a day visitor.
    I come from Long Island and worked in Travel and Tourism and what I thought would be Paradise for me and my husband..well you have led all of us on Perico to believe you are so much better and we are not worthy. You can stop all those big houses
    and get on track with how it used to be, but I believe you guys want it this way and the only reason why you are crabbing is because you might not win the election. Here’s a thought. I don’t think you should even run.
    How about working together? That is a PUBLIC BEACH

    Sue Filips

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