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.
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.