Work at the park under development at Pine and North Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria was halted last week, although a sign indicates otherwise. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Creating a park in Anna Maria is no cakewalk. Just ask Gene Aubry, Rex Hagen or Mike Coleman.
Holmes Beach resident Rex Hagen, who donated $50,000 last June toward creating a park in Anna Maria on the six vacant lots at the east end of Pine Avenue, wonders why Anna Maria Commission Chair Chuck Webb is just now questioning his pledge and $100,000 donated by Pine Avenue Restoration LLC.
The city commission approved the plan and pledges at its June 27 meeting based on a design drawn by then-Commissioner Gene Aubry. Aubry, and architect, donated his talents to the project.
However, at the Nov. 14 public hearing for the park site plan, Webb said he wanted the commission to review the documents signed by the city in June that accepted Hagen’s and PAR’s donations for park amenities such as trees, landscaping and restrooms.
Following the June 27 meeting, the city began preparing a site plan for the property, even though it’s public land. The city administration, as a separate body from the commission, must file a site plan for any development, Mayor SueLynn said. The city must follow its code.
The commission voted Nov. 14 to continue the site plan hearing to Dec. 5.
Hagen subsequently told The Islander in a phone interview and in a follow-up email that Webb’s action is “the latest stall” on developing the park.
“If Mr. Webb wants to review documents and minutes and the work done on the park, fine. Let him go do it. While he is doing all that, let’s proceed with the project as agreed and finish what was started two years ago,” Hagen said.
Anna Maria paid about $2.5 million for the vacant lots in September 2011.
Hagen says the city has “sat without doing a thing for two years. No wonder it cost four times as much to work for governmental agencies versus private enterprise.”
Hagen said he and Ed Chiles, a PAR principal, agreed more than two years ago that the city needed seed money to get the park moving. After their donations, the park concept began to move forward, Hagen said.
“The trees are in and doing great, irrigation water is in and things were happening. This current setback is a tempest in a teapot, if I may pull from Shakespeare, and it will blow over as quickly as it came,” Hagen said.
“Pine Avenue needs a public restroom and the park needs parking. How complicated is that? Let’s quit nit-picking and get on with it.”
Hagen said that if the city halts construction of the park or eliminates the restrooms or parking, he wants his money returned.
Mayor calls halt on park work
SueLynn said she has halted work at the park at the east end of Pine Avenue until the city commission votes on the park site plan submitted — which is expected to take place at the continuation of the public hearing in December.
She said irrigation of the trees planted in the park would continue, but no further planting of trees or landscaping work will take place.
No city funds have been spent on the park, she said, only a portion of Hagen’s $50,000 donation for the park from has been spent on trees, plants and the irrigation system.