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Anna Maria parking debate results in refunds

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Vehicle parking in the north lot of the Anna Maria City Pier is posted for restaurant patrons. Leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder is seeking assistance from the city to implement paid parking. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Mayor SueLynn reported to the commission Dec. 12 that both Pine Avenue Restoration LLC and Rex Hagen want to be refunded their donations for improvements to the vacant lots at the east end of Pine Avenue.

Hagen donated $55,000, and PAR pledged up to $100,000.

The refund requests came after the commission voted 3-2 Dec. 5 to remove 15-parking spaces from plans to develop the park drawn by then-Commissioner Gene Aubry and approved 3-1 by the commission in June.

Webb was absent from the June meeting.

Both PAR and Hagen had said the donations were contingent on the city following the Aubry plan.

The mayor said the city thus far has spent $42,945 from the donations.

Commissioners unanimously voted to return Hagen’s and PAR’s donations, taking the expended amount from the city reserve fund.

Webb noted that the commission has not denied the park site plan, but rather sought to know what Hagen and PAR would do with their donations based on the parking being eliminated.

Mike Coleman of PAR told commissioners at a Dec. 5 meeting that he would expect a refund and SueLynn indicated he confirmed that to her and provided his expenses to date.

Hagen had delivered a letter to city hall moments before the topic came up. It was handed to SueLynn and she read his response, which stated that he wanted a refund if the Aubry plan was altered to eliminate parking.

Now the commission knows, said Commissioner Carol Carter.

“I talked to a lot of people who just don’t want parking there,” she said.

SueLynn said further work at the park is at a stand-still until the city can fund the work. She added the commission must approve some form of site plan before any further work takes place at the park.

“Right now, all we’re doing is irrigation,” the mayor said.

Webb then directed SueLynn to seek other donations to fund the park — as long as “no strings are attached.”

SueLynn said she thought donations would be out of the question if donors don’t know how their money is to be spent, essentially saying “no” to Webb’s directive.

More parking woes

Commissioners also discussed at the Dec. 12 meeting a request from city pier leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder to allow gated or paid parking at the pier.

Schoenfelder has said that if the six vacant lots opposite the pier were not planned to include some public parking, he would seek to close his parking lot at the pier to all but paid parking, while allowing customers at the restaurant to have their parking fees rebated. He maintains the popularity of the boardwalk and the beach have added to his restaurant’s parking problems. The city allowed parking on at least three of the six of the vacant lots for a number of years until the winter tourism season ended in May 2012.

According to Schoenfelder’s lease, he can charge for parking on his leased property if the city commission agrees, Commission Chair Chuck Webb said.

But Schoenfelder’s lease incorporates some parking on both the north and south sides of the pier, and the amount of parking diminished as a result of the Florida Department of Transportation-funded boardwalk project, which also reconfigured the entry to the pier and the trolley stop.

Mayor SueLynn, commissioners and public works supervisor George McKay discussed giving parking control of the north lot at the pier to Schoenfelder, which will eventually require amending the lease.

The request raises the issue of the city doing business with a private entity, Webb said.

“This is a slippery slope,” he said. “We are getting more and more into doing business with him and we don’t want to get involved in his business.”

Webb said, Schoenfelder, as the tenant, has control of the city pier and its parking, but the commission needs to see a plan from Schoenfelder and agree with it before it can go forward.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said there should be “some remedy in the plan for people not paying to park.”

Webb suggested the commission wait for Schoenfelder to make a proposal. He asked SueLynn to contact Schoenfelder and tell him the commission is agreeable to some form of paid parking, but needs him to present a plan.

Copeland also said the city shouldn’t spend any of its money having Dye or staff work on a paid parking plan at the pier. He suggested Schoenfelder contact the DOT to determine if the terms of the grant for the boardwalk project at the pier, would impact paid parking.

“Let him spend his own money,” he said.

 

Sandbar site-plan hearing canceled

A public hearing Dec. 12 for commissioners to consider a site plan for the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., was canceled.

Since 2007, Barbara Nally and her late husband have written numerous letters of complaint to the city of Anna Maria about activities at the Sandbar Restaurant, and that includes one regarding the new, pending site plan.

Nally, who owns a vacation rental at 102 Spring Ave. adjacent to the Sandbar, has filed four legal actions in the past against the city related to the Sandbar or Pine Avenue Restoration, only one of which was partially upheld. That concerned the sand mixture used for sidewalks at PAR properties on Pine Avenue.

Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar also is a principal in PAR.

But at the commission’s Dec. 12 meeting, Nally scored a minor win when city attorney Jim Dye said the Dec. 3 planning and zoning board public hearing on a Sandbar site plan was not properly noticed.

The error may not change the ultimate findings of the P&Z, but it does prompt a redo.

Dye said the error was brought to his attention in a letter from the Law Offices of troll & Hanson, P.A., of Sarasota, which represents Nally.

“My conclusion is the planning and zoning hearing was not properly noticed,” he said.

Dye recommended the site plan be returned to the P&Z board to be reheard and re-advertised by the city to include a posted notice at the beach end of Pine Avenue. (See related P&Z-Sandbar story next page.)

Commissioners agreed and voted unanimously to follow Dye’s recommendation.

At this point, some six or seven attendees, including Nally and a court reporter, left the meeting.

One Response to Anna Maria parking debate results in refunds

  1. Tim Johnson says:

    I don’t understand why the Commissioners would take away the Parking for this area when everyone is complaining about congestion and lack of parking in the city!! I don’t know who Commissioner Carter talked to, but I’ll bet she didn’t ask any mainlanders about it! Oh, that’s right, Anna Maria hates visitors to your precious island city! For Shame!

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