Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown addresses Anna Maria commissioners at their April 10 work session about his town’s experience planning for the future with the Urban Land Institute of Washington, D.C. Sitting next to Brown is Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Paid parking has been discussed by Anna Maria commissioners for a decade, if not longer.
Some things don’t seem to change.
At their April 10 work session, commissioners agreed it’s time to move forward with paid parking — followed by an agreement to hold more discussion.
“We’ve been talking about this since last July and getting nowhere,” Commission Chair Chuck Webb said. “My frustration is a lot of talk and we’re not doing anything.”
His fellow commissioners and Mayor SueLynn agreed, the time for talking is over. But by the conclusion of the work session, commissioners agreed to more discussion.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said he’s talked to so many residents who are just “fed up” with the parking issue.
Commissioner Nancy Yetter agreed. “North Shore Drive on a nice weekend is just full of cars parked anywhere they can,” she said.
Woodland said he used to laugh at people who said there was a parking problem.
“But around 2003, when the big advertising push started for the island, I started to notice more and more cars on weekends,” he said. “And I started to hear about problems from our residents.”
He said the Manatee County Tourist Development Council spends millions advertising Anna Maria Island. If they quit advertising the island, “it wouldn’t have any effect on the number of visitors,” Woodland said. “Everybody now knows where we are.”
Since Anna Maria gets no direct funding from the Manatee County tourism development tax — the 5 percent paid on rentals of six months or less — Woodland asked, “Do we want our residents to pay more in taxes for our infrastructure or do we want visitors to help us?”
Commissioners agreed that some form of paid parking is needed and city residents should not have to pay for parking.
“Either the tourist development council provides us some relief, or we counter with paid parking,” Commissioner Carol Carter said.
Woodland said the TDC has an annual budget of $6 million, while Anna Maria’s budget is slightly more than $2 million.
“Our beaches are public beaches,” he said. “They are always available, but the growing demand of people to visit our beaches has put strain on them, our infrastructure, residents and traffic,” he said.
Woodland said that from his $4,622 tax bill for 2013, only $510 came back to the city.
“Just 11.2 percent of my tax bill comes back to Anna Maria, yet we have to maintain our roads, provide parking and drainage and we have thousands of visitors and vehicles come every year. We just need some help.”
Woodland proposed paid parking by the day, week, month and year. Areas exempt from paid parking would be from Palmetto Avenue north on Gulf Drive to Pine Avenue, all of Pine Avenue, the city pier and Bayfront Park on North Bay Boulevard.
“This is going to be a controversial subject. We have to look for a fair solution, but let’s keep it simple,” he said. “Have parking kiosks around the city and people can buy a sticker for a day, week, month or year.”
Residents would go to city hall with proof of property ownership or residency to receive one free parking sticker.
Paid parking would only be in the rights of way, not on private property, Woodland emphasized. He suggested a starting point would be $5 for a one-day parking pass, $25 for a week, $50 for a month and $100 for a year.
“I know we’ll be called elitist by the mainland, but I don’t care. Our duty is to our residents,” he said.
Although Woodland envisioned no additional staff, Mayor SueLynn said another staff member would be needed, if nothing more than to handle the administrative details.
The mayor also presented a list of 25 problems the commission should consider before establishing a plan using kiosks for payments.
SueLynn agreed vehicles should pay to park in the rights of way and Manatee County residents should pay a smaller fee than others.
“There are a number of issues to solve,” she said, “and I estimate it would take at least six months to get everything ready for an ordinance.”
Webb agreed and asked commissioners to study the proposals from Woodland and the mayor and then hold a work session on paid parking.
Commissioners set the parking meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at city hall. No other items will be on the agenda, Webb said.
The mayor said she would likely hear from county tourism officials about the issue before the May 7 work session. She said she does not think tourism officials will favor paid parking in Anna Maria.
In other matters, commissioners agreed that application permits for clearing trees and vegetation from Gulffront Park should have a responsible person on the application, not a limited liability company.
Commissioners also agreed that the city would hire the contractor, payment would come from the applicant and non-native plant species had to be cleared before the commission would consider trimming native plants.
Commissioner Doug Copeland said he would talk to state forestry officials about the effects of trimming native vegetation along the Gulf of Mexico.
The commission also heard from Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown about the town’s experience working with the nonprofit Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., which performs long-range studies for the future of cities.
Brown said any study of what Anna Maria Island should have 20 years from now should be a combined effort by all three island cities. Otherwise, he suggested, an effort by one city would be a “waste of money.”
SueLynn said she would bring the issue up at the next Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting April 16, and ask city officials from Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to present the idea of a co-op study to their commissions.
The next commission work session will be the parking meeting at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive. The next commission meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 24.