‘Fill ’em up with rum and send them to Longboat Key.’ — one of many suggestions offered for traffic relief.
A slide show depicting parking garages, bike stands and gondola lifts flashed on the screen. And Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti talked through jeers from the audience.
Regardless of the opinions on parking garages by the beach and gondola lifts to carry beachgoers from the mainland to the island — and there were many opinions shared at city hall April 16 — one common thread stood out: Something must be done about traffic congestion on Anna Maria Island.
“I thought the illustrations were beautiful, but I think we should go back before then. We’re old Florida. I don’t see that in the bike racks and parking lots,” Holmes Beach resident Mary Kuckenbacher said. “I don’t know why we have to go so out of the way for more parking. If you run out, you run out.”
As Kuckenbacher, who was one of the first residents to speak at the forum, finished her comments, members of the galley called out, “We all agree with you.”
Monti said the meeting was meant to open a dialogue on ideas to relieve traffic congestion and overcrowding of the island. To that aim, the meeting was a success.
No one spoke in support of the gondola or parking garage at the meeting. Instead, residents offered their ideas: paid parking, off-island parking with shuttles, improved traffic control in Bradenton and, one resident joked, “Fill ’em up with rum and send them to Longboat Key.”
Holmes Beach commissioners attended the meeting and spoke against the gondola and parking garage.
“Old Florida, that’s why we’re here. We didn’t used to have a bed tax, and now look what happened. Money, money, money. We’re selling our soul for revenue. We’ll lose our churches and our school,” said Commission Chair Judy Titsworth, a third-generation islander.
Discussions shifted to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and taxes. Monti said Florida entertained 90 million tourists last year, and Gov. Rick Scott is pushing to increase tourism by 5 percent.
“Most all of the money that comes in from tourists goes to the county, then to the TDC,” said Commissioner Marvin Grossman. “We’re the cash cow for the whole county. Fifty percent or more of tourists’ dollars come from us and we’re forced to bear the brunt of it.”
The county imposes a 5 percent tax on rentals of six months or less with the state-sanctioned tourist development tax.
The TDC prepares a budget that is approved by the county commission for support projects, and spending is restricted to tourism development.
“No more advertisement. It’s advertised all over the country. We need to stop advertising and take care of what we have,” said Barbara Parkman, an island resident since 1996.
Monti said he plans to distribute a survey to solicit a larger pool of traffic congestion solutions.