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Date of Issue: March 24, 2010

Stover wants more public input

The newly elected chair of the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board doesn’t want the board to wait for direction from the city commission to discuss an issue.

Chair Randall Stover told P&Z members at their March 16 meeting that they should bring up issues for discussion and not wait for the commission to ask the board for direction or a recommendation.

Stover also suggested the board have a “system” for the public to contact board members with “what they would like us to consider.”

Presently, the only way for a citizen to raise an issue with the board is to attend o a meeting and speak during public comment.

“We don’t have open communication. This would be a good service for our citizens,” suggested Stover.

Board member Frank Pytel, however, said citizens could go to the mayor or an elected official, rather than the board, to discuss issues.

“Let them prioritize” on an issue, he said. The board has enough work from the commission as it is. What Stover is suggesting would have the board members “caught in the middle,” Pytel said.

Board member Sandy Mattick agreed that the board should not wait for commission direction, but instead should schedule a work session a month for discussions.

Pytel disagreed. “I don’t want this to take over my life. I don’t want a work session on a permanent basis.”

While not particularly in favor of work sessions, board member Bob Barlow said that was a better idea than a joint work session with the commission.

“I don’t feel comfortable in those meetings,” Barlow said. “The commission is the one that votes. Not a lot gets done there. I’d like to see the commission refer more issues to the board,” he concluded.

Board member Margaret Jenkins agreed that joint work sessions were a waste of time. “It’s a lot of talk about opinions, but that’s it.”

Board member Mike Yetter sided with Jenkins.

“At the last work session, I thought the commission had already taken a position and it really doesn’t matter what we want,” he said.

The board doesn’t need to run the city, said member Jim Conoly. That’s why there is a mayor and staff. The board’s job is to make recommendations, he said.

Board members are volunteers, not elected officials, Conoly noted.

Pytel said new issues could always be discussed under new business.

Stover agreed with the majority of board members.

“There’s no need to invent new business, but let’s look at what’s on our plate thoroughly,” he said.

Stover suggested the board should discuss the contents of one-way e-mails and memos when appropriate.

City attorney Jim Dye has said that one-way e-mails are legal, but Stover said he’s never seen one discussed at a meeting, either of the board or the city commission.

“Do people know that (memos) have been put out there?” he asked.

Conoly agreed. “We should bring anything to the meeting that we’ve received, even one-way” e-mails and memos.

Parking

The meeting was called to discuss parking on Pine Avenue, but board members agreed that the parking problem there needs to be defined prior to discussions.

Defining the problem, however, is not so easy, as board members could not agree on what is safe and unsafe on Pine Avenue.

In Mattick’s opinion, a definition is needed before the board can move forward with recommendations.

“What is unsafe?” she asked.

She suggested that the three parking plans shown to the commission several weeks ago — the plan from architect Gene Aubry, the plan from residents Robert Hunt and Terry Schaeffer, and the plan from city planner Alan Garrett — be presented to the P&Z board by its makers and thoroughly examined.

Pytel cautioned that the board needs to proceed carefully on the issue. The more radical the change to the code, the more opportunity there is for “unintended consequences.”

Board members discussed various aspects of Pine Avenue parking and possible changes, including angle parking, moving the sidewalks in front of parked vehicles, redefining the loading zone area, on-site parking, and exactly what is driving in the right of way.

Pytel said the codes need “clarifying language,” but Stover countered with lyrics from a rock ’n’ roll song that “You can’t get what you want, until you know what you want.”
For Pytel, the issue keeps returning to vehicles backing out over a sidewalk, a practice that has been ongoing in Anna Maria for many years, that is unsafe.

It’s back to a definition of what is backing onto, or on, the right of way, said Pytel.

One definition that may need defining is how the city computes density in the retail-office-residential district, he suggested.

“We get a definition and someone is always changing it. Lawyers can twist anything,” he said.

“Then here is our chance to clarify,” said Mattick.

Clarifying the definition might be a moot point, however.

Attorneys for Robert and Nicki Hunt have already filed for an administrative hearing with the Florida Department of Community Affairs, asking it to examine the legality of the city’s method of computing density in its ROR district. The city calculates density in the ROR on the entire acreage, while the Hunts contend it should be on a lot-by-lot basis.

The city’s comprehensive plan is vague on how density in the ROR should be calculated, but states that density in the residential district is determined on a lot-by-lot basis.

The DCA has already begun action on the Hunt complaint, gathering information on density calculations in the city’s ROR district.

But Pytel said so much time has been wasted the past six months on the parking and safety issue, along with the vagueness of some LDRs and comp plan language and inconsistencies in both, that the board needs a fresh approach.

City planner Alan Garrett suggested each member create a list of words in the land-development regulations that either need a definition, or clarification of the present definition.

Board member Mike Yetter, however, said definitions in LDRs are the role of the city attorney, not volunteer P&Z board members.

But Stover wanted the board to be involved.

Each board member agreed to make a list of 50 to 70 words that they believe should either be defined in the LDRs, or the current definition should be clarified.