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Date of Issue: March 03, 2010

Stoltzfus questions MCSO sidewalk interpretation

In the opinion of Anna Maria City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus, driving across a sidewalk is the same as driving upon a sidewalk.

In Florida, driving on a sidewalk is a no-no, but in Anna Maria, the question is if driving upon a sidewalk is the same as driving across a sidewalk.

Sgt. Dave Turner of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation said at a recent commission meeting that driving across a sidewalk is permitted and it’s not the same as driving upon a sidewalk.

Stoltzfus asked if Turner’s interpretation regarding “upon” was his own interpretation.

“It seems to me,” Stoltzfus wrote in a Feb. 17 memo, “a vehicle crossing a sidewalk, unless on a designated driveway, is performing an illegal operation. I’m not sure how you can cross a sidewalk without driving upon it.”

Turner replied that he did considerable research and spoke with two senior officers about “upon” and “across.” He said both officers agreed with his interpretation.

Turner also said the driveway is the exception to the statute.

“Of course, I could be wrong. It would not be the first time. It would not be the first time a group of us were wrong,” said Turner.

Turner, who has been in law enforcement since 1978, said that he’s a deputy, not an attorney. He suggested Stoltzfus contact the Florida Attorney General’s Office for an interpretation of driving on a sidewalk or across a sidewalk.

Attorney Valerie Fernandez, representing Pine Avenue Restoration LLC, the developer of several retail-office-residential projects on Pine Avenue, chimed in with a letter to city attorney Jim Dye, supporting Turner’s position.

Driving a vehicle upon a sidewalk is the same as driving down a sidewalk, she said, but it’s not the same as driving across a sidewalk.

“This interpretation is also consistent with Florida case law,” Fernandez said.

Stoltzfus maintains that the city incorrectly approved PAR projects because vehicles enter those complexes to park by crossing a sidewalk. In his opinion, that’s illegal under the city code and state law.

He’s asked the commission on at least two occasions to declare a moratorium on approval of site plans in the retail-office-residential district until language in the code is changed to clearly prohibit driving across a sidewalk and require all parking to be on-site.