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Date of Issue: April 15, 2009

No motels in Anna Maria, but definition needed

A number of Anna Maria residents wondered why the city commission at its April 9 meeting was discussing whether the city should change its ordinance to allow motels in the commercial district.

Carl Pearman said he couldn’t understand why the commission was considering the change.

“There’s no demonstrated needed,” he said.

Indeed. A host of speakers at the meeting, and letter writers, agreed the city should oppose motels in the future.

No one in the audience supported allowing motels and none of the city commissioners expressed an interest in providing zoning for motels.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said that although she does not favor more motels, the issue needs to be discussed by the commission.

“Let’s get it resolved once and for all,” she said.

 Commissioner Dale Woodland shouldered the blame for the issue being on the agenda.

Several years ago, he said he casually mentioned to developer Mike Coleman that the six lots at the northwest corner of the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection by the city pier would be a perfect location for a motel.

“I said that I would support debate and discussion, but I would not encourage a plan,” Woodland said.

Fast forward to the April 9 commission meeting, when Woodland said he had talked to some residents and it is “unanimous that people don’t want more motels.”

“People make mistakes and this is one I’ve made,” he said. “The feeling is that hotels/motels would have a negative impact on the quality of life and I agree with those people. I was elected to serve the people so I respect and support their position.”

Coleman too said he is opposed to more motels in the city. He pursued the idea of a motel on the six lots simply to find a use of the property for its owners.

“A motel is the wrong use for those lots,” Coleman said.

City attorney Jim Dye cautioned the commission not to focus on a particular piece of property, but the broader issue of allowing future motels in the city.

“If you focus just on one piece of property, it could possibly be seen as spot zoning,” he said.

A motel is not presently a permitted use, said city planner Alan Garrett. The four motels now in the city are non-conforming, but grandfathered.

But Commissioner Christine Tollette said it was her understanding the commission was only looking at the six lots.

“I don’t want motels put on any other property. I thought tonight’s discussion was only about those six lots,” she said.

Garrett told commissioners that six retail-office-residential structures could be built on the six lots mentioned, and the residential units in each building could be rented on a nightly basis.

Woodland suggested the discussion was over and the consensus was not to amend the ordinance to allow motels.

 Commissioner John Quam said he also opposes changing the city codes to allow motels and that, too, appeared to end discussion.

But Commissioner Chuck Webb suggested the commission needs a better definition of a motel.

The city permits single-family homes to be rented on a nightly basis, he observed, but motels are defined as renting a unit on a nightly basis.

The city needs to know what type of multi-family dwellings it will allow, he said. Webb suggested the city’s current definition of a motel needs refining.

Commissioners agreed, but because the April 9 meeting was a work session, Quam said he would put the issue on the agenda for commission’s April 23 meeting, when a vote can be taken. The commission could then ask the mayor to bring the matter to the planning and zoning board, he said.