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Date of Issue: April 29, 2009

Commission decision ends motel controversy

There’s no room at the Anna Maria Inn.

Anna Maria city commissioners agreed unanimously at their April 23 meeting that there was no need to ask Mayor Fran Barford to have the planning and zoning board redefine motel in the city code.

The decision came after Barford informed commissioners that developer Mike Coleman would no longer pursue a multi-unit guesthouse at the six lots on the northwest corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard.

She asked the commission to release her from the request.

“Today, it’s no an issue anymore. I would rather not waste the planning and zoning board’s time,” the mayor said.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick noted, however, there has been “a lot of correspondence on this issue,” and she wanted a clear definition of what constitutes a bed-and-breakfast accommodation in the city.

But Mattick soon joined her fellow commissioners in voting to rescind the request.

That decision, which came before any public discussion, prompted many in the nearly full chamber, including several attorneys, to make a path out the door. A number of people had come to speak in opposition to the motion and to oppose any new motel projects in Anna Maria.

Coleman said he was glad to see the issue put to rest.

“It would be a waste to explore a definition when one is already on the books,” he said.

Prior to the meeting, Coleman said he was no longer pursuing the project.

In other business, the commission in a 3-1 vote approved an ordinance that sets minimal standards of landscaping for new projects. The ordinance applies only to future projects.

The ordinance was needed to comply with the 2007 comp plan that requires the city to address landscaping and the environment.

Commissioner Christine Tollette said she had too many questions about the ordinance and voted against the measure.

The commission also approved a resolution authorizing Barford to execute an agreement with the Florida Department of Transportation to obtain $1.4 million of federal stimulus money for resurfacing of roads and improvements and repairs to the humpback bridges.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he was not in favor of taking federal money.

“I don’t support the current [federal] stimulus plan. The perception of free money is seductive, but the reality is we are going to have to pay for this folly.”

Barford also said she did not support the federal plan, but her concern is the city. “If we don't ask for this money, it will go to Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach,” she said.

“I need some help for infrastructure projects now. The other cities feel the same way, but that's the nature of the beast.”

Mattick observed that without the stimulus money, the city would have to borrow money to resurface roads and fix its bridges, or raise taxes.

“If we don’t take this money, we have to raise our taxes. A city of our size can’t afford to turn this down,” she said.

The resolution passed 3-1 with Woodland dissenting. Commissioner Chuck Webb was absent.

The commission was prepared to discuss a variance for a dock project in the 500 block of Blue Heron Drive, but city attorney Jim Dye said the public notice procedure was invalid. The commission voted to continue the variance hearing to the May 28 meeting.