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Date of Issue: May 19, 2005

The long and winding parking road

Nobody ever said it would be easy to come up with a parking plan in the City of Anna Maria. Some might say that after 80 years of looking for an answer, it's like the city commission trying to solve world hunger.

At least city commissioners have agreed on a plan as presented by Commissioner Duke Miller for alternate-side parking on streets in the beach access zone that would switch sides annually.

Now comes the hard part. Actually creating an ordinance.

"There's still a lot of work ahead," said Commission Chair John Quam at the May 12 commission work session as commissioners grappled with a draft of what locations on BAZ streets would have parking.

Some residents, such as those on Willow Avenue, already want out of the plan, said Quam. "Are we going to allow petitioners" who want to opt out or change the proposal? he asked.

No, said Commissioner Dale Woodland. He agreed that some people are already upset about the proposal and have asked him, "Why do you want to change it?"

Don't change the plan, he urged the commission. Keep it simple and make everyone share the parking burden equally. No exceptions, he emphasized.

Quam, however, said he would be in favor of adding parking in some locations to give residents more parking than the plan would allow.

No, said Miller. "Now you are complicating the plan. It's like ‘Here we go again.'"

Commissioner Linda Cramer, who was absent at the April 28 meeting when Miller presented his "Plan C" for parking in the city, is opposed to the measure.

"I feel Plan C restricts parking in some areas and is not fair to residents," making it clear she was not in favor of the plan. Plan C reduces parking to city residents, she said.

The commission will find out soon enough what parking areas need adjustment after it passes an ordinance, said Woodland. "Leave it simple. Let's not try to think of every possibility. The plan is not perfect, but all will have relief and all will have a burden."

Commissioners did agreed to eliminate parking from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. on BAZ streets. Residents on those streets that already have overnight parking have not voiced any complaints, Woodland observed.

Quam and the commission agreed that the Tuna-Cypress-Spruce route should have parking only on one side. The commission has already approved these connecting streets for one-way traffic and implementing alternate-side parking on an annual basis would be a safety problem.

Quam even suggested that some portions of Jacaranda Street to Alamanda Street and Fern Street to Gladiolous Street be withdrawn from the plan because those areas don't present a problem for public parking, but Woodland said don't treat any BAZ street differently.

However, commissioners did agree to leave at least the curved portion of North Shore Drive out of the plan because of public safety concerns.

Miller said the commission should deal separately with North Shore Drive and other city thoroughfares such as Gulf Drive, Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard. Gulf Boulevard will also be left out of the plan because of safety issues.

BAZ streets included in Plan C are Peppertree, Maple, Park, Oak, Mangrove, Cedar, Willow, Palmetto, Elm, Magnolia, Beach, Pine, Fir, Sycamore, Coconut, Fern, Gladiolus, Jacaranda and North Bay from Jacaranda to North Shore. The commission also discussed no parking across from Bayfront Park.

Members of the public seemed agreeable to the commission's direction.

Bill Cunningham of Fern Street, who has long documented public parking transgressions on and near his home, said the commission should "push on" and not get "bogged down in details."

Sycamore Street resident Rod Roston said his street is a "circus" on holiday weekends, with people parking on his lawn, using his outdoor showers, littering, urinating in public and being obnoxious. At least the commission is trying to find relief, he said.

Quam said he would present a draft plan detailing exact parking locations on the BAZ streets at the June commission workshop for further discussion.

In other business, the commission agreed to a suggestion by Mayor SueLynn that it consider purchasing the lot adjacent to the public works department maintenance shed on Pine Avenue. The five lots on the site of the former Island Marine are now up for sale, she said.

While the $595,000 price tag might seem a bit steep, she said, Island property "will never get any cheaper."

The city has missed many opportunities in the past to purchase private land for public use, including Bean Point and Villa Rosa.

"This is an opportunity for the city, but we can't sit still," she said. Available land in the city is dwindling rapidly, and "prices will never be any lower," she reminded the commission.

The issue will be on the May 26 agenda, Quam promised.