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Date of Issue: May 05, 2005

Anna Maria history made, commission agrees on parking plan - again

Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles called the April 28, 2005, Anna Maria City Commission meeting an "historic day" in the city.

Indeed, after more than 80 years of trying to solve the parking problem in the city, commissioners finally hit on a solution — maybe.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to use Commissioner Duke Miller's proposed Parking Plan C as a "basis" for a future parking ordinance. The plan only affects streets in the already established beach access zones and would essentially allowing parking on one side of each of those streets for one year, then switch parking to the other side for the next year.

Even Commissioner Dale Woodland, who has opposed a variety of plans submitted by Miller, agreed.

"We've been at opposite ends on this issue," Woodland told Miller, "but if you can live with it, I can."

Miller, an original proponent of resident-only parking, said he came up with the compromise solution after so many stalemates on the commission the past three years in trying to find an acceptable parking plan.

"Some people are carrying an undue burden" with parking on their street, while their neighbor across the road has no parking, he noted. His plan would have everyone on a beach access street "sharing the burden" 50 percent of the time.

Commissioner Carol Ann Magill said she was "pleasantly surprised" at the compromise. She suggested changing no parking every six months, but Miller noted that parking increases during the winter tourist season and thus, one year seemed the optimal time.

Commission Chairperson John Quam said he was in favor of using the plan as the basis for a new parking ordinance, but noted that some areas might be excluded from parking for "safety" reasons.

"We have many areas to look at" before an ordinance can be adopted, he said. Some streets might want to opt out of the plan and allow open parking year-round, he noted.

Woodland added that the commission shouldn't "over-complicate" the plan. "If we try to solve everyone's problem, we'll be here for the next two years."

Even members of the public affected by the proposal seemed in agreement and congratulated the commission for finally "doing something."

"This is a high-water mark for this board after years and years" of discussion, said Chiles. Although he said he's often thought that parking in Anna Maria could never be solved, Plan C "comes right in the middle and it's equitable. It's fair. I congratulate Commissioner Miller and the commission. I can't wait to see the headline."

Fern Street resident Bill Cunningham, who has had considerable difficulties with public parking at his property for a number of years, said he was prepared to support Miller's plan, although it's not exactly what he wanted.

But at least it's fair, or should be, he observed.

"Whatever the commission does should apply equally and we think this one does," Cunningham concluded.

Alternate-street or alternate-side-of-the-street parking and no-parking as a solution was first proposed by Mayor SueLynn three years ago, but commissioners at that time did not agree with the concept.

Miller was then in favor of resident-only permit-based parking while Woodland leaned toward open parking. In early 2003, Quam brought forward "Plan X" for designated parking and no-parking locations within the beach access zone only, and the commission spent more than $10,000 in an eventually fruitless study to determine exactly where parking should be allowed in the zone. Plan X was also eventually rejected.

Two years ago, Miller came up with a compromise solution by allowing some parking on the right of way, but this, too, was tossed out by other commissioners.

Squabbles among commissioners and residents over parking have continued the past three years, at least until Miller's April 28 proposal.

Now that the commission has a consensus on a plan, it remains to be seen if a parking ordinance can actually be drafted, said one BAZ resident.

Opinions on the new plan, which was just presented to the public, will be heard at the commission's May 12 workshop, where parking will be the No. 1 item on the agenda.

"At least we're going forward," said Cunningham.

But not every commissioner is on board with Plan C.

Commissioner Linda Cramer, who was unable to attend the April 28 meeting, said she could not support the plan "as presented" because it would allow beach access parking in areas that have been designated no-parking for a number of years.

"I don't think it's fair to those people who bought a home where there was no street parking, now the city is going to tell them the public can park in front of their house," she said.

Cramer did, however, pledge to discuss the proposal at the May 12 workshop in the "spirit of cooperation."