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Date of Issue: June 15, 2006

Surprise! Anna Maria changes stance on consolidation

After rejecting a measure that would have placed Island consolidation on last November's ballot, the Anna Maria City Commission did somewhat of an about-face at its June 8 meeting, deciding to ask the other Island cities if they want to spend money to hire a professional firm to prepare a study on consolidating some services among the three cities.

Commissioner Duke Miller spearheaded the request, saying the study would be only for consolidating Island municipal services and would save taxpayers money.

"Forget the past," he said. What's needed now is an independent study by a professional organization.

"I don't feel this is a dead horse. Let's make the offer" to the other cities, he said.

Commissioners agreed and Miller will send a letter to the mayors of Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach asking if their cities want to spend a pro-rata share of the cost to hire a professional firm to do the study.

While Commissioner Linda Cramer suggested the three cities should discuss "all phases" of consolidation, including an Island manager, Commission

Chairperson John Quam sided with Miller. The study should only be about consolidating services.

Mayor SueLynn — long a proponent of consolidating services — noted that some constituents have told her they fear Holmes Beach wants to "take over the Island," and are worried about "annexation."

She added that she'd received a request from Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore for financial, budgetary and administrative information on Anna Maria.

Whitmore is gathering the information for her own consolidation report as requested by the Holmes Beach City Commission.

Anna Maria commissioners, however, decided not to submit the information to Holmes Beach. The mayor said it would involve extensive staff time to complete the request. "I will write a letter respectfully declining to submit the information," she said.

Informed that Anna Maria would write a letter to her asking if Holmes Beach was interested in participating in a study on consolidating services, Whitmore said she would not support her city's participation.

"If they want to do it on their own, that's fine. I've tried four or five times since I've been in politics to consolidate some Island services and every effort has failed," she observed.

"But I will take the request to the commission and let them decide," Whitmore added.

She also found it ironic that in the same breath that Anna Maria wants Holmes Beach to participate in a study on consolidation, it declined her request for information that would be part of a Holmes Beach study on consolidation.

"But if they want to proceed on their own, I will provide them with any information they request," she concluded.

After discussion by the Bradenton Beach City Commission last week, and before the Anna Maria announcement regarding consolidation, Bradenton Beach commissioners directed Mayor John Chappie to contact Whitmore regarding the extensive list of documents she had requested to determine a time frame for compliance.

"We're getting mixed messages," he said.

In other business, commissioners discussed several changes to the city's sign ordinance as presented by city planner Alan Garrett.

The commission agreed that only one sign will be permitted on a residential lot, with a maximum size of 4 square feet and no attachments, "riders" or "tubes" will be allowed.

For 30 days prior to a general election, however, homeowners could increase the number of signs. The additional signs would have to be removed the day after the election. During the period from Thanksgiving to January 1, residential lots could have an additional sign, said Garrett, to accommodate the holiday season.

The first reading of the amended sign ordinance will be June 29.

The commission also agreed to SueLynn's request to prepare amendments to the city's emergency ordinance for commission discussion.

Two areas of concern for the mayor are the amount of money the city is required to maintain in its emergency fund and staff pay during any declared state of emergency where the staff works excessively long hours to get the city running again.

The mayor also asked commissioners to discuss changes to the city's building code that would include addition of a "daylight plane" setback for the third floor of new homes. The suggestion comes after the mayor said she has observed the look of the three new homes constructed on Pine Avenue recently.

A "daylight plane" provision for new construction is on the books in Holmes Beach, on Longboat Key and in Sarasota, she said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said changing the setback requirements could be avoided by just stating in the ordinance amendment that the third floor could only be a maximum 17.5 percent lot coverage. SueLynn said she would discuss that with Garrett and city attorney Jim Dye.

Commissioners gave her the go-ahead to prepare a draft ordinance for discussion at the July worksession.

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