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Date of Issue: June 16, 2005

No surprise, Anna Maria parking issue turns contentious Cramer: 'I shouldn't be here'

To the surprise of absolutely no one in Anna Maria who has listened to the innumerable parking plans proposed for the city the past 45 years - none of which have ever come to fruition - parking Plan C that the city commission is considering has hit a "road block."

Commissioner Linda Cramer, who was not at the meeting where Commissioner Duke Miller first proposed Plan C, blasted the proposal at the commission's June 9 meeting, claiming that the plan is "not the best option for city residents.

"I've talked to a lot of people and they are mad as heck about this plan," she said. The plan is not going to work because there's no "equity," she claimed.

The plan, which calls for alternate side parking on one side of a street in the beach access zone with the sides to change on an annual basis, was put forward by permit-only parking proponent Miller as a compromise proposal after the failure of the permit-only effort and Commission Chairman John Quam's Plan X for parking.

But Plan C, Cramer said, is reducing parking spaces and shifting the burden to residents already overburdened with public parking on their streets on weekends and holidays.

Cramer also criticized commissioners for "shutting me down" the last time the commission discussed Plan C.

When Commissioner Carol Ann Magill asked for a point of order because Cramer's discussion seemed to stray from the agenda item, Cramer responded with an emphatic "No. If I can't talk about this at a workshop, then I shouldn't be here."

She said Quam's aborted Plan X for parking was better than Plan C, but admitted she didn't vote for Plan X because residents could not park on the rights of way under that proposal. She called on commissioners to get rid of the horseshoe pits at city hall, construct public bathrooms and create more parking at that location.

That was enough for Commissioner Dale Woodland, who had agreed with Miller that Plan C is a compromise. Woodland has favored open parking.

He said he understood Cramer's position, but Plan X is a separate topic.

"The agenda for tonight is for Plan C," he intoned politely. "If you want another agenda item for another plan, fine, but I'd like to continue forward with this one."

Cramer's arguments are "the same stuff I've been hearing for years," he noted.

The commission eventually got around to discussing Plan C, which provides no parking on one side of a BAZ street for 12 months, then switches parking to the opposite side for the next year and so on.

But there was an immediate outcry for exceptions.

Woodland said leave North Shore Drive alone because of the safety issue.

Cramer was not to be denied a second chance to blast Plan C.

She claimed North Shore Drive is "no different" than any other street. The Baskerville-Donovan Inc. traffic study of two years ago "clearly states that city streets are inadequate" for on-street parking, but under Plan C, commissioners want to follow some parts of that report but not others, she said. The case for resident-only parking is getting better, Cramer observed.

Members of the public who live on BAZ streets sided with Cramer.

Nigel Brown of Oak Avenue said he canvassed 15 of 17 residents on Oak and none of them supported Plan C, but would opt for resident-only parking or maintain the "status quo." On Mangrove Street, he said he talked with eight of the 12 property owners, all of whom are opposed to Plan C. Again, he said, they would prefer resident-only parking or the status quo.

He also noted that presently on Oak Avenue there are 15 public parking spaces on one side of the street, but only one on the opposite side. How can the commission switch the parking every year, from 15 spaces one year to just a single spot the next year? he asked.

"There's no equality. You can't do one year and switch," he claimed.

Not a single resident he spoke with is in favor of Plan C, Brown said, and he urged commissioners to grant exceptions to the plan.

Quam responded that some commissioners had previously favored maintaining the status quo after Plan X was defeated, but only considered Plan C as a "compromise."

Other residents also spoke against the plan and said they would immediately ask for exceptions to parking on their particular streets and would build fences to protect their property.

That brought Cramer back to her opposition to Plan C.

The commission, she claimed, has no "consideration" of what residents want.

No so, responded Woodland, but "if you think we are ever going to adopt a plan without any public criticism, that's just not realistic. But let's focus on this plan. I've been through resident-only parking and Plan X. You've had your say and we've wasted a lot of time here tonight."

Just talking about Plan C "doesn't guarantee it will be adopted," he said, but it's better than not talking about a parking plan.

Cramer, switching gears, said she could support Plan X if residents were permitted to use the rights of way for parking. "That's more viable than this plan."

"Let's at least see if this will fly," replied Woodland.

Commissioners eventually grew weary of parking and opted to continue discussing Plan C and potential exceptions at the July commission workshop.

The city's first known effort to solve its parking problem began in 1960 with a study by police. A parking committee was formed in 1977 and another in 1999, all to no avail.