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Date of Issue: June 29, 2006

Mayors spar over paid parking, security at Island beaches

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore were like a brother-sister act at the Coalition of Barrier Island Officials meeting June 21.

The two engaged in a "respectful" verbal exchange over paid parking at Island beaches run by Manatee County. Chappie said his police department want the county to look at paid parking for Coquina Beach as a means of security control, while Whitmore said the Holmes Beach City Commission is adamantly opposed to paid parking, particularly at the Manatee County Beach.

"This is a very serious issue" for Bradenton Beach, said Chappie. "You can't compare our city with Manatee Beach or Bayfront Park."

The issues for Chappie concern security and safety at Coquina Beach, Cortez Beach and Leffis Key.

On any given weekend, there are more people in Coquina Beach than live in Bradenton Beach. People are "cruising" the beach just for something to do because it's "free," he noted.

Unpermitted parties, gang gatherings and, in some cases, fights, have occurred at Coquina Beach. There is so much traffic it creates a safety problem on State Road 789. Large groups and families can bring their barbecue units and beach equipment and camp out on Coquina Beach all day. And there is no pattern to parking. People can just park anywhere they find an empty space.

"It's gotten out of hand," said Chappie. "We want a safe place for people to enjoy."

Whitmore suggested the Island cities work with Manatee County to find acceptable solutions, but paid parking does not appear to be one of those, according to Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann. There's no consensus among commissioners for paid parking at any of the county-run beaches on Anna Maria Island, she said.

Chappie indicated that his city would deal with its issues at Coquina Beach, one way or the other.

"But we're all in this together," shot back Whitmore.

Maybe, but Bradenton Beach has a unique set of problems, fired back Chappie.

Whitmore said these problems go back to the ever-increasing population in Manatee County, particularly in the eastern section. "Sooner or later, everyone comes to the Island."

For Holmes Beach, the main issue is parking at Manatee Public Beach. When the lot is full - which Whitmore said seems to happen every weekend these days - people will park anywhere, including the state right of way along Manatee Avenue.

Holmes Beach police officers have been reluctant to ticket these offenders, Whitmore said, but von Hahmann suggested that a few tickets might cure the problem.

"We're close to doing that," Whitmore responded. "We've never had a parking problem until this year. We want to try and educate the public first."

Von Hahmann said the county commission will hold a special meeting with Island elected officials to discuss these issues and seek solutions, but no date has yet been set for that meeting.

 

Consolidation

In other business, the BIEO discussed the consolidation issue, which has been around Anna Maria Island since 1950, perhaps even earlier.

Whitmore said the Holmes Beach City Commission wants another Island city to "take the lead" in any consolidation of services study. After four prior failed attempts by Holmes Beach to consolidate Island services, it's time for another city to step up to the plate.

Anna Maria Commissioner John Quam said his city is now in favor of studying consolidation of services, but would like each city to pay its proportionate share of any study cost.

"Then show us your proposal and I'll take it to the commission," responded Whitmore, but Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino said the commission consensus is for Anna Maria to do the study, then bring it to Holmes Beach.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger added, "I'm from Missouri. ‘Show me.'"