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Date of Issue: July 29, 2005

Community Center gets first go from city

Anna Maria city commissioners gave the "preliminary" go-ahead sign at their July 21 meeting to the Anna Maria Island Community Center to proceed with expansion plans, at the same time granting the Center three variances that coincide with the plan.

Attorney Scott Rudacille, representing the Center, said the reason for the expansion was that the facility could not accommodate both teenage and adolescent programs at the same time because of a lack of space. State regulations require that programs and activities for the two age groups held at the same time be in separate areas. For the past few years, the Center has been unable to host a number of events and programs for teenagers because of this requirement, Rudacille said.

Plans call for the Center to expand its building inward and build a second floor over the present office area. This will add about 11,000 square feet to the current 12,000 square feet of the building. A stage will be added to the gymnasium and some second story facilities will be added there, too.

While the commission did give preliminary site plan approval, it had some concerns with parking at the facility and attached several stipulations that must be met before any final site plan approval.

City Planner Alan Garrett noted that a recently passed city ordinance on parking allows only parallel parking on city rights of way. The perpendicular parking currently at the Center, and that proposed in the site plan, violate the code. The Center needs to ask the commission to amend the current parking ordinance to allow the Center to meet its goal of increasing parking to 87 spaces.

Attorney Mark Barnebey, also representing the Center, said he'll prepare such an amendment for submission to City Attorney Jim Dye and the commission.

Without the amendment, the Center can only create 54 parallel parking spaces.

Rudacille said the Center has commitments from the Island Baptist Church and Roser Memorial Community Church to use their parking lots in the event of overflow parking at the Center. In addition, Rudacille said the Center would create parking on the playing fields for use at heavily attended events.

Not everyone in the packed audience was in favor of the plan.

Jeannie Murray of Hardin Avenue agreed the Center needed more space, but expansion would have a serious effect on the "essential character of the neighborhood."

She suggested the Center consider moving to vacant property near the Holmes Beach City Hall to create a more central location.

Hal Badger, also of Hardin Avenue, suggested that parking along Palm Avenue by the Center could potentially be a "serious safety issue" for both the city and the Center if someone is injured.

The Center must meet all stipulations required by the commission and get an amendment to the parking ordinance before submittings its plan for final approval.

The Center has raised more than $2 million the past four years for its expansion plans, largely from Island contributions, Rudacille said.