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Date of Issue: September 29, 2005

At last, an Anna Maria parking plan, but exceptions granted

It may have taken more than 80 years of parking problems, and at least 30 years of city commission meetings on the issue, but Anna Maria now has a parking plan, at least for the next two years.

City commissioners, in an historic meeting Sept. 22, approved "Plan C" for parking streets in the city's beach access zone. The plan calls for alternate side of the street parking on the right of way in designated locations, with the parking side to switch annually. Commissioners want the plan in effect by Dec. 1, 2005.

Included in the ordinance was a provision to prohibit parking on the west side of North Bay Boulevard across from Bayfront Park, an action that residents of that street had sought for the past several years. Several other streets outside the BAZ will have designated no-parking areas, according to the ordinance.

The commission agreed that Plan C will be reviewed after two years to see if it's working for the residents and visiting public.

"Start the fireworks," said Commissioner Duke Miller after the 4-1 vote approving the ordinance.

Surprisingly, Commissioner Linda Cramer, who lobbied successfully to other commissioners for a parking exception on the first 114 feet of each side of the 100 block from Gulf Drive of Palmetto Avenue from, voted against the measure.

Cramer, a former Palmetto Avenue resident, said she still favored resident-only permit parking, but asked for an exception for several residents with disabilities who would have difficulty walking across Palmetto Avenue to reach their homes. Cramer said she no longer owns property on Palmetto Avenue and now lives on Gulf Drive.

"Many of my neighbors aren't in town, so I had to stand up for them," said Cramer after the commission granted her exception request.

But Palmetto Avenue wasn't the only exception the commission approved

Barbara Sato has rental property at 313 N. Bay Blvd., she said. If parking were not allowed on the right of way, her tenants would have a problem. They can't park across the street in Bayfront Park between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., leaving them with no options for parking near their residence.

Commissioners at first were reluctant to grant any exceptions to Plan C, but Miller suggested that the 57 feet in front of Sato's Bay Boulevard property be designated for open parking and the commission agreed.

After Sato got her exception, however, Cramer sprang into action, stating that if Sato were given an exception to Plan C, then Palmetto Avenue deserved one also.

Other residents were not so lucky in getting exceptions. Residents of Beach Avenue lobbied unsuccessfully for restricted parking on their street, while petitions from residents of Oak Avenue against Plan C were never seriously considered for exceptions by the commission

Miller, who initiated Plan C after three previous plans the past three years failed to gain a consensus among the commission, said Plan C is a compromise. Originally a proponent of resident-only permit parking, Miller said Plan C at least shares the burden of open parking among all the BAZ streets.

"I congratulate my fellow commissioners for agreeing to the plan. I think it shows that we can work together. As we've said, if it's not working after two years, we can always scrap it and try something else."

Indeed, following the historic vote, the sparsely filled chamber broke into applause, a rarity in Anna Maria for any commission decision.

Mayor SueLynn, who had originally proposed a version of alternate-street parking three years ago only to have the then commission dismiss the idea, also paid tribute to the commission.

"My congratulations to the commission for compromising and making a decision on parking. I know it won't be popular with everyone, but no parking plan would have pleased everyone. At least the city has done something about parking. This shares the burden (of public parking) and we can monitor how the plan is doing."

Streets currently in Plan C that will have at least some open parking are Gladiolus Street, Fern Street, Newton Lane, Cypress Street, Spruce Avenue, Fir Avenue, Coconut Avenue, Sycamore Avenue, Elm Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, Palm Avenue, Palmetto Avenue, Cedar Avenue, Maple Avenue, Beach Avenue and Peppertree Lane

In addition to North Bay Boulevard from the humpback bridge to the end of Bayfront Park, parking will be prohibited on a number of other non-BAZ street locations. A complete list of those locations approved for "no parking" is available at city hall.

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