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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Trolley nuisance under Anna Maria noise ordinance

Anna Maria city commissioners had their first reading Jan. 8 of a proposed noise ordinance that is based upon a Manatee County ordinance, but if eventually passed, the Manatee County Area Transit's Island trolley might be the first offender.

Commissioners don't want any noisy vehicles, such as garbage trucks, in the city before 7 a.m., but the trolley rumbles through the quiet Anna Maria streets just after 6 a.m. to take up its station at the City Pier awaiting the first customers of the day.

Wouldn't the trolley be illegal in the city before 7 a.m. under this ordinance, asked Commissioner Dale Woodland.

That, said City Attorney Jim Dye, is a "judgment call."

"Well, I hear it at 6 a.m.," said Commissioner Duke Miller, "and I live four blocks away."

Mayor SueLynn said she understood that MCAT was in the process of changing to quieter, gentler engines on the trolleys, but it was a process that would take several years.

She said she would contact MCAT to see if it would consider delaying the trolley through the city until 7 a.m.

Dye turned up his own amplifier for the commission when he noted that the state legislature is considering a cost-cutting move that after July 1, 2004, the state's attorney will no longer prosecute municipal cases.

What that means if passed is that to enforce the law, Anna Maria will have to provide the infrastructure to enforce the law, including a prosecuting attorney and a defense attorney, if the accused can't afford legal counsel.


So the city may have an unenforceable ordinance after July 1, said Commissioner Linda Cramer.

Dye observed that the city can always use the Manatee County Sheriff's Office to issue a breach of peace citation for loud noise, but even the MCSO will have the same prosecution problem after July 1.

He said he could add language to the ordinance allowing the MCSO to issue noise ordinance citations, but the city will still face a problem of enforcement after July 1.

Commissioners said go ahead and re-write the ordinance to allow MCSO deputies to issue citations based upon the Anna Maria law and the city would just have to wait and see what happens after July 1.

Home occupational permit fees
The commission also discussed a home occupational license fee ordinance, now that collection of the occupational license tax has been suspended.

Cramer wants the commission to look at a broader ordinance that would include a license fee for all businesses in the city, including rental properties, and also requiring regulation and inspection by the city's building official.

Dye explained that people are confusing a permit with an occupational license tax. The OLT was a tax. To issue a permit, the city has to provide some type of service.

While Commissioner Dale Woodland said he wouldn't want anyone coming into his home and telling him what to do, Commission Chairperson John Quam said the city needs some control to monitor which people operate a business from a home and what businesses are in the city.

"It's wide open now," he noted. Anybody can just come into the city and start almost any type of business without getting a city permit or paying a fee.

Building Official Kevin Donohue observed that, in his experience, an occupational permit for a business is usually associated with the municipality providing a service such as a fire code inspection, or an inspection to ensure the business is operating within its approved site plan or stated purpose.

However, he added, the fee associated with such a permit is supposed to only cover the administrative costs of the inspections. It's not a revenue source such as the OLT.

Dye suggested the city create an ordinance to establish a regulatory process and Cramer wanted the city to get bids from professional planners for the entire scope of business licensing.

But Donohue observed that if it's just 50 or 100 businesses, it's not too much more work for his department. If the city is talking about 500 inspections annually, that's about two a day.

He suggested the city identify which type of properties and businesses would be included in the ordinance, a budget amount for administration, and a fee schedule for a license.

Great idea, Miller told Donohue. Let's have you and city treasurer Diane Percycoe come back to the next workshop with that information, but we'll deal with rental properties later.

OK, said code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon, but a number of seasonal rentals in the city are now turning into monthly, weekly and daily rentals.

Building moratorium
The commission had its first reading of the partial building moratorium ordinance and agreed the moratorium will expire on July 1, 2004.

That should be enough time for the city to implement site-plan review procedures now being reviewed by the planning and zoning board.

Until the moratorium expires, no new commercial structures can be built, in addition to single-family houses on three or more lots, sub-divisions, or development on lots that don't have fee simple access to a public street.

The commission discussed new construction in the retail-office-residential zone along Pine Avenue and Dye concluded that a new commercial building would not be allowed in that zone under the moratorium.

However, he added, repairs, renovations and improvements at an existing commercial building are allowed as long as there is no expansion of the usable space.

Unfinished agenda items
Commissioners dropped discussion of a ban on shark fishing from the agenda (see separate story), but put off to another workshop discussion of anonymous complaints, budget format changes, an alcohol permit regulation system and discussion of items from previous meeting agendas that were never discussed by the commission.