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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

What's new? Anna Maria parking argued - again

Dealing with a problem that began when the first Model-T Ford crossed the old wooden bridge to the Island in the 1920s and looked for a parking space in Anna Maria, Anna Maria city commissioners once again debated the decades-old parking problem at their Jan. 13 worksession.

The city's problem now is that no-parking zones, stop-sign locations and speed limits have never been officially designated by ordinance. An emergency ordinance passed by the commission in December has temporarily solved that problem until it expires on Feb. 15.

At two meetings in December, the commission hashed out the draft of an ordinance that would make legal only the allowed parking, no parking and speed limits that are already in place in the city and the first reading was held Jan. 13.

But in Anna Maria, what's decided at one meeting can change at the next.

Commission Chairperson John Quam had previously proposed four new no-parking locations be added to the ordinance, and the commission consensus in December was to proceed. No-parking zones would have been added across from the Bayfront Park, along North Shore Drive, at the end of South Bay Boulevard and some sections of Fern Street.

Hold on a minute, said Commissioner Dale Woodland. He only agreed to what was already in place, not any new locations, and he's still against any additions.

"I don't see why any of these locations should have no parking. I'm opposed to adding these four locations," he said.

Not to be outdone, Commissioner Carol Ann Magill chimed in that she's "concerned" because some residents have complained to her that they still have parking on their street, while other residents do not. That's not fair and "I can't in good consciousness vote for this ordinance," she observed.

Hold on another minute, replied Quam. "We are just documenting where no parking areas are now and what's been there for years. This is not a parking plan."

Commissioner Duke Miller said the parking plan comes after adoption of this ordinance, although he dryly noted that the commission has spent the past three years in an unsuccessful attempt to establish a parking plan agreeable to every interest in the city.

Anna Maria property owner John Cagnino said the commission was penalizing some property owners and not others with this ordinance, and was "packing all parking on a few streets."

"This is not a plan," said Quam in an unsuccessful attempt to separate the two issues.

The commission could legally remove no-parking locations from the proposed ordinance, said City Attorney Jim Dye, in a response to a question from Magill, but that "might not be wise. Without an ordinance, the city would be open parking."

Sgt. John Kenney of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Anna Maria substation added that deputies would not write tickets without an ordinance because the legislative justification would not be available in a court case.

Just remove those four new locations from the ordinance, said Woodland, with Miller agreeing.

Magill was unimpressed and still opted for other streets to have no parking, but Quam, Woodland and Miller agreed to the revised ordinance. The second and final reading was scheduled for Jan. 27.

Quam again reminded the commission and the public that this ordinance is not a parking plan, just legal documentation of what is already in place.

In other business, the commission agreed that to continue to pursue collection of the alleged $180 in overpayment to former Mayor Gary Deffenbaugh was pointless, as Deffenbaugh has refused to pay, countering that he does not owe the city any back payments. He did pay a large portion of the original amount.

"Let it go as a bad debt," said Magill.

Fine, said Mayor SueLynn, but remember that four other elected officials have paid their overpayments. Perhaps the city should refund that money, she suggested.

Woodland countered that when Deffenbaugh was mayor, he used a different accounting system to pay elected officials, not the one that the city's accounting firm presently uses. Both are acceptable accounting practices, Woodland claimed. After examining the issue, he said, he "can't legitimately say this is a bad debt."

Commissioners agreed there was no point in continuing to pursue payment, although the money owed could be reported to a credit agency.