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Date of Issue: January 28, 2009

Lacking ROR discussion, AM meeting quiet

Without amendments to Anna Maria's retail-office-residential district to discuss on its agenda, the city commission sailed through its Jan. 22 meeting with only seven members of the public in attendance.

That was a far cry from the full house — about 80 people — that greeted the city's planning and zoning board Jan. 20 for its hearing on the ROR-zone changes (see separate story). The commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed ROR ordinance on Feb. 12.

There was good news for the commission when Mayor Fran Barford said that Florida Department of Environment officials were “pleased with what they saw” earlier in the week when they inspected the city's ability to meet the public parking requirement for beach renourishment funding by the state.

However, the DEP and the mayor found a number of items have been improperly placed in the rights of way and some items encroach on needed parking spaces. Barford asked for commission consensus to have the code enforcement officer become pro-active concerning right-of-way violations.

She said a few people don’t seem to understand that the city has a right of way along the streets and the right of way has to be kept free of unauthorized items such as signs, large pots, plants and rocks.

Code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon noted that if she were directed to be pro-active on all issues, she would not have enough time in a week and more officers would be needed.

“To be proactive on everything is impossible. Just enforcing the right of way is enough,” said Rathvon, who works just three days per week.

Commissioners gave consensus agreement to the policy change and planned to discuss it at its Feb. 12 work session. The commission has previously set the policy for code enforcement to be reactive only.

City attorney Jim Dye pointed out that under the city charter approved in 2003 code enforcement comes under the city administration, which is headed by the mayor, who establishes administration policy.

Barford asked Dye to look into the issue and update her and the commission on who should set policy for city code enforcement.

The mayor delivered some potentially bad news when she said the city is unlikely to get any advertising revenue from the Manatee County Area Transit's Island Trolley, as only one business has signed up to advertise. She added that MCAT is “having a great deal of difficulty finding money” to run its service and the possibility of the rider-free trolley charging a fare to riders will be discussed eventually by the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners.

In other business, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the final funds for Phase 1 of the city's master stormwater drainage plan. The $29,886 completes the project, which finished under budget by $2,000.

City engineer Tom Wilcox said Phase 1 was “about a week away from finishing.”

Along with the completion of Phase 1 and the reopening of the north parking lot at city hall, Barford and Wilcox made some adjustments to south city hall parking lot.

 Entrance to the lot will be from Gulf Drive, not Spring Avenue and the drive-through will be one-way. Signs will be posted advising motorists of the changes.

The commission also gave Barford approval to proceed with bids to dredge Lake LaVista. Public works director George McKay said the estimated cost is slightly more than $100,000, but the city has a matching grant of $50,000 for the project.

Commissioners also gave the owners of property on Blue Heron an exception to items in the city right of way.

In a 3-2 vote, the commission allowed Howard Payne to retain the posts he had installed along the roadway.

The commission noted that Blue Heron is a lightly traveled street and the posts keep heavy vehicles off the edge of the pavement, which crumbles when run over by waste-hauling vehicles or construction trucks. The Payne posts perform a service for the city as the plastic posts installed by the city in 2007 have been demolished by the heavy trucks.


New parking arrangement at AM city hall

People headed to Anna Maria City Hall by car or truck will find that the parking arrangements in the south parking lot have been reconfigured to accommodate the city’s drainage works.

Basically, said Mayor Fran Barford, the flow of traffic and direction of parking spaces have been reversed.

Entrance to the lot is now from Gulf Drive, not Spring Avenue, and parking spaces on the westside lot now face in a southerly direction.

Motorists can either park in the west lot or continue on the drive-through that extends past the horseshoe area to another parking area, then exit onto Spring Avenue at the former entrance.

Signs have been posted advising motorists of the changes, she said.

Barford asked residents to bear with the arrangement for a month, but provide the city with comments and suggestions about the configuration during the adjustment period.