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Date of Issue: January 28, 2009

Anna Maria P&Z rejects ROR ordinance

Former City Commissioner Carol Ann Magill speaks at the Jan. 20 P&Z public hearing. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

In a 4-3 vote, Anna Maria’s planning and zoning board at its Jan. 20 public hearing rejected a number of changes to the city’s retail-office-residential ordinance, pushing a final decision onto the city commission.

But a vote to make no recommendation to the commission came after two board members, who had previously given consensus approval to several proposed changes, voted no during the roll-call vote.

Board member Jim Conoly initially said he would vote for the amendment, although he added he didn’t like the measure. He then voted “no.”

 Board member Margaret Jenkins also voted against the proposal, although she indicated during discussion she could support a number of the proposed changes.

P&Z board chairman Doug Copeland, who voted against the amendment because it did not address minimum lot coverage and yard bulk, said the commission must now deal with the issue.

“Let them do what they will,” with the amendment and the proposed changes, he said.

Although the board failed to recommend the amendment, the commission will hold a public hearing on the matter on Feb. 12.

Not since Anna Maria’s parking ordinance have so many people been on opposite sides of an issue.

The major changes proposed are to remove any “owner-occupied” requirement and to allow swimming pools at all ROR residences, not just single-family structures. The comp plan adopted by the city in 2007 does not contain the “owner-occupied” language.

The board rejected an earlier suggestion by board member Randall Stover that would have required ROR rentals to be rented for a minimum seven-day stay after learning from Dye that a single-family residence in the ROR can currently be rented on a daily basis.

There was considerable debate on the amendment, both for and against.

 Some speakers attempted to lump Pine Avenue Restoration LLC’s current ROR projects with the amendment, despite efforts by Dye and Copeland to limit discussion to the ordinance rather than any specific project.

Sally Eaton of Spring Avenue, the street adjacent to Pine Avenue on the south side, said Mike Coleman and PAR hid their plans until the very end and are now promoting wedding parties and vacation rentals on Pine Avenue. Some real estate companies are advertising these properties for sale as investments, she said.

Robin Wall said the city should not have short-term rentals to the transient population that wedding parties represent.

Heather Bayless, Spring Avenue, said pools only “encourage a party environment” that will come to the city. Anna Maria is already being marketed as the “wedding capital” of Florida, she noted.

Spring Avenue is one block south of Pine Avenue and the ROR zone, and is zoned single-family residential, although several properties there are rentals without limits as to length of stay.

Other speakers said they wanted no change to the ROR ordinance, although city planner Alan Garrett pointed out that some changes are required by the Florida Department of Community Affairs to bring the land-use regulations into compliance with the comp plan.

An amendment is needed to bring the city’s ROR land development regulation into compliance with the city’s revised comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2007. The comp plan has precedence over any ordinance.

But former Commissioner Carol Ann Magill, also a Spring Avenue resident, was not interested in any major change.

“I oppose you taking any action to remove the owner-occupied sentence” from the ordinance, she said. “More is never enough” for the developers.

Carolyne Norwood of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society said the city should make Pine Avenue a historic district before it approves the destruction of any beach cottages on the street. She also opposed the construction of high-rise, short-term rentals to “rowdy, fly-by-night” visitors.

Former Commissioner Bob Barlow, however, said the commission decided in September 2006 on the need for ROR changes to retain businesses in the district. In October 2007, the comp plan that was adopted included ROR changes.

What PAR is doing is “consistent with the rules” of the city, he said.

If Mike Coleman and PAR were not around to build two-story structures similar to the old Anna Maria cottages, the alternative is “three stories up to 37 feet. That is currently allowed in the ROR,” Barlow noted.

He asked that common sense prevail.

Commissioner Christine Tollette pointed out that “for every great solution, there is a problem.”

She said when the three-story houses were built on the former Island Marine property, “We all agreed we didn’t like them. We were losing the commercial district” to this type of house, she said.

When the comprehensive plan was under discussion in the past, a majority on the city commission agreed to eliminate the owner-occupied language from the plan in order to attract ROR developments, she said.

The land-development regulation for the ROR “has to follow the comp plan,” she said.

Supporting the business district is stated in the comp plan, as is keeping the city’s residential character. There has to be a mix, she said.

Janet Aubry of Spring Avenue said she would rather have Mike Coleman “as a local owner” developing Pine Avenue because an out-of-town developer “might not be as interested in our history.”

She suggested people “be careful what you wish for. We could end up with someone worse.”

Aubry observed that some of the proposed ROR changes have been discussed for several years. “These people should have been here when we decided this,” she said.

The man-in-the middle, Mike Coleman, said he was concerned that “there is a lot of false information out there.”

When the high-rise houses were built on Pine Avenue, everyone objected, he said. PAR was started to ensure that Pine Avenue did not become a street of three-story residences, said Coleman, who built a three-story home on Pine Avenue where he resides with his family.

PAR did not start up until after the owner-occupied language was stricken from the comp plan and the P&Z board and commission met in a joint work session in August 2008 and made a number of recommendations to change the ROR, he noted.

“My concern is where did all this come from. Let’s have some thoughtful debate. It’s not a question of Pine Avenue Restoration,” he said.

The city has advocated mixed-use development on Pine Avenue for years and development started after the owner-occupied requirement was eliminated, Coleman pointed out.

Conoly said that many of the people who spoke for PAR “have a monetary reason for being here,” and have “money to be made on their minds.”

Barlow said after the meeting that such remarks “impugn the integrity of those who spoke in favor of following the comp plan,” and this type of behavior is against the city’s code of conduct and state statutes. “It should not be tolerated, regardless of which side of the issue you support,” he said.

Barlow said he hoped the city commission would “not tolerate these kind of personal attacks, regardless of a person’s position on the issues.”

After the meeting, Conoly, who is a P&Z board member, said his comment was “probably inappropriate, but it was only my observation. It might have been better not said and should not reflect on any member of the P&Z board. I apologize to anyone who might have been offended.”

At one point during the meeting, Conoly indicated he would vote for the ordinance, although he said he “didn’t like it.”

He expressed concern over multiple ownership, although Dye cautioned that ownership is governed by the state.

 “I’m more comfortable dealing with land-use, not ownership,” Dye said. The ownership issue should be a policy discussion, he said.

Conoly said he did not like the idea of pools for an ROR structure and “many people don’t like multiple ownership.”

Garrett noted that under current regulations, owners of single-family residences in the ROR are allowed a pool and may rent to transients on a daily basis. And multiple ownership of an ROR property is possible under the present ordinance, he indicated.

Stover said the city has to give opportunity to developers. “We decided we wanted a business street,” he said.

He observed that there are more than 400 rentals in the city and that the city has to accept some change. The discussion should not be about Coleman and PAR, he said.

P&Z member Frank Pytel, however, said he never envisioned “the transients, the wedding parties, the different owners of properties” that will come if the ordinance passes.

The “transient nature” of weddings could affect the “character of the town” and the residents living adjacent to Pine Avenue will have their lifestyles affected.

“We need to rethink what our neighbors are telling us,” he said.

Just prior to the vote to recommend the amendment, Copeland asked if everyone understood the ordinance.

“No,” replied Conoly, which was followed by an explanation of ownership by Dye, who admitted his earlier explanation might have been confusing.

Board members Sandy Mattick, Mike Yetter and Stover voted to recommend the commission adopt the amendment, while Copeland, Pytel, Conoly and Jenkins voted against the motion to approve.

The amendment and the board’s denial now proceed to the city commission for a public hearing that begins at 7 p.m. Feb. 12.


LDR or comp plan?

Some Anna Maria residents want the city to retain language in the ROR land-use regulation requiring that an ROR building be occupied by the owner. A proposed amendment would remove that language.

The ROR regulation currently states that an ROR unit must be “occupied by the owner tenant of the associated retail service or office use.”

The city’s comprehensive plan, however, does not contain that language and a joint planning and zoning board-city commission work session in August 2008 gave consensus approval to remove the language from the LDR.

The comprehensive plan was adopted in October 2007 and approved by the Florida Department of Community Affairs in April 2008.