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Date of Issue: January 30, 2008

Anna Maria tangles Center in permit process

It only took two complaints in January by Anna Maria residents living near the Anna Maria Island Community Center to spark a city commission controversy over whether or not the Center needs to submit special event permits for most events at the facility.

While the citizen complaints were the usual litany of parking, noise and too many people, one concerned a “BYOB” event at the Center in mid-January. The complaint was serious enough to have Mayor Fran Barford direct city attorney Jim Dye to look into the liability involved and ask the Center to submit a special event permit application to the commission for all future events - at least until the commission decides how to handle such activities.

City Commissioner Dale Woodland was concerned enough to have discussion of the Center’s activities placed on the commission’s Jan. 22 meeting agenda.

“I’m the bad guy,” said Woodland, who said the commission needs to treat the Center as it would any other entity.

Woodland’s concerns included whether or not the Center is being used for commercial purposes when it charges admission to an event and sells alcoholic beverages. He also noted that the public recreation area ordinance needs to be more specific about permitted uses. Some events at the Center are not listed as permitted events.

But under the city ordinances governing the Center, alcohol is a permitted use, noted Dye.

And there’s no problem with a nonprofit organization such as the Center charging admission to an event, added Dye, because the “profits” go back into the Center, not an owner’s pocketbook.

The issue of city liability for an event at the Center at which alcohol is served also was raised.

Concerned, Barford elected to have the Center apply for a special event permit for functions involving the serving of alcohol and have the commission decide what is appropriate.

Barford and the city learned from Center executive director Pierrette Kelly that effective Jan. 1, the Center’s insurance carrier no longer provides liability coverage for events with alcohol, although such affairs are a permitted use at the Center under the city’s ordinances.

That prompted Kelly to acquire a separate liability policy for that event for $1 million, with the city named as a co-insured.

But Barford also was concerned about the impact of future events that might draw large crowds and elected to have the commission decide the fate of those affairs. The Center submitted three applications for special events to the commission for approval at the Jan. 22 meeting.

Kelly, however, noted that since 2000, the commission has not required the Center to apply for a special event permit. She wondered what has changed.

The city received complaints, responded Commissioner Duke Miller, and some of these events will “impact” the neighborhood.

Two complaints, including one anonymous complaint, noted Commissioner Christine Tollette, the commission liaison to the Center.

Tollette wondered why the city had to make it “more cumbersome and expensive” to the Center to hold events.

“It just aggravates me that you have two individuals that can stir up a hornet’s nest. Everything was working fine before, but if you sneeze, one individual would complain,” she said.

City staff should continue to issue special event permits, not the commission, Tollette said.

The Center is trying to raise money to help pay for its new facility, which went over its construction budget by some $1 million. It will be holding a number of events this year designed to generate income, Tollette added.

Barford said that if she had concerns about an event, she would bring it to the commission, but Commission Chairman John Quam said the commission is “here to protect the city” and he wants applications sent to the commission for approval.

Kelly, however, suggested that it’s “punitive” to the Center to have to apply for a $100 special event permit for every event. “We want to do the right thing, but we’d like to be able to go back to the way it was,” she said.

Maybe, replied Woodland, but the commission has an obligation to deal with complaints, even if it’s only one person with a problem.

He suggested that the criteria for submission of a permit application by the Center for an event be either alcohol or a large number of people.

But Kelly noted that if that was the case, just about every football, basketball, baseball and soccer game would require a permit. That would literally flood city hall with permit applications, along with a plethora of accompanying paper work and resulting staff time.

Kelly agreed that when alcoholic beverages are served, the Center will hire an off-duty Manatee County Sheriff's Office deputy for security. In fact, she said, the Center did so for the BYOB event in mid-January.

Barford reiterated that she needed commission direction on whether she and city staff should approve the permits as an administrative matter or send them all to the commission.

Woodland suggested the city either revise the special-event permit ordinance or the permitted uses in the public recreation area.

Dye, however, suggested that it will be easier to add uses to the public/recreation area designation to solve the Center’s dilemma than to amend an ordinance.

Commissioners agreed and asked Dye to bring a list of "options" of events that could be permitted in the zone to cover Center uses.

In other commission business, commissioners approved an increase in the city's line of credit to $1.5 million to cover the cost of the on-going drainage project when it's completed. The city has a matching grant with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, but will not get reimbursed from Swiftmud until the project is completed and the city has paid the bills.

City engineer Tom Wilcox noted that the cost of the project has increased about $224,000 since the initial estimate of $435,000 nearly 18 months ago. Wilcox said the city has a Swiftmud “high priority” designation for the project, making Anna Maria “virtually assured” of reimbursement.

The commission also approved a recommendation by Barford to name Tom Aposporos, Suzanne Douglas, Mady Iseman, Norm Mansour and Sherry Oehler to the 2008 charter review committee. Aposporos served as chairman of the 2002 review committee.

Commissioners additionally approved Barford’s recommendation to appoint Mike Yetter to replace Doug Winton as a member of the planning and zoning board.


Beach renourishment slated to begin 2011-12

Anna Maria city commissioners learned at their Jan. 22 meeting that the city is short about 40 parking spaces for the next Islandwide beach renourishment project scheduled to begin in 2011-2012 (see separate story).

 Mayor Fran Barford, however, said she and public works director George McKay are confident that issue “won’t be a problem,” and that the required number of parking spaces will be available to meet federal requirements for funding.

Barford said Manatee County environmental systems director Charlie Hunsicker along with other staff and marine engineers will hold a "work session" meeting in the city of Anna Maria Feb. 12 to present an overview of the renourishment project and take public input.