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Date of Issue: October 25, 2007

'Nit-picking' the Anna Maria comp plan

At first glance, the Florida Department of Community Affair’s Objections, Recommendations and Comments report on the submitted revisions to Anna Maria’s comprehensive plan had so many complaints that it might seem as if the DCA had taken nearly five years worth of effort by the city and flushed it down the toilet.

Thankfully for the city, however, it had retained professional planner Tony Arrant in 2003 to guide it through the comp-plan revision process. Arrant has 28 years experience in city planning and writing comprehensive plans and had even hired some of the current DCA planners when he worked at that department.

Speaking at the Oct. 18 public hearing to adopt the proposed comprehensive plan revisions, Arrant made short work of the DCA’s comments. In the ORC, he noted, the DCA “does not direct the city to change anything” except that section on the definition and map of the coastal high hazard area. “In all of their objections, they just want more data and analysis,” Arrant said.

He’s already dealt with DCA planners on most of the points raised in the ORC and has clarified almost all of those objections or provided the DCA with the requested data. “Most of them were nit-picky,” Arrant said.

One area that might not be nit-picking, however, is affordable housing. The DCA maintains that the city needs to have a policy on how it will provide affordable housing for someone whose median income is half of Manatee County’s median income of $30,000, or provide a means for such workers to find affordable housing.

In other words, said Arrant, “The DCA is asking you to figure out how to help someone who makes $15,000 a year to live here.”

The city’s answer to the DCA is that Anna Maria “is not creating an employment demand for blue-collar workers,” but the DCA has rejected that analysis.

A similar situation developed on Marco Island several years ago, he said, and Marco Island officials had to get an interlocal agreement with Collier County to provide “free” bus service for blue collar workers to get from their affordable housing on the mainland to their jobs on Marco Island.

Before any interlocal agreement discussions, however, Arrant said he needs to talk to DCA officials this week to convince them the city wasn’t generating those type of blue-collar jobs.

Public comments on the comp-plan were primarily confined to the issue of whether or not the two lots at the northwest corner of the Gulf Drive and Palmetto Avenue intersection should continue to be designated residential on the future land-use map or be placed in the retail-office-residental land-use category, as are the lots on both sides of Gulf Drive from Palmetto Avenue to Pine Avenue.

The commission has voted to keep the two lots in question as residential on the FLUM, although former City Commissioner Linda Cramer, the owner of the properties, submitted a number of letters from the city dating to 1991 and 1992 indicating that the city’s intent was to keep the property commercial. She maintains a scrivener’s error caused the discrepancy.

Quite a number of Palmetto Avenue property owners spoke openly against any such change in the land-use plan.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked city attorney Jim Dye a number of questions about how use of the property as a commercial entity would fit with zoning ordinance requirements, but Dye pointed out that the FLUM and comprehensive plan are about land uses, not zoning.

Zoning and other appropriate ordinances will be adopted after the comprehensive plan is passed by the commission and accepted by DCA.

The second reading of the ordinance to adopt the comprehensive plan is scheduled for Oct. 25, although Dye said that if some issues remain unresolved, the commission could continue that meeting while Arrant works to iron out the few remaining problems with the DCA.