Homestead exemptions dwindling on Island
When the Seattle area was in recession in 1981 and Boeing laid off some 25,000 workers, the joke was that the last person to leave Seattle was to turn off the lights.
It's a joke that might someday be told of Anna Maria Island.
While the number of condominium and rental units on the Island continues to increase dramatically every year, the number of Islanders applying for the $25,000 Florida Homestead exemption has remained stagnant, if not in decline. It's a clear indication the permanent population has not kept pace with development of residential units.
Bradenton Beach has the most serious problem, with just 263 homestead exemptions for the 2003 tax year compared with 1,491 taxable dwellings, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser's Office. That means only 17.6 percent of the available living units in Bradenton Beach are occupied by people who can officially call the city and Florida their home.
To qualify for the Florida Homestead Exemption, a homeowner must legally declare to county officials that his or her Florida residence is his or her permanent residence and he or she occupy it for more than six months every year.
In fact, the number of permanent residents who own property in Bradenton Beach has declined since 1994, when 280 homestead exemptions were granted.
At the same time, the total taxable value of Bradenton Beach property increased nearly 190 percent from 1994 to 2003, climbing from $118 million to $342 million.
The property appraiser's office reported that as of 2003, there are 206 vacant parcels in Bradenton Beach
Holmes Beach has fared little better the past 10 years in the struggle to have its permanent population keep pace with residential development.
In 1994, 1,437 homestead exemptions were issued for city dwellings while 1,374 were recorded in 2003, a 4 percent drop.
With 3,627 dwelling units, however, Holmes Beach has a better percentage of permanent resident occupancy than Bradenton Beach. Thirty-seven percent of the available residential units in the city are occupied by homeowners who call Holmes Beach their legal residence.
The total taxable value of property in Holmes Beach also has jumped sharply the past decade, climbing from $408 million in 1994 to $965 million in 2003, a 135 percent gain.
Surprisingly, Holmes Beach has fewer vacant lots than Bradenton Beach, with just 186 undeveloped parcels left in the city, according to property appraiser records.
Of the three Island cities, only Anna Maria has managed to increase its permanent population base the past 10 years.
In 1994, the city recorded 588 homestead exemptions for property owners while in 2003, that climbed to 629 exemptions, a 7 percent gain. With 1,472 reported dwellings, the city has 43 percent of its available living units occupied by permanent Florida residents, the best rate of any of the three Island cities.
During the same decade, however, the tax value of property in Anna Maria climbed from $189 million in 1994 to $512 million in 2003, a 170 percent jump.
Anna Maria has just 145 vacant lots, according to the property appraiser's office.
The city also has the most restrictive dwelling density per acre of the three Island cities, allowing only 5.8 units per acre in its R-1 zone and 8.7 units per acre in the R-2 zone. The city has no R-3 zone for condominium development.
By comparison, Bradenton Beach allows six units per acre in its R-1 district, 18 in the R-2 district, and up to 28 hotel/motel units in the R-3 district.
Holmes Beach building density is 5.8 units per acre in its R-1 district, and 10 each in its R-2, R-3 and A-1 zones.
At the same time homestead exemptions on Anna Maria Island are dwindling, U.S. Department of Commerce population estimates for 2002 for Island cities compared with the official 2000 census count show Anna Maria Island had stagnant population growth those two years.
Overall, the Island's population increased by only 84 people between 2000 and 2002, climbing from 8,262 to 8,346, a gain of just 1 percent, according to the figures.
The population estimates showed Holmes Beach went from 4,966 residents to 5,008, a jump of less than 1 percent, while Bradenton Beach rose from 1,482 people to 1,500, an increase also under 1 percent. Anna Maria had the biggest percentage gain at 1.3 percent, climbing from 1,814 people to 1,838 people in two years.
During the same two-year period, the population of all of Manatee County rose 6.7 percent, from 264,002 to an estimated 281,000 residents.
At a 3.35 percent average yearly increase since 2000, Manatee County would have had approximately 290,000 residents by October 2003.
Don't turn out the lights just yet.