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Date of Issue: December 09, 2009

Anna Maria Commissioner slams mayor, staff



The old-timers in Anna Maria like to talk about how the city commission used to function back in the day. Meetings lasted well past midnight, accusations were hurled against the commissioners and mayor like rotten tomatoes, tempers flared and staff frequently walked on eggshells.

The good old days may be back in Anna Maria.

Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus wrote a letter last week claiming Mayor Fran Barford and the city staff had failed in their duties.

In the Nov. 30 letter, which he directed staff to distribute prior to the Dec. 3 special commission work session (see separate story), Stoltzfus said the administration “needs to provide leadership. Mayor Barford needs to assure us she and her experts are going to get it right this time.”

Stoltzfus was referring to three site-plan applications by Pine Avenue Restoration LLC for projects in the retail-office-residential district on Pine Avenue.

He also said that “it’s a problem” when he talks to the mayor, and she does not know the off-street parking requirements in the city.

“She needs to understand [the regulations] intent,” said Stoltzfus. “She needs to know what they say. And she needs to apply them.”

Stoltzfus called upon the mayor to “sit down with our building official and planner,” review the comp-plan language and land development regulations and “reject these present site plans.”

He said “no approval” should be given any PAR plans, not even approval with conditions, just “denial.”

Stoltzfus said if Barford’s administration “gets it wrong” and approves the new plans without requiring proper parking, “they have greatly weakened the city hand if the developer litigates,” and have “left the city with a serious liability issue in the event of a lawsuit.”

He conceded that the planning and zoning board had approved two previous PAR site plans, but contended that if the administration had “done its job” and educated the board and public, there would have been a different outcome.

“If the administration passes the buck” to the P&Z board or commission to “do the heavy lifting” on the new PAR site plans, Barford and the staff will “once again have given a non-compliant, inherently unsafe site plan its stamp of approval.”

The city is in a sorry state, claimed Stoltzfus.

“We’ve reached a new level of pathetic when a developer can stand in front of a meting convened to address safety issues” and claim that parking safety “is a made-up problem.”

The city needs to acknowledge that “they’ve mistakenly accepted site plans that are non-compliant” with code language and other safety criteria in the LDRs, Stoltzfus claimed.

He asked that his letter be placed on the commission agenda at its Dec. 3 special work session.

Barford declined to comment on the letter.

Barford is serving her second two-year term as mayor. She has previously said she will not seek re-election in 2010.