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Date of Issue: February 17, 2010

Anna Maria ROR parking issue: Study on-site parking

Anna Maria city commissioners and planning and zoning board members meet Feb. 11 in a joint work session to hear recommendations from the parking safety committee on how to solve problems in the retail-office-residential district. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

After hearing options from the Anna Maria Parking Safety Committee, commissioners and planning and zoning board members in a joint work session Feb. 11 agreed that scale drawings are needed to determine if requiring all future parking in the retail-office-residential should be on-site.

Safety committee chairman Larry Albert presented several parking options and designs, but some city commissioners were concerned that the drawings were not to scale, and they could not make a decision without precise calculations.

Stoltzfus and ROR safety

The safety committee was formed after Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus made parking safety on Pine Avenue a campaign issue in November. He said autos backed out across the sidewalk in front of pedestrians and cyclists on Pine Avenue.

 Stoltzfus also has said the city is approving Pine Avenue ROR developments with back-out parking in violation of the city’s comp plan and code.

Albert said the committee rejected the option to do nothing, and agreed there is a safety issue associated with back-out parking on Pine Avenue.

However, Albert said the committee did not agree on any particular design. It presented drawings by architect/committee member Gene Aubry for angle parking with a sidewalk between vehicles and the structure.

The safety committee also viewed designs by Albert and committee member Terry Schaefer for on-site parking. Robert Hunt, who is developing an ROR project at 303 Pine Ave, assisted Schaefer. Their designs require driveways and curb cuts for vehicles to enter and exit a property.

The committee reviewed a number of scenarios for on-site parking configurations, including those for a corner lot, interior lot and double lot, and agreed there were many other possibilities and combinations for on-site parking.

Scale drawings needed

The joint meeting eventually decided to have city planner Alan Garrett acquire scale drawings that will show if on-site parking for a variety of lot sizes and types will be consistent with city codes. Garrett is to design parking within a corner lot, an interior lot, a small (50-by-100) and a double lot, among other scenarios.

Commission Chairman John Quam asked if the city could have different regulations for different type lots on Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue. Stoltzfus rejected that idea.

Garrett agreed with Stoltzfus that one of the on-site parking designs submitted by the committee would comply with city code, but Commissioner Chuck Webb was concerned that the drawing was not to scale and Garrett’s review was cursory.

Stoltzfus said the city code requires parking to be on-site, so there’s nothing new to be discussed.

He wanted the joint session to agree there is a parking safety issue in the ROR, but Webb and Commissioner Dale Woodland declined the suggestion.

“Nothing is off the table,” said Webb.

Garrett suggested a corridor study of Pine Avenue using a federal grant for funding, but Stoltzfus said he is concerned that would take too long. “If we go another six months,” the city will have more ROR site plans submitted and approved.

“It’s too little, too late. There will be enough site plans processed that the study becomes moot,” he said.

Quam agreed that a study would take too long and site plans would be approved during the study period.

City is legal

But city attorney Jim Dye opined that what the city is approving now is acceptable and consistent to the comp plan and city code.

“You may have differences of opinion on how the regulations are interpreted, but I don’t see any conflict with the code,” he said.

The result of those approvals, however, may “not be in keeping with the vision of our city,” Dye added.

“Is the code and the comp plan really the way you want it?” he asked. “This is a question of policy.”

Dye said the LDR language may not be precise in some cases, but the city should decide that “what’s legal is just the starting point.”

He said the city should not consider its job done, just because a code or policy is legal.

Small ROR lots

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick noted that many lots on Pine Avenue are only 50-by-100 feet and requiring on-site parking for those lots might make them unbuildable.

Webb said that was a concern to him as well. He said it could result in a “taking” of property, which might create a legal issue. According to his quick calculations, requiring on-site parking on some small lots would reduce the amount of available coverage from 40 percent to about 22-24 percent.

Stoltzfus argued that there were too many variable scenarios for the design of on-site parking on the various types of lots in the ROR.

He said he keeps looking at the design that shows that even in the worst-case scenario, on-site parking would fit. The city would learn nothing from more designs, he said.

“We have the code in place and that fits,” he said.

But Woodland and Webb opted for drawings.

“I can’t tell what’s going to happen” without those drawings, Webb said.

Battling attorneys

During public comment, attorney Jeremy Anderson, representing the Nallys on Spring Avenue, said he wanted to “applaud Commissioner Stoltzfus for pointing out the serious issue” before the session.

 He also rejected an argument by attorney Ricinda Perry on behalf of Pine Avenue Restoration LLC, developers of several Pine Avenue projects, that PAR seeks cooperation with the city.

Attorney Valerie Fernandez, a co-counsel with Perry, defended her client, saying PAR wants to cooperate and is not threatening or intimidating the city.

Dye, however, pointed out that the joint session is only “talking about changes” and nobody has changed anything.

“I wouldn’t want to get involved in saber-rattling” at this time, he said.

Public comment

Resident Robin Wall, who has consistently claimed the city is approving ROR site plans that violate the comp plan, said she was “frustrated” with the meeting because nothing has changed.

Schaefer also was frustrated. He said enough review of the issue has already been done. The city has already said the drawings for on-site parking would work.

 Resident Janet Aubry, however, didn’t share those opinions.

“This has been a refreshing, open-minded meeting for a change,” she said.

Mike Coleman, a Pine Avenue resident and PAR principal, said the reason people were meeting that night was because the city commission that passed the 1989 comp plan never adjusted the land-development regulations.

“Why do we need to be in a hurry?” he said.

Coleman added that the meeting was positive, as were the comments and suggestions. He said he was pleased with the direction of the joint session.

Quam agreed that scale drawings would be a good idea.

“Before we change code language, we need something to look at and I think we are on the right approach,” he said.

Stoltzfus agrees

When Garrett said he could have scale drawings of on-site parking presented within two weeks, Stoltzfus withdrew his objections and agreed with the other joint session members to review those drawings.

Garrett said he would select several different types and sizes of lots currently on Pine Avenue and/or Gulf Drive for his drawings.

Quam set 6 p.m. Thursday, March 4, for the next joint session.

Quam also thanked the committee members for their work, noting that the committee met four times in just a few weeks and Aubry, Schaefer and others voluntarily did design drawings for review.