Many Anna Maria residents, including Mayor Mike Selby and city commissioners, may have thought the city’s parking problems were solved with the 2010 passage of a Pine Avenue parking plan.
That plan, plus the redesigned parking for the boardwalk at the city pier and permission to allow overflow parking on three of six city-owned lots across from the city pier, appeared to be a long-sought parking solution.
But the overflow parking lot is only temporary.
City commissioners recently adopted a resolution to close the three lots to public parking May 7, following the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce annual wedding festival and Food and Wine on Pine events.
That resolution prompted City Pier Restaurant leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder to send Selby a letter asking the city reconsider closing the overflow lot on the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard.
Schoenfelder claims the city has taken away parking spaces from the restaurant. The closure of the overflow lots will create more parking problems for all businesses, not just the pier, he said.
What’s happening, claimed Schoenfelder, is that the pier has become more attractive as a visitor destination as a result of the new boardwalk.
While he’s pleased with the boardwalk’s appearance, the unintended consequences are “this new facility not only brings added traffic, but may have cost several public parking spaces as well,” he said.
“There were three spaces on the right of way in front of 101 Bay Blvd. that were removed for safety reasons,” Schoenfelder said. “There were also two spaces in front of the right pavilion at the base of the pier that were removed for (Florida Department of Transportation) concerns.”
Those two spaces are now marked for exclusive use by Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies, he said.
Additionally, the added sand on the Tampa Bay shoreline on both sides of the pier will “undoubtedly bring more beach use and put added pressure on existing parking.”
Schoenfelder said he’s not looking for special treatment, but a “viable city pier (and Pine Avenue businesses) depend a great deal on available parking” in an area where attractions and traffic have been added “without the commensurate growth of parking to support them.”
He asked Selby and commissioners to “reconsider” the overflow parking lots. If the city turns the six lots into an open-space park or other attraction, it will only draw more visitors.
After the overflow lot closes in May, “What will happen?” in subsequent high-demand periods, he asked.
“As you move forward, it is my hope that some accommodation can be reached,” Schoenfelder wrote to Selby and commissioners.
Adding to the parking woes, the City Pier Restaurant and other area businesses should no longer count on the parking lot at Roser Memorial Community Church, 510 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, to handle overflow parking.
Congregation chair Roger Roark also sent Selby a letter last week, noting the church parking lots are “increasingly being used for unauthorized parking by the general public while visiting, shopping or sight-seeing in the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard area.”
Roark, like Schoenfelder, said the city needs to address adequate parking “for the increased commercial development and tourist attractions on Pine Avenue.”
Roser is an “active community church,” said Roark, and there are few days each month the facility is not being used for church-related events or “authorized community activities using Roser space.”
The congregation’s concern is that increased public parking at Roser would “have a negative impact” on Roser’s ability to “serve the congregation and those other authorized events,” he said.
Roser has worked with a number of its commercial neighbors to provide parking for their customers and staff, Roark said, but the limit of accommodation has almost been reached, if not already.
“We are unable to determine ‘authorized’ from ‘unauthorized use,’” Roark said, and the congregation’s concern is that Roser parking lots are “fast becoming the parking lots of last resort for the increasing size of the general public” visiting the pier and Pine Avenue.
“We’ve always been good neighbors and we’ll continue to be good neighbors. We’re always happy to help when we can,” Roark said. That’s why the church is addressing the issue now, he said, not waiting to be overrun with parking issues.
He said the church would welcome an invitation by the city to discuss the issues before the parking problem worsens. Roark said he hopes the church and the city can find a solution.
Congregation concerns about parking began a few years ago, Roark said, as Pine Avenue became developed and as more visitors came to the city.
A team of church members recently formed to develop recommendations “to solve the increasing problem,” and “make everyone happy,” he said.
As soon as the team completes its recommendations, Roark said he would ask Selby for a meeting to discuss the issue and possible solutions.
Selby said he would talk with Roark and Schoenfelder before seeking commission input.