Pier tenant says ‘no’ to water taxi

A proposal to bring a water taxi for visitors from downtown Bradenton to offload at the Anna Maria City Pier was rejected by pier leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder.

In a letter to former Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby — received Nov. 15, Selby’s last day in office — Schoenfelder said he appreciated the opportunity to discuss the issue with Selby but he has concerns.

“We have previously expressed concerns over safety, liability and overloading the existing infrastructure,” Schoenfelder wrote.

“Our specific concerns are in regards to rest room facilities, especially parking and increased congestion at peak usage times. Because of these concerns, we are unable to give approval to the use of the city pier as a docking facility for the taxi at this time,” he concluded.

Capt. Tracey Dell of the Kathleen D catamaran cruise ship and the Island Pearl shuttle boat had proposed the water taxi to the commission in October 2011. Commissioners favored the idea because the taxi would bring foot traffic to city businesses. The taxi also would stop at Fort Desoto Park, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

But the commission told Dell he must gain approval from Schoenfelder before any action can be taken.

Dell said he’s talked with pier manager Dave Sork, but Schoenfelder has not been available.

Dell said Schoenfelder should not be concerned about parking because most of the taxi passengers would be walking, not driving vehicles. A few people might board the water taxi at the pier, he said, but he’s not relying on that.

“There might be a few, but we want to address all his concerns. We’ll cover the liability and we have rest rooms on board for our passengers,” said Dell.

“The water taxi is something that everyone seems to want. We’ll continue to pursue the idea through other channels if necessary. We want Mr. Schoenfelder to have a level of comfort for the taxi,” said Dell.

The maximum number of people the taxi can carry is about 45, Dell said, and some passengers would likely choose to dine and enjoy the amenities at the City Pier Restaurant.

“We want to take visitors from Bradenton to Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County, then Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, then return to each pier, then back to downtown Bradenton,” Dell said.

“I thought it was a win for the pier restaurant. I’m somewhat surprised at Schoenfelder’s decision.”

Dell said the idea is for taxi visitors to visit the Pine Avenue, get lunch or to enjoy the sights and boutiques. They would only be in the city a few hours before the return trip.

Mayor SueLynn said she would speak to Schoenfelder after she and city staff review the concerns.

“I think we can meet Mr. Schoenfelder’s concerns. The city is going to help (Schoenfelder) with some pier repairs, so we might have some input on the taxi in return,” she said.

North End Merchants Organization president Tina Fusaro said NEMO members were receptive to a presentation by Dell last year, but the organization does not make recommendations.

City attorney Jim Dye said the final decision on the water taxi is with Schoenfelder because he holds the lease.

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