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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Island-style music may get the Anna Maria boot

Jimmy Buffett: Take your cheeseburger out of paradise!

If Anna Maria city commissioners are unable to resolve their current impasse over whether or not to permit outdoor entertainment at restaurants, Jimmy Buffett-style musicians and music may no longer be welcome in the city - at least outdoors.

Commissioners agreed at their March 10 workshop to a new outdoor dining ordinance that clarifies language regarding outdoor dining. Such activity is permitted under the proposed ordinance, but only for those establishments that currently have outdoor dining. New restaurants that want outdoor dining would have to go through the site plan review process.

But commissioners could not agree on one of the five options for outdoor entertainment City Attorney Jim Dye presented as part of the ordinance.

Commissioner Duke Miller wanted to ban all "amplified" outdoor entertainment, while Commission Chair John Quam and Commissioner Carol Ann Magill agreed that the two restaurants that currently have outdoor entertainment - the Sandbar restaurant and the City Pier - could continue, but must comply with the city's noise ordinance. All new restaurants would be prohibited from having "amplified" outdoor entertainment, they said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland did not want to restrict new establishments from "amplified" outdoor entertainment, but agreed all such activity should comply with the noise ordinance.

Miller said he was using the Sandbar restaurant as an example of outdoor music affecting the surrounding neighbors, but added that "I don't mean to point the finger. It's just that our city is primarily a residential city."

He said it's "not fair" that residents living near the Sandbar are affected by the music and have to file a complaint.

Some city residents, however, said they enjoy the music and it doesn't bother them, even though they live just a few blocks from the Sandbar.

"Everyone's pointing the finger at the Sandbar," said John Gilchrist, "but the music stops at 10 p.m. anyway. What's the big deal?"

Jeff Murray said he lives just a few blocks from the Sandbar and he and his family enjoy the music. "It's only when we're outside and the wind is right" that he hears the music, he added.

Commissioners agreed it was time to face the music and will hold the second reading of the ordinance March 24 before a full commission. Commissioner Linda Cramer was absent from the worksession.

Code enforcement

Miller wanted to know if the commission policy to have code enforcement reactive only to complaints should continue. He had circulated a memo to commissioners two weeks ago where he questioned a May 2003 code enforcement action against the Sandbar for a tent on the beach that was abated by Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon in July 2003.

"I'm not picking on the Sandbar," Miller added, but Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles chimed in that "Excuse me, but sometimes it does feel like it."

Miller claimed the reactive policy - where Rathvon acts only when she receives a complaint - forces the burden of code enforcement on neighbors and residents.

"That's not fair," when neighbors have to turn in neighbors, he said.

The problem of the Sandbar's tent on the beach in 2003 was corrected at that time, but it's come up again, although no one has filed an official complaint. "Does another complaint have to be filed?" Miller asked.

Mayor SueLynn responded that Miller's memo has "questioned" the judgment of Rathvon and the city.

Rathvon noted that she follows the current commission policy of reactive enforcement, and only launches a code enforcement investigation when she receives a complaint.

She used to work 24 hours each week, but the commission in 2003 reduced that to 16 hours due to budget constraints.

"And the Sandbar complaint is three years old and the only one I've received about them in the three years I've been here," she said. If someone complains again about the tent, or any other Sandbar transgression, she'll investigate.

But Rathvon only works Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Each week, there are complaints received that have to be dealt with at a later time because of her part-time status.

"So, the tent goes up again at the Sandbar, but there's no follow-up enforcement?" asked Miller.

Without a complaint, that's correct, replied SueLynn.

"Is that the way you want to run the city?" Miller asked other commissioners.

Apparently so. Quam, Magill and Woodland said they wanted to keep the current reactive policy.

"Well, I'm losing the logic," responded Miller. "But if you think the present policy is OK, that's fine. All I wanted to do was discuss it."

Parking criteria

Commissioners groaned when the criteria for parking in Anna Maria was brought for discussion.

Quam said the commission is not in agreement on parking criteria, even though it passed a recent ordinance that "legalized" the parking and no-parking areas in the city already in existence.

"What's different that we should go forward" with another parking plan? he asked.

Woodland said he absolutely did not want to go through the parking issue again and start looking for another plan. "Everyone here has the same opinion as a year ago. To go through that process again is a colossal waste of time," he observed.

To save a lot of time, he said, "let's just look at the recent ordinance and talk about what changes we can make to that. If we can't make changes, OK."

Commissioners agreed to hold discussions at their April 10 workshop on just what changes could be made to the ordinance, not any new criteria or parking plan.

Miller said the issue has been discussed so much, it's time to limit commission debate on the subject at the April 10 meeting to just three minutes for each commissioner to state his or her position.

Agreed, responded Quam and the other commissioners.

Special event permits

Commissioners approved three special event permit applications for events in March, but said the code states applications must be received six weeks in advance of the date of the event. They directed SueLynn to reject future applications that do not meet this deadline and asked her to send a letter to organizations likely to request a special event permit in the future informing them of the new policy.

Guggino court case

The commission unanimously agreed to have City Attorney Jim Dye request that Judge James Durand Adams recuse himself from hearing the lawsuit brought by Dr. Jack Guggino against the city.

Guggino once treated Adams' child several years ago. Adams himself raised the issue to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

Guggino was denied a variance by the city commission to allow him to build a house with reduced setbacks on his property. The commission said Guggino did not meet the criterion of a hardship to build the house.