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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Anna Maria P&Z's 'friendly' meeting

They met, they chatted, they saw, they heard, they did little to nothing.

The meeting billed for the review of the expansion plans for the Anna Maria Island Community Center was not the official hearing that was anticipated.

Due to the lack of notice for the meeting, the hearing became a workshop and those who attended to present plans and findings were allowed to make presentations, but it wasn't a hearing.

The commission discussed some of their "issues," but hesitated short of reviewing their "findings."

Expert "witnesses" gave reports and answered questions, but it wasn't official.

It was just a friendly get together - an "information meeting" - for the board, the applicant, the city's engineer and planner.

P&Z Chairman Chris Collins announced there would not be an opportunity for "a lot of public input. We're just trying to get ourselves organized."

Project architect Jerry Zoller was welcomed to the podium, where he asked, "Why are we here?"

He indicated the city had received all the information relevant to the site plan and took his seat.

Chairman Collins attempted to move on to the city's engineering report from Tom Wilcox of Baskerville-Donovan, but Zoller interjected, "May I first have an answer?"

Collins said, "No harm," and Wilcox continued.

Then Collins asked Zoller if he wanted to show his plans and pictures.

City Attorney Jim Dye intervened. "I think Mr. Zoller would like some answers before we proceed, but because public notice was not provided, you can't take action," he told the board. "I suggested we get a brief overview rather than send everyone home.

"You can't get into the detail of the hearing process."

Zoller agreed that some questions addressed by Wilcox needed to be answered and he contended that existing parking and nonconformities are pre-existing conditions that should be allowed to continue on the site.

Center Executive Director Pierrette Kelly walked commissioners through the additions, including security, a kitchen and cafeteria, performing arts room, teen lounge and other amenities, but commissioner's questions focused on whether persons other than Islanders were allowed to use the facility.

Some, yes, she explained. Particularly to meet the terms of a grant that provides countywide counseling services.

When asked if groups are bussed to the Center, Kelly gave a decidedly "No" answer. "We bus from the Center to other places. No buses bring groups to the Center."

Alan Garrett, land development consultant for the city, gave his report on the site plan to the board.

The parties, including attorney Dye, came to an agreement that an easement through the Center property would be best addressed by being vacated to avoid future problems with utility easements and title. An application to that effect is to be submitted to the city commission by Zoller and the Center.

The board set April 25 for quasi-judicial hearing on the Center's site plan, possibly the alley vacation and a variance for the front setback. Zoller will give 30-days notice to residents within 300 feet of the Center and provide the required advertising in advance of the hearing.

Board member Doug Copeland was then elected to serve as vice chair of the P&Z.

The board discussed Collins' outline for meetings in which he recommended a three-minute limit for speakers addressing the board.

Member Jim Conoly, however, reminded Collins and the board that when the city commission limited public speaking, it "released more furor than taking away people's cats."

The commission agreed to suggest members of the public limit comments to three minutes.