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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Anna Maria to extend building moratorium

Plans by the Anna Maria City Commission to end the current building moratorium on April 1 apparently will have to be changed.

The planning and zoning board asked the commission at its Feb. 26 meeting to return the expiration of the moratorium to its original July 1, 2004, date, saying that they don't want to give the commission a "half-baked" developmental review application process.

The P&Z has been meeting weekly since January in worksessions to develop the review process, but in a memo to the commission said it felt it was being "rushed" to meet the April 1 deadline.

Actually, said City Attorney Jim Dye, the "process part" is complete, but the board has not yet had time to address the "substantive" part that deals with actual rules developers and builders will have to follow.

That's the "meat" of the board's work, he said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he was concerned about the people the moratorium was impacting, but other commissioners agreed to hold a special meeting March 11 for the first reading of an ordinance extending the moratorium deadline to July 1. Woodland said he would vote against any extension.

The second reading will be held March 25.

The building moratorium does not apply to construction of single-family homes, but does extend to new commercial projects, including those in the residential- office-retail zone along Pine Avenue.

At least one family has had its plans for an ROR unit placed on hold because of the moratorium that was passed Jan. 22, just weeks after they bought property on Pine Avenue and moved to Anna Maria from Great Britain to develop a business and residence on the site.

Halt city hall remodeling project
Anna Maria resident Diane Canniff told city commissioners she's concerned with a number of problems with the city hall renovation project, including estimated costs, the architect's contract, and the need for an asbestos inspection before any work can begin, among other concerns.

"Stop this project right now" and get some realistic information on costs, then put that amount in next year's budget, she implored the commission at its Feb. 26 meeting.

Canniff suggested a number of errors have already been made, and the required asbestos inspection has still not been completed.

But Canniff made her comments at the end of the meeting. Commissioners declined to discuss the issue further and adjourned the meeting after thanking Canniff for her comments.

Commissioner Duke Miller had earlier replied to a question from Commissioner Carol Ann Magill on the city hall renovation project, noting that a number of concerns relating to the project were discussed by the commission at a special meeting in January, and the project has the commission's go-ahead.

The contract from Southern Cross Construction, the winning bidder, will be reviewed by the commission at an upcoming meeting before it is approved and signed.

At the special meeting Jan. 14, commissioners agreed to transfer some $45,900 allocated to various line items in the current budget to the infrastructure fund to meet the projected $164,000 total cost of the long-anticipated city hall remodeling project.

The major shortfall had come from the $17,000 estimate to rent a double-wide trailer for six months to serve as a temporary city hall while the remodeling takes place. The mayor and architect Tom O'Brien had originally thought the staff could remain in their offices during the renovations, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Agency nixed that idea.

The total transfers would meet the expected costs and still leave a contingency fund of about $19,500 for the project.

Miller has, however, expressed concern previously that O'Brien was paid in full before any actual work on the project started.

The project has been in the past four city budgets, but no actual work has ever started.

Rear-door trash pickup
The commission had the first reading of an ordinance requiring non-resident property owners to have rear-door pickup, but Waste Management Inc., the city's trash hauling contractor, dumped its own load on what had at first seemed a thoughtful solution to the proliferation of garbage cans along city rights of way during the week at properties where owners only come to the city on weekends.

WMI attorney Ron Kaplan said the city is certainly within its rights to enact the proposed ordinance, but "enactment" will have a substantive impact on Waste Management's cost of doing business in the city."

From about 100 customers who currently have rear-door pickup, the ordinance would jump that figure to around 800, said Kaplan.

"Such a substantial increase was not contemplated" when the current franchise agreement and amendment were approved, he noted.

The agreement allows WMI to address "unusual increases in the cost of doing business or due to change in law or regulation," and WMI would seek "relief" to increase its charges for rear-door pickup if the ordinance passes, Kaplan observed.

Miller was dumbfounded at WMI's response.

"What if all these people just called up and asked for rear-door service? Would that be the same thing?" he asked.

Rear-door trash collection service currently costs $2 more per month than curbside service.

Commissioners agreed to discuss the ordinance further at a workshop and get more feedback from WMI on what they would propose as cost increases if the ordinance were enacted.

Drainage projects
The commission also approved funding from the capital improvements budget for five small drainage projects totaling just over $26,000, but resident Margaret Jenkins wondered why the Chilson Avenue project has still not been approved.

At one time, Chilson Avenue was considered a priority drainage project, but it's been moved down the list, she noted.

"Lake Chilson is back," after the recent heavy rains, but still nothing gets done, she noted.

Public Works Director George McKay promised to get the engineering specifications on the Chilson Avenue drainage project to the commission for discussion of the project at its next meeting.

Old/new business
Commissioners also agreed to put issues such as a compensation increase for the office of mayor, a Gulffront Park management plan and adoption of the Manatee County fireworks ordinance on new business for discussion at future workshop sessions.

The commission can vote to increase the compensation for elected officials, but under the city charter, any such increase would only become effective after that elected official's present term expires.