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Date of Issue: April 21, 2005

Anna Maria parking issue: Just like the movies

In the movie "Groundhog Day," Bill Murray is trapped in a time warp. He must continually relive the worst day of his life - Feb. 2 - over and over, doomed to meeting the same people, hearing the same conversation and making the same mistakes until he and Andie MacDowell fall in love, they wake up the next morning - Feb. 3 - the spell is ended and they live happily ever after.

"Groundhog Day" was almost like hearing the Anna Maria City Commission discussion and public comment on parking at the commission's April 14 meeting.

The same positions that have been given the past 26 years were stated, the same arguments for and against a position were outlined, the same cries for help from residents were heard, and the same pleas that the city "needs to do something" were given.

Is it Groundhog Day? Or just, as Yogi Berra said, "Déjà vu all over again."

As Commissioner Dale Woodland observed, the city has been dealing with the parking issue since at least 1979 - and still no resolution.

Quam expressed his views on what streets should have open or no parking.

Commissioner Carol Ann Magill's position hasn't changed. She wants "no parking" locations reviewed and some changed. The current locations are not fair to some residents.

Woodland, however, was willing to compromise, based upon his analysis of parking since 1979, when the city's first parking committee was formed.

He proposed the city to eliminate all no-parking from beach access streets. The city, he claimed, does not have a parking problem that can't be dealt with by law enforcement.

"This sends a positive image about our city that we welcome visitors to our beautiful beaches," he said, noting his proposal is not what he likes, but what he "feels is best for Anna Maria."

The city, he claimed, could adopt his proposal in five minutes.

Commissioner Duke Miller reiterated that he favors resident-only parking.

If more and more people from the eastern sections of Manatee County are coming to Anna Maria to use the beach, then the county should do what it did for Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach: Buy the land for a parking lot, build facilities and add lifeguards. It's not the city's responsibility to provide for eastern Manatee residents.

He noted that even the city's own engineering firm said in a 2003 parking study that "few streets are ideal for the encouragement of on-street parking for individuals other than the adjacent property owners."

Residents chimed in with their problems, requesting no parking relief, or some equity parking, along South Bay Boulevard and Fern Street, among numerous areas in the city where residents have requested action on parking.

But only four commissioners were at the meeting and Quam suggested delaying further discussion until Commissioner Linda Cramer, who was absent, could present her views.

Fine, said Woodland. He still wants the commission to vote on his proposition as soon as possible at a regular meeting. "This is just one proposal, but I want to force a vote," he said.

Déjà vu or Groundhog Day?

Remember that in "Groundhog Day," the couple fell in love to end Murray's torment.

Can the Anna Maria city commission and public fall in love with a parking plan that will end "déjà vu" all over again every time the issue is discussed?

Will everyone in Anna Maria live happily ever after with any parking plan?