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Date of Issue: May 31, 2007

Anna Maria OKs land map, comp plan revisions

Anna Maria city commissioners last week readjusted the vision set forth in a city plan for the future and then voted to send their revisions to the state for a second opinion.

The final unanimous vote May 21, taken at Holmes Beach City Hall because of continuing repairs to Anna Maria City Hall, was to send an updated and amended comprehensive plan, including a future land-use map, to the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

The vote came after testimony from the public, clarification from city planning consultant Tony Arrant and discussion among commissioners. At the end of it all, before adjournment, Commission Chair John Quam thanked all who participated in the project that has taken several years.

Comment during the meeting pertained to goals, objectives and policies pertaining to future land uses and the future land-use map.

Citizens and commissioners basically focused on three issues - a provision setting a 27-foot height restriction on commercial-zoned buildings; a planning and zoning board recommendation to designate the vacant commercial land at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard as ROR (residential/office/retail); and a request to update the future land-use map to show property at Palmetto Avenueand Gulf Drive as ROR rather than residential.

By meeting's end, the 27-foot height restriction on commercial property had been removed from the plan, the designation of the Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard property had been returned to commercial and the property at Palmetto and Gulf owned by former Commissioner Linda Cramer remained residential.

It took nearly four hours to reach that end.


The 27-foot height restriction

The comprehensive plan, as recommended to the commission by the planning and zoning board, stated, "All commercial structures are limited to 27 feet in height" - 10 feet less than status quo for homes in Anna Maria.

Mike Galati of Galati Yacht Sales argued against the 27-foot restriction, saying the limit would make new buildings cost-prohibitive and possibly uninsurable.

"The comprehensive plan is to protect the integrity of the city," Galati said. "I don't think that's going to protect the property rights of the commercial property owners."

Sandbar Restaurant owner Ed Chiles also spoke against the 27-foot limit. Chiles suggested that if the plan limited residential property owners to such a height "you'd have a hostile crowd here tonight."

"I just think it takes a lot of the incentive away from doing business" in Anna Maria, property owner John Cagnina said of the 27-foot limit.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick agreed, offering the night's first motion to amend the document. She proposed striking the 27-foot limit from the document. "It is discriminatory," she said.

Commissioner Christine Tollette seconded the motion, calling the limit unjust and an undo burden.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he supported the motion, provided the plan was amended to limit the number of "usable" floors to two stories. He said the 27-foot limit seemed to put "an unnecessary burden on the commercial," but he also expressed concern about "intensity" of use.

Commissioner Duke Miller suggested also including restrictions on the type of operation that can take place on an upper floor, preferring professional and retail operations to food and beverage sales.

After some confusion about how best to vote on the three proposals, the commission approved Mattick's motion. The commission then approved a motion limiting commercial structures to two usable floors. But Miller's motion to restrict the use of the upper floors died for a lack of a second, prompting him to rescind his "yes" vote to remove the 27-foot limit.


The Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard property

People familiar with the northwest corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard know that there's a dusty empty lot that occasionally gets used for parking, meet-ups and Island festivals.

The property owners, LLB Realty, encouraged city officials to support changing from commercial to ROR the designation at the site so they could build a mixed-use development.

"It preserves the village atmosphere," attorney Matt Taylor, representing LLB Realty, said, encouraging the commission to support the ROR designation on the land.

The planning and zoning board endorsed ROR, but a majority of commissioners favored commercial.

Tollette expressed concern for mixing residential and business at the location and encouraged a commercial designation.

And Woodland expressed concern for losing land specifically reserved for commercial development.

"We don't have a lot of commercial property in the city of Anna Maria," he said. "Those lots, they represent about 15 percent of the commercial property that we have in the city. … If we change, you are going to lose that commercial and you are never going to get it back."

Quam also endorsed a commercial designation.

Mattick pushed for the ROR designation, arguing that the lot likely would remain vacant otherwise.

Miller indicated early in the discussion he wasn't sure how to vote, but at the close of arguments he endorsed the ROR designation, which seemed more likely to lead to development.

After Miller called the question, commissioners Tollette, Quam and Woodland voted "yes" on a commercial designation. Miller and Mattick were opposed.


Block 31

At the corner of Palmetto Avenue and Gulf Drive are lots 1 and 2, block 31. On the future land-use map recommended to the commission, the lots are identified as residential. But property owner Linda Cramer maintains that label is a longstanding mistake.

The property historically has been zoned commercial, Cramer said, adding that due to a "scribner's error" the property was identified as residential on a zoning map.

Cramer read a letter from former Anna Maria MayorRay Simches stating that an error was made.

"Now," she urged the commission, "is the time to correct the error on the future land-use map."

She presented a petition signed by 42 people supporting the ROR designation. Others spoke on her behalf at the meeting.

Ed Chiles said the ROR designation would help promote the "boutique business" character in the neighborhood.

Another Chiles also urged the ROR designation. "As I look at the map, you've got commercial across the street. It seems logical that that be ROR down to the corner there," Joe Chiles said, adding that he's "part of four generations that have walked the streets of Anna Maria."

But the commission also heard from people who wanted the property to be designated residential on the land-use map.

"This was not a mistake," Palmetto Avenue resident Robin Wall said of the residential designation. She said maintaining the residential designation is "vital to the character in our neighborhood."

Property owner Liane Bennati added that identifying the property as ROR would conflict with the city's goals in the comp plan.

When commissioners took their turn, Tollette proposed designating the property ROR. She pointed to a blown-up image of the future land-use map and said the lots are "just hanging there."

She said mistakes have happened in Anna Maria and that she believes one occurred involving the lots in question.

"No one can convince me it was a good idea to end the commercial in the middle of a block," she said. "There was an error and an error has continued.… Why can't we correct this one?"

Tollette made a motion to designate the lots as ROR, but that motion died for lack of a second.

There was no public comment on other elements of the plan, including goals, objectives and policies pertaining to capital improvements, intergovernmental coordination, recreational and open space, coastal and conservation, infrastructure, housing and traffic circulation.

The state will review the draft and send the document back with recommendations, said Arrant.

In the meantime, city commissioners may come up with another amendment to the document.

Toward the end of the May 21 meeting, Miller proposed that citizens vote on future changes to the comprehensive plan.

"This is not a new notion," he said. "To name a few, there is presently a citizen's initiative under way to put on this November's ballot a state mandate requiring voter approval of comp plan changes. Closer to home, the voters of St. Pete Beach approved same via an amendment to their city charter in the last election."

Miller said there are two ways to give citizens a vote on comp plan changes - adding the stipulation to the plan presently before the commission or asking voters if they want such a say in a referendum in November.

Quam suggested the idea be "work-shopped" and the rest of the board agreed.