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Date of Issue: March 30, 2005

Almost parking in Anna Maria, Cramer: Yes, no, maybe

Game over.

Well, it was over for about 10 minutes.

After 27 years of debate on a parking plan for this city so divided on the issue, the Anna Maria City Commission in a 3-2 vote May 27 finally approved the compromise Plan X parking solution authored by Commission Chairperson John Quam, and asked City Attorney Jim Dye to draw up the accompanying ordinance. Plan X would govern only parking and signage within the designated beach access zone.

Finally, a parking plan, right?

Incorrect, next contestant, please.

The approval and compromise on Plan X lasted only until Commissioner Linda Cramer claimed she had been confused on the motion and wanted to change her vote.

That brought a round of applause from many in the audience, who were - as befitting any Anna Maria meeting on parking - divided among those who favor the Plan X for parking in the beach access zone, those who favored permit parking, those opposed to permit parking, and those who oppose any parking plan.

Cramer insisted she thought that while Plan X would designate parking within the BAZ, it would allow residents to get a special exception permit to park in front of their homes, even if there was no designated space.

Not so, said Commissioner Duke Miller, who had supported Plan X as a compromise solution, even though he favors permit parking.

A special exception under Plan X, said Quam, would only be granted to a homeowner as a "one-day" guest pass for visitors, or to those owners who do not have a driveway in front of their homes.

"I think it's crazy," said Cramer, who claimed she had thought that discussion of Plan X the past six months would include a special exception for BAZ resident parking.

"I want to take my vote back," cried Cramer, who lives on Palmetto Avenue in the BAZ.

"I don't understand," said Miller. "This is what we've been talking about all along.

"I still want permit parking," he said, "but we've all compromised on this [issue] except for [Commissioners] Woodland and Magill."

Now, Cramer is changing her mind, he observed. "If we don't compromise, we'll never solve the issue. I've been listening to these same arguments for the past two-and-a-half years."

Miller and Cramer want permit parking, but Quam, Woodland and Magill are opposed. Woodland wants open parking, but Quam, Miller and Cramer are opposed. Magill wants alternate street parking, but Miller, Cramer and Quam are opposed. Quam and Miller want Plan X, but Woodland, Magill and now Cramer are opposed. Nobody can compromise on any plan.

"Good government is a compromise," argued Miller, but his plea fell on deaf ears.

Cramer called for a motion to reconsider the previous vote on Plan X, and the new vote defeated the measure, with Cramer joining Woodland and Magill in their opposition to the plan.

Commissioners then rehashed all the previous ideas discussed the past two years or more for a parking solution.

Those included alternate street parking, alternate day parking, parking by permit for residents only, open parking throughout the city, buying property for public parking lots, and all the multitude of other ideas presented since 1977, when the city first formed a committee to come up with a parking solution.

Eventually, commissioners agreed, as have countless other city commissions the past 27 years on this issue, to table discussion of a parking plan for "further study."

"Maybe we can come up with a better solution," said Cramer.

The commission set no date for Plan X to return to the agenda.

A number of residents who live in the BAZ, however, said that Plan X was preferable to no plan at all.

"I'll take the signs of Plan X over the parking chaos on my street," said Bill Cunningham of Fern Street.

Palmetto Avenue resident Robin Wall said that while she favors permit parking, at least Plan X seemed to be "progress," and a "compromise."

Al DiCostanzo said Plan X seems to have been the best choice after commissioners voted down resident-only parking.

But be warned, added resident Bill Diaz. Developers in east Manatee County are building tens of thousands of homes, and telling each home buyer that the beach is just minutes away, he said. The eastern invasion is coming to Anna Maria, and the commission better start planning now for the future.