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Date of Issue: July 19, 2007

Anna Maria gives 'thumbs up' to preservation

Anna Maria city commissioners and Mayor Fran Barford at the July 12 commission meeting praised a plan by private citizens Mike Coleman and Ed Chiles (see related story) to preserve as many Pine Avenue properties as possible to prevent them from becoming three-story single-family residences as happened with the property at the site of the former Island Marine.

Coleman told commissioners that he and Chiles currently have contracts on 15 Pine Avenue properties and the six vacant lots on the northwest corner of the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection. Their plan is to turn these properties into what Coleman called the “Gulf coast cracker look,” with one story for a residence above retail space.

No three-story residences are in this plan, emphasized Coleman to commissioners.

If people want to envision what the properties would look like after development, “Think Roser Cottage,” he suggested.

The idea is to retain the charm and ambiance of Anna Maria as envisioned in 1911 when the city pier was built to accommodate visitors from Tampa.

If something isn’t done about preserving Pine Avenue, said Coleman, “We are going to have nothing but three-story homes on Pine Avenue.”

Coleman said he and Chiles realize they will need help with several issues, not the least of which are parking and setbacks.

“But I don’t see this as adversarial,” he said, “and I don’t want to be involved in one.” He asked that the city, planning and zoning board and city planner work with him. Pine Avenue is the “signature street” of Anna Maria and needs to be showcased.

Commissioners praised the effort and pledged their support.

“This is a great idea,” said Commission Chairman John Quam, while Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick added that it’s a “wonderful vision.”

Mayor Fran Barford agreed.

“An opportunity like this is amazing. We really need to support this concept.”

The mayor said she and city planner Alan Garrett had met earlier last week with Coleman to discuss his ideas.

“This is the fabric and thread to preserve this city,” said Garrett. The issues arising can be overcome, he predicted.


Site-plan review procedures

Commissioners were still not convinced that a variance could be granted during a site-plan review because of a “superior design,” as is proposed in the new site-plan procedures.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said that what he might consider a superior design might not be the same as what another commissioner would believe. He suggested that the superior design language is a way to get around the city’s variance procedures, however strict those might be.

But city attorney Jim Dye noted that the discussion is about site plan review procedures, not the variance process. He added that the city already recognizes “superior design” in the code.

Commissioner Duke Miller suggested the commission ask the planning and zoning board to come up with a concise definition of superior design.

The second reading of the ordinance was scheduled for July 26.

In other business, the commission approved on first reading an ordinance that would allow owners of non-conforming structures to alter and repair those structures as long as the “total habitable floor area” is not increased.

This would allow owners of non-conforming structures to replace a flat roof with a gable roof, which is considered safe for high wind situations.

Dye noted, however, that the city policy currently is not to favor non-conforming structures and the commission might want to re-examine that policy.

Commissioners also directed Barford to move forward with a feasibility study on a stormwater fee in Anna Maria and an annual maintenance fee. The study is needed to determine what an equivalent residential unit (ERU) would be to cover various stormwater projects.

The estimated cost of the study is $10,000 and the mayor said she would put that amount in the 2007-08 budget.

While commissioners were not totally convinced of the need for the annual stormwater fee, Miller said it’s obvious the annual maintenance fee of about $36 is going to be a necessity.

Under one proposal, the annual stormwater improvements fee would be $233 per household. While that fee would only last for two or three years, commissioners envisioned that the maintenance fee would have to be paid in perpetuity.

Barford announced the formation of a committee to work with the Florida Department of Transportation on the administration of a $307,000 federal transportation enhancement grant that was submitted by Mattick. The grant was approved last month.

In addition to Mattick and herself, each commissioner will nominate one person for the committee. Two members of the environmental education and enhancement committee will be on the new committee, while three members of the public, nominated by Barford, will serve.

Anyone interested in serving on the committee should contact the mayor at city hall.


Beat the budget

The first Anna Maria budget worksession for the 2007-08 fiscal year will be at 6:30 p.m. July 24. Barford said there will be “cuts” in the budget as the Florida Legislature recently mandated that cities and counties must drop spending by 9 percent.