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Date of Issue: July 20, 2006

Anna Maria to cut down pine trees

Anna Maria city commissioners at their July 13 meeting agreed that a contract to remove some Australian pines in the city’s Gulffront Park should proceed.

Environmental Education and Enhancement Committee chairman Tim Eiseler said the contract was approved by the city commission last year and the $3,850 for removing the pines is in the committee’s budget.

Removing some Australian pines in the park will help restore the natural habitat of the area and the targeted pines are not a haven or rookery for any birds, said Eiseler, who has a degree in forestry management.

But removing any Australian pines is certain to create controversy, indicated Mayor SueLynn.

"Let the public know," she said, that only nine Australian pines will be removed and none are higher than six feet, they do not provide any shade for visitors to the park, and none of them are along Gulf Boulevard. They are all located on city property in the park.

The public, however, seems to react negatively whenever any Australian pines are removed anywhere in the city.

SueLynn said when Florida Power and Light recently performed its regular trimming of the pines to keep its power lines free of interference along Gulf Boulevard, the city was flooded with calls from citizens who were irate that Australian pines were being removed illegally.

"Brace yourselves" for the reaction, the mayor advised the commission.


Daylight plane ordinance

The commission also gave the go-ahead to city planner Alan Garrett to create a "daylight plane" ordinance for new commercial and residential construction that would require a vertical setback to any second and third floor elevation. The proposed ordinance is modeled after a similar measure Garrett prepared for Sarasota County that was subsequently adopted.

Other municipalities that have a daylight plane ordinance include Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key.

Garrett said the Longboat Key ordinance was too restrictive, while the Holmes Beach ordinance had little flexibility for the builder.

Essentially, the ordinance would require that as a new building goes up, it must go inward at various levels of construction. The building plane would be 45 degrees from the setbacks.

Commissioner Dale Woodland suggested the ordinance also encompass new construction in the retail-office-residential district.

Garrett will present his draft ordinance to the planning and zoning board for review and comments before returning the issue to the city commission at its Aug. 8 worksession.


Overlay ordinance district

The commission received the opinion report from attorney Nancy Stroud on its proposed coastal overlay district, but because city attorney Jim Dye was not present at the worksession, commissioners agreed to wait for his legal counsel before discussing Stroud’s remarks.

Commissioner Duke Miller, however, said he was "disappointed" with Stroud’s report, as it appears to be both positive and negative about the COD.

"I don’t know what she’s saying," he observed. There is a lot of "yes, but" in the report.

"Well, we didn’t pay her to paint a rosy picture," replied Commissioner Dale Woodland.

The commission will get the data Stroud used for her report and discuss the issue at its July 27 meeting.


Drainage projects,

SueLynn reported that the current drainage project on North Shore Drive from Spring Avenue to Willow and Pine avenues is going well. There have been few complaints from residents, costs are coming in below projections, and the contractor is expected to finish by mid-September.

"They are doing a super job," she said.

The city can also save some money by having the contractor immediately begin the North Shore-Gladiolus drainage project when the current project is completed. The contractor would not have to store its equipment and set it up again if it could start the second project right away, she said.

Commissioners agreed.


Community Center struggles with rising costs

Expansion costs of the Anna Maria Island Community Center, once estimated at $2.5 million, have now risen to nearly $5 million, due to the escalating cost of construction materials, particularly concrete.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is requiring the center to flood-proof the gymnasium, an effort that will cost about $500,000.

That was the "bad news" that Anna Maria City Commissioner Chris Tollette reported to the city commission July 13.

But the community center isn’t quitting, said Tollette, and that’s the "good news."

The center has already raised $2.4 million in pledges and commitments for the expansion and negotiated the re-bid of the contract down to $4.1 million. It’s also obtained a line of credit from the Northern Trust Bank for $2 million and plans to go ahead with the project, she said.

Tollette did note that it would be interesting to see what would happen if the AMICC defaulted on its line of credit, since the city owns the land.

"It would mean the bank would be running the community center. That would be interesting," she observed.

Enlarging the community center was first proposed in late 2001.