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Date of Issue: July 29, 2009

Bad planning?

Recent implications by former Anna Maria Commissioner Duke Miller are that duplex owners/dwellers are somehow inferior citizens, given to noise, trash and rabble-rousing.

This characterization by Miller represents yet another unfortunate example of his tendency to demonize the opposition, while furthering his reputation for embellishing facts.

I once bought a duplex on Jacaranda in Anna Maria with my brother so our parents could retire there, and they did. We kept it neat, worked in the yard and on the landscaping and enjoyed visiting them. It was then, and remains now, a very nice place.

I currently reside in a duplex that my architect husband designed and we built with friends as partners. The other owner/occupants are a physician and wife. We are professional people, and much involved in service to our community.

Still, our property was developed several years ago to much objection from a vocal minority of people in the community. 

Now we hear much of the same, tired, untrue, hyper-charged rhetoric regarding “saving our precious community” and “preserving our quality of life,” as if only the anointed few, who think they know better than the rest of us, care about these things.

We carefully designed our home on Spring Avenue on two lots with one structure in the center, creating a large, park-like setting.

We have since had several of the previously vocal opponents of our project comment that they now think it’s one of the most beautiful places in Anna Maria, and that they now realize their objections were unfounded. Our neighbor, Sue Lynn, who was mayor during the construction, has been kind in her comments about her change of heart.

The reality is that duplexes are a legitimate part of our architecturally eclectic community.

Don’t we already have enough rules and regulations?

And what’s their point? How does it increase density to enlarge or improve an existing duplex? Maybe a couple more people could sleep there, or maybe the family has more kids and more space is needed, but even that does not address “density.”

Limiting ground-level duplexes from elevating living space is contradictory to the objectives of FEMA, to reduce or mitigate losses. And this is in the name of preserving the “cottage-like atmosphere”?

I’ve listened to a variety of people express ideas about what should be done with somebody else’s property, and it makes me wonder, “What if the tables were turned?”

Drive by our home at 408-410 Spring Ave. for a look, and the next time Robin Wall cites our homes as an illustration of an “inappropriate” duplex at a city meeting, you will know of what she speaks and have your own opinion.

Miller needs to realize it is not reasonable to throw stones at people in two-story boxes while he lives in a three-story box! He says allowing duplex owners to enjoy the same rights as others is “not preserving our way of life.” But his conclusion is not consistent with our democracy.

Anna Maria needs to stand up to the narrow core of part-time residents and full-time elitists who claim to represent “the vast majority.” In fact, they are a minority group representing the worst aspects of “Anti-Maria.”

Miller seeks to discriminate against duplex owners, knowing full well that city codes and FEMA restrictions make it nearly impossible for any ground-level duplex to expand to the size of his home.

Is our town only ruined if others build or remodel houses the size of Miller’s?

Worse still, at a time when people are struggling to avoid foreclosure, Miller seeks to punish those with the most affordable homes by imposing a hardship that makes it difficult to effectively compete in the marketplace.

His are scare tactics designed to undermine the hard work of our elected officials, and to incorrectly inform citizens as a tactical method to overwhelm an already overburdened city hall. His apparent purpose is simply to serve the private agendas of a few people.

It seems recently, based on publicity, that the whole world loves Anna Maria. I know I do. The citizens and government work hard to make it so.

I only wish Mr. Miller could see that we must be doing something right. I say, let's keep it up.

Janet Aubry, Anna Maria


“Intensity” generally is the degree to which the land is occupied, say, single-family, duplex or motel. Density increases when the number of allowed units on a property increases.

Anna Maria has no “motel zone” per se, and, as discussed when residents objected to the Pine Avenue Restoration plan to incorporate residential rentals in its project, there are already some 400 rental units registered to pay short-term vacation rental taxes in the city.

There are about 65 duplexes among the city’s 1,400 residential properties that are now deemed non-conforming by the commission’s action to eliminate duplexes in the city.

Maybe the question is not whether expansion of the now non-conforming duplexes will increase intensity, because the city obviously intends to accomplish that goal by reducing density.

But why?

And why go in the face of more than 30 years of effort by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to elevate ground-level homes?

And how will that affect the city’s property owners when and if FEMA raises the rating for homeowner’s insurance?

Sometimes, you just gotta be careful what you wish for ….

— Bonner Joy