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Date of Issue: August 11, 2005

Latest Anna Maria parking plan under fire

To the surprise of absolutely no one who has lived in Anna Maria longer than three months, the latest proposal to solve the city's decades-old parking problems came in for some severe criticism from the public and at least one commissioner at the city commission's Aug. 4 workshop, putting the entire plan in jeopardy.

Parking Plan C, the latest in a series of about 417 parking proposals to solve the parking issue, was a compromise solution offered by Commissioner Duke Miller where streets in the beach access zone would have parking on one side of the street for one year, then have that parking switched to the other side for a year.

Commissioner Linda Cramer, who lives on Palmetto Avenue in the BAZ, said a large number of residents on her street and others in the BAZ are preparing petitions to challenge Plan C, and she's in agreement.

"Under the circumstances, [we] feel Plan C is restrictive and [we] are not in favor of open parking."

She said a number of BAZ residents opposed to the plan are not in the city in August, and the commission was not giving these residents an "opportunity" to voice their opinion. "It's not fair to the residents," she said.

Cramer also opposed allowing any exceptions to the plan, while Commissioners Dale Woodland, Carol Ann Magill and Commission Chairperson John Quam were in favor of granting exceptions. Commissioner Duke Miller, author of Plan C, was absent from the meeting.

Cramer said the push from residents she's talked to is for permit parking for residents. A petition opposing the plan signed by seven Palmetto Avenue residents was presented at city hall after the meeting.

Magill replied she had her own parking plan. "TCB," which stands for take care of business. If the commission is going to push for resident-only parking, then she wants to remove all the "non-legal no parking signs and debate the issue for another five years."

Quam, however, noted that a petition is only a request.

True, responded Cramer, "but these are real people who live on the streets in the beach access zone."

If Plan C is approved by the commission, she added, it will open up "Pandora's Box," because the city doesn't have the infrastructure to support open public parking.

Quam said Plan C is fair to all BAZ residents. The commission should enact the plan as an ordinance and if it doesn't work, start over.

That brought up a response from Woodland, who said he had two other parking plans he was ready to propose if Plan C is rejected or doesn't work.

Make those Anna Maria parking plans No. 418 and 419.

Some property owners in the BAZ sided with Cramer and opposed Plan C.

Karen DiCostanzo said that while Miller's plan was "well-intentioned," it is "imprisoning" residents in the BAZ. If the commission is going to make exceptions to Plan C and allow residents on some streets to have open parking, why not allow residents on other streets to opt for no parking?

Not going to happen, responded Quam.

But this is so complicated, said DiCostanzo. "I just don't get it. You don't have the problems we do."

Dicostanzo presented a petition signed by 23 various residents of North Shore Drive, Gladiolus, Jacaranda Street and Fern Street who are against the plan.

Spruce Avenue resident Stepanie Fisher also opposed the plan, noting that if the city is inviting the public to park, then it should provide public facilities such as bathrooms, showers and changing areas.

Quam, however, maintained Plan C will evenly distribute parking in the BAZ and moved the first reading of the ordinance to the commission's Aug. 25 meeting. Woodland and Magill agreed.

Residents who want open parking on their particular street should present a petition at that meeting, he indicated.

The commission also rebuffed an effort by Cramer to have city planner Alan Garrett at the Aug. 25 meeting to discuss how the parking plan meets the traffic element in the city's comprehensive plan. After that decision, Cramer left the meeting before it was adjourned, but said later that she departed early because she had a meeting to attend.

She added that she expects residents from a number of BAZ streets such as Spruce, Gladiolus, Fern, Jacaranda, Elm and Sycamore to attend the Aug. 25 meeting and voice opposition to Plan C.

Cramer will again oppose the plan at that meeting.

"All I want to do is go back to our original report from Baskerville-Donovan Inc., which said few city streets are suitable for public parking," Cramer said. She also noted that BDI's first recommendation in its parking report two years ago was for permit parking and to centralize public parking at city hall.