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Date of Issue: January 14, 2009

AM commission wrestles with rentals

Following some passionate discussions at the Anna Maria planning and zoning board's Jan. 6 public hearing on amendments to the city’s retail-office-residential district, public comments at the city commission’s Jan. 8 first reading of the ordinance were mild in comparison.

Except for the proposal to eliminate the owner-occupant requirement in the ROR, commissioners were in general agreement with the proposed amendments, which had been agreed upon and discussed at an August 2008 joint session between the commission and board.

But Commissioner Dale Woodland said he is now against removing the owner-occupant requirement from the ROR ordinance.

“The owner-occupied requirement is the foundation of the ROR. When we looked at this in August, it never crossed our minds about short-term rentals. No one ever brought it up. I’ve thought about it a lot and talked to both sides and I am opposed to removing this requirement from the ordinance.”

 Opponents of the amendment to eliminate that element of the ROR regulation were extremely vocal in their opposition at the P&Z meeting Jan. 6. Most of those opposed live on Spring Avenue and some live near an ROR project at 315 Pine Ave. being developed by Pine Avenue Restoration LLC (see separate story).

At the Jan. 8 reading, former Commissioner Carol Ann Magill charged that the commission and board were rushing to pass the amendments.

She claimed that Pine Avenue Restoration principal Mike Coleman had been told by members of the commission and board that these changes were a “done deal.”

Pine Avenue Restoration wants to change the character of the ROR to add rental units in the district, she said.

“You need to look at the impact further,” she told commissioners, suggesting that further study was needed and more information should be made available to the public.

But Coleman said his group has based all its projects on the results of public meetings of the commission, the P&Z board and the joint session of August 2008. The decision to make the ROR more of a mixed-use district actually began several years ago with the comp-plan committee.

“We got our answers and assurances right here in the public. Nobody has ever said anything to me outside the public process and the process has been going on for years,” he said. The company would never have moved forward with any plans had it not become aware of public decisions and discussions, Coleman observed.

Any suggestion that the board, commission or PAR principals have acted otherwise “impugns the integrity of the comprehensive plan” and the entire process, he said.

The comprehensive plan is meant to have diverse retail and residential in the ROR and offer flexibility to potential buyers in the district. “We are restoring the original idea of Pine Avenue as a walking, mixed-use center,” he said.

Coleman did take time to note the concerns of adjacent property owners that were discussed at the Jan. 6 public hearing. He has met with many of those concerned residents the past two days to allay their fears, and will continue to do so in the future.

Other Spring Avenue residents said they support the company’s efforts and Sissy Quinn on the Anna Maria Island Historical Society said she was pleased that PAR was attempting to keep the look and feel of the city as it was many years ago. The opposite of the two-story ROR units being built by Coleman is the three-story “mega-mansion” residences built on the site of the former Island Marine property on Pine Avenue, she said.

The amendments to the ROR ordinance are needed to bring it into compliance with the comprehensive plan that was adopted in 2008. The revised comprehensive plan took the city nearly five years to develop and pass.

 Another amendment to the ordinance includes allowing each ROR residence to have a swimming pool. At present, only single-family homes in the ROR can have a pool.

But the complete list of recommended amendments from the P&Z board's Jan. 6 public hearing have not yet been formally delivered to the commission. The P&Z hearing was continued to Jan. 20.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22, but Commission Chairman John Quam said that hearing might have to be continued to Feb. 12 if the formal P&Z recommendations have not been received by Jan. 22.

In response to the possibility of overnight or-two-night rentals in the ROR, the P&Z board is considering a recommendation that rentals in the district be for a minimum one-week stay, but the board is awaiting legal advice to determine if that stipulation has to be a separate ordinance.

In other business, commissioners heard a presentation from Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, chairperson of the transportation enhancement grant committee, on a proposed north-south boardwalk at the city pier parking lot.

The TEG has been charged with creating projects for the $371,000 federal grant that will be distributed by the Florida Department of Transportation in its 2010-11 budget. The funds can only be spent on new projects in the ROR district, not to enhance or maintain existing structures.

TEG committee member Tim Eiseler presented a conceptual drawing of the boardwalk and listed what the TEG considers the positive and negative impacts of such a structure.

A major plus is that enhancing the pier would coincide with the city's planned 2011 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the pier. A boardwalk compatible with Anna Maria's old Florida ambiance would make a visit to the city a positive experience and improve parking and stormwater drainage, Eiseler said.

The proposed boardwalk would not be “like Atlantic City,” he said, but similar to the boardwalk constructed at the Robinson Preserve in northwest Bradenton.

The plan would rearrange parking and result in more spaces, establish a better turn area for the Island trolley, improve the existing pavilions at the pier entrance, provide educational information on the city, the pier and the area’s environment, and make access to the pier easier for people with disabilities, Eiseler said.

“This is the anchor of the city,” he said, and should be something the city can be proud of when visitors arrive.

 Mattick said she has a preliminary estimate of $300 per linear foot from the same company that built the Robinson Preserve boardwalk. With a 360-foot-long boardwalk envisioned, the cost would be around $108,000, she said, but that’s without amenities.

 Commission Chairman John Quam said he believes the boardwalk could be shortened, while resident Tom Turner said care should be taken to ensure that the Waterfront Restaurant does not lose any parking spaces.

With commission consensus to proceed, Mattick will now ask Manatee County planners to design the boardwalk at no charge. This would save about $45,000 in grant money, funds that could go toward beautification and landscaping of the boardwalk, or other ROR areas, she said.

And Manatee County will fund $8,000 toward each of the proposed two trolley shelters in the project, Mattick said.

 Considering the amount of taxes provided the county by Anna Maria, said Mattick, she believes the county will be receptive to providing the design service at no cost.

Commissioners gave consensus for Mattick and the TEG to obtain specific designs and cost estimates.

In other business, the commission considered a proposal by P&Z board member Randall Stover to either lease or purchase property he owns on Pine Avenue for city business or as a storage facility.

The commission agreed to obtain exact cost figures on lease or purchase of the property and discuss Stover’s proposal at its regular meeting Jan. 23.

 

Cottage proposal

A proposal for a 24-unit guest house on the six lots at the northwest corner of the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection in Anna Maria must go through the application process.

Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration LLC wanted to present his company’s proposal at the city commission’s Jan. 8 meeting to get an informal consensus from the commission on whether or not it might favor such a project, but Quam said the commission can’t provide informal advice.

“You have to file and go through the process for a public hearing,” Quam said.

Coleman said his company did not really want the six lots and doesn’t really know what to do with them. He wondered if a guest house — the Anna Maria Guest House — might be favored by the city.

The guest house would be designed in an old Florida style of architecture and would not allow single-night stays. Coleman has already agreed to a suggestion that ROR rentals be for a minimum one-week stay.

Before going any further, however, he wants to know if it’s appropriate to proceed.

Sorry, said Quam. “Our codes do not permit us to give you direction.”

Mayor Fran Barford said she asked Coleman to make a presentation to “get this out there into the sunshine,” because there has been much speculation and rumors about the project.

Coleman said he and the other investors in the company would now consider whether or not to proceed without direction from the commission.

Ed Chiles, a partner in Pine Avenue Restoration LLC, said he and Coleman “will continue to work with the city to look at the best way to accomplish what the city would like to see” at that location.

The lots can be developed with single-family homes.

Coleman has said previously he does not favor this type of development, and many residents have agreed that more high-rise houses would be an eyesore.

The 25-unit Anna Maria Hotel occupied the six-lot property on Bay Boulevard from 1920 to around 1980, according to Dale Shrenk, a woman who lived in Anna Maria in the 1930s.

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