New Anna Maria parking proposal 'just might work,' residents say
Tweaking the proposal
Commissioner Miller's proposed parking solution, which some commissioners grudgingly agreed has some merit, needs some tweaking and presentation, Miller himself said.
Among the items to be "tweaked" at the Feb. 5 commission workshop are:
- Types and amounts of ground cover (shell, turf, or sand) that an owner can provide if they want parking in front of their property.
- Absentee ownership.
- Parking for large numbers of visitors.
- Parking for public functions and access to renourished beaches.
- Type and size of plants that can be placed within the right of way and the distance from the edge of the road for those plants.
- Liability and safety issues for the city if it allows plants in the right of way.
- Handicap accessible parking.
Not so fast, says city attorney
Anna Maria City Attorney Jim Dye, who was unable to attend the Jan. 13 commission meeting, has put a damper on the initial enthusiasm shown toward Miller's parking plan with his opinion that the plan may be illegal.
In a Jan. 16 memo to Mayor SueLynn, Dye said that after reading the proposal several times, he has some "reservations."
Dye said it's not clear from the initial proposal, but if the city's intent is to "grant citizens the authority to determine if their adjoining right of way is a no-parking area" through city regulation, "this results in an illegal delegation" of the essential police power of government.
He added that the city charter requires that regulations with monetary penalties must be passed by ordinance.
"Both of these concerns are based on the same issue," Dye noted, that setting regulations is "an essential governmental function."
Any violation which carries a penalty "must be exercised by ordinance, not private action," Dye said.
In his view, the city must set forth by ordinance "what the rules are street by street so that due process issues are satisfied.
"Accordingly, I must recommend against the proposal as I understand it."
Miller responded that Dye may not understand the proposal, because it is not intended to be an ordinance or regulation. The proposal only "discourages" parking by allowing certain plants in the right of way, it does not prohibit parking anywhere.
Besides, added Miller, if the city can grant exceptions to right-of-way encroachments on a case-by-case basis, it should be able to grant exceptions on a much larger scope.
If Anna Maria City Commissioner Duke Miller's proposed new parking plan is ever adopted, the city might just erect a monument to the man, or men, who finally solved a problem that has plagued this barrier Island city for more than 80 years.
Actually, the plan was first proposed by Miller's brother, Mike, also an Anna Maria resident, last year, and this proposal may just have a chance.
Duke Miller presented the plan at the commission's Jan. 14 parking worksession -- believed by some to be at least the 80th and maybe the 100th parking meeting and accompanying solution to the city's parking woes.
The plan essentially calls for universal open parking on city streets, although no vehicles parked on a right of way may have any of its wheels on the pavement.
However, said Miller, the crux of the plan is that "the use of any segment of street right of way for the purpose of parking shall be designated by the owner of the property abutting the right of way along the segment in question, unless it has been excluded from such use by the city in order to ensure safe and efficient access and/or traffic flow."
In other words, property owners will control the use of the right of way in front of their homes and businesses.
Those who want parking can have it, those who don't can deny it.
The end result, claimed Miller, is that "all owners and businesses in the city would immediately be satisfied with the parking situation in their own front yard because they would determine it."
All other proposed parking plans had failed because "trying to provide for such numerous, diverse and opposite interests by means of one single parking solution has doomed every plan to failure, and always will," he said.
Commissioners were intrigued by the proposal and agreed they were not interested in creating 171 designated parking spaces as the previous commission had recommended.
Alas, yet another parking proposal defeated.
"So, this is my compromise solution," said Miller, who along with Commissioner Linda Cramer has long been a proponent of permit parking. But that's an idea that wasn't going to be "permitted" by Commissioners John Quam, Dale Woodland and Carol Ann Magill, he said.
Thus the compromise.
Some people don't mind public parking on their street, others are vehemently opposed to public use of the right of way, Miller observed.
"Pleasing all groups with a special interest in parking is impossible. This provides some satisfaction for some proponents of every special interest," he claimed.
The plan would require a lot of "tweaking," said Woodland, but he could support the concept of the proposal.
Commissioners were concerned that property owners could place bushes and plants up to 36 inches high within two feet of the edge of the roadway, to which Miller said "fine, move it back to four feet."
Quam was worried about the drainage issue with plants in the right of way, and thought the city might "lose control of drainage" under the Miller plan.
"Well, what have we got to lose," said Miller. "We could try it for a year and study how it's going. If it doesn't work, we could scrap it, but we've got to do something."
Members of the audience agreed and applauded Miller for the proposal.
"Of all the plans I've seen the past 30 years," said city resident George Lott, "Miller's is the only one I understand."
Cramer said she wasn't "100 percent convinced" the plan would work, but said it has enough merit to warrant closer inspection by the commission.
"I'm still for resident-only parking," replied Miller, "but [Cramer] and I are up against three commissioners who don't want to do that, so we have nowhere to go except this way. This is the next best thing, so let's give it a chance."
The mayor reminded the commission that under the terms of the last beach renourishment project with Manatee County, the city is required by law to maintain at least 68 parking spaces between Spring Avenue and Pine Avenue for public parking for beach access.
Quam said he wanted time to digest the proposal and scheduled another parking workshop for 7 p.m. Feb. 5.
"Good," said Miller, who will condense the proposal into a specific action plan for further review at the meeting. "Let's get off square one."