Chief Anna Maria election issues: comp plan, spending
|Voting fever in Anna Maria
The five candidates up for election in Anna Maria Nov. 7 - Fran Barford and Tom Turner for mayor and Linda Cramer, Jo Ann Mattick and Duke Miller for city commission - met Oct. 23 at city hall for The Islander political candidate forum. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Candidates for the two vacant Anna Maria City Commission seats and the
post of mayor discussed their positions on a number
of issues at the Oct. 23 Islander candidate forum and generally
agreed that adoption of the comprehensive plan and future land-use map
after the Nov. 7 election and spending are the main issues facing the
Some candidates, however, appeared ready to throw outgoing Mayor
SueLynn under the bus, blaming her for a number of
city ills, including spending an inordinate amount of money on consultants
and legal experts, particularly for the coastal overlay district and
daylight plane ordinances.
Incumbent City Commissioner Duke
Miller, who is seeking his third consecutive term in
office, said his main reason for seeking re-election
was to guide the proposed comprehensive plan through
the upcoming public hearings and eventual adoption.
He said he was "100 percent" in
favor of the plan as proposed because it "supports all the reasons you
and I moved to Anna Maria." The plan protects both the residential character
of the city and the business community. Adopting the plan will ensure that
Anna Maria won't change for the next 20 years, he said.
however, that there were some people who wanted to
make changes to the plan that would add more retail-office-residential
areas. "I'm against
that," he said
Commission candidate Jo Ann Mattick also
endorsed the plan, saying it equalized the residential
and ROR districts. She said there is a need in the
city to support the business district, which the plan
Current City Commissioner Linda Cramer,
seeking her fourth consecutive term, said she has supported
the comprehensive plan "to this point," but does have one issue with the future land-use
"Unfortunately," she said,
it concerns her property at the corner of Palmetto Avenue and Gulf Drive.
proposed FLUM has her property designated as residential.
Cramer claims the property is zoned commercial and
the 1991 FLUM contained an error.
She maintained, however, that the problem
should "not be a personal issue, just a property issue." She pledged
to protect her property as much as she has protected other residents' property
in the past.
Mayoral candidate Tom Turner said he supported
much of the comp plan, but had an issue with the part
that states that any lot less than 5,000 square feet
is not a buildable lot. "That's
wrong," he said. He also expressed concerned about the setbacks on Pine
Candidate for mayor Fran Barford, who
is also chairman of the planning and zoning board,
defended the plan, which took nearly four years to
"We got the plan moving forward.
There was give and take" on a number of issues on the planning and zoning
board, she said. Not everyone got everything they wanted in the plan, she noted,
but there was a lot of compromise. The proposed plan works for Anna Maria,
Line of credit
Barford supports the recent city commission
decision to establish a $1 million line of credit to
begin many long-needed capital improvements, but said
the city needs to ensure there is "heavy
oversight" of the construction. As mayor, she promised that would happen.
however, is opposed to the line of credit, claiming
the city could have done all that work without borrowing
or paying interest.
The city was supposed to have set aside money in the
budget each year for capital improvements, but didn't. The city is wasting money
by paying interest, he said.
Cramer was supportive of the LOC, although
she said she had some reservations. She claimed she
had "encouraged" Mayor
SueLynn to establish the capital improvements advisory committee several years
ago to prepare a project list. She hopes the $1 million draw will be successful,
but the city still needs to be fiscally responsible as it has to pay back $200,000
per year for the loan.
Mattick said it was a "shame" that
infrastructure was allowed to deteriorate to the point where the city had no
choice but to borrow money. She also noted it took more than a year for the
commission to approve the line of credit. With inflation, the city is now getting
less for its $1 million, she said.
Miller is "100 percent supportive" of
the draw. He was the commission liaison to the CIAC as it prepared the project
list. He said the line of credit was the only way to complete the capital improvements
without raising taxes.
He also defended the commission's
use of outside consultants, noting that when the city had Tarpon Street and
Oak Avenue repaved two years ago, it had tried to oversee the project itself,
rather than pay an engineer. As a result, the job was botched and the city
ended up paying quite a bit more for the project without a totally successful
Mattick said the mayor can
handle a lot of problems.
Current Mayor SueLynn got herself "involved
in a lot of outside issues" that apparently were a lot of work for her.
Mattick was not in favor of hiring an administrative assistant to aid the mayor.
Barford and Turner see the mayor's
post as "part-time" and said the city staff is competent enough
to handle many problems.
Miller agreed, noting that this past summer
he had prepared a list of duties that could be delineated
to the staff rather than the mayor.
Cramer didn't support the position
of administrative assistant, but believed the Island as a whole should look
at "sharing" an Island manager. She did note, however, that each
year the work involved at city hall seems to grow more complex and involved.
Coastal overlay district, daylight plane ordinances
said adoption of the coastal overlay district to limit
development seaward of the coastal construction control
line would "be a disaster" and is "totally
COD "doesn't make sense," she said, and leaves the city open
She is also opposed to the daylight plane
ordinance, saying that if the ordinance had passed
it would have reduced property values in the city.
Both issues were "knee-jerk" reactions
by Mayor SueLynn, she claimed.
The daylight plane ordinance was not adopted
by the city commission. The overlay ordinance is pending
before the next commission.
said it was not prudent to make a snap decision about
the COD. He said he wanted to reserve judgment on the
ordinance because it hasn't been finalized.
"I'm not in a position yet.
I need to deal with the facts," he said. He observed, however, that the
city is charged by the state with the safety of residents living too near the
coast. The COD is a safety issue to protect residents.
Barford said that the
P&Z board looked
extensively at both ordinances. The daylight plane ordinance was examined for
the height of a structure and the light angle, but it turned into an architectural
issue when it reached the commission.
Turner said it was a waste of city money
to have the COD reviewed by an attorney from the east
coast of Florida with no knowledge of
Anna Maria. He was also opposed to the daylight plane
ordinance as proposed by the commission.
Turner said the city spends too much money
on consultants and attorneys, claiming the city doesn't always need a
consulting planner or engineer.
Barford said the current budget is "on
target" and building a reserve fund for the city, at the same time keeping
the millage rate at 2.0 mils.
Cramer said she supports tighter budgets
in the future, but defended the use of a city planner.
The city planner has helped with many legal aspects
of ordinances as has the city engineer. She noted that
the commission has dealt with a number of major issues
the past two years, issues that had been ignored in
Miller agreed with the
current budget and said the millage rate is "right where it needs to
said it's possible to reduce
the millage rate along with planning and legal fees. The city spent $179,000
last year for consultants, attorneys and planners. "We can do a better
job," she said.
Miller said Anna Maria is in much better
shape now than four years ago.
"We've worked hard and compromised" and
passed a number of ordinances, he said. Legal fees have increased because the
commission had to rewrite many ordinances passed by previous commissions that
contained errors. The city is also facing an ever-increasing assault by outside
attorneys over a number of issues. Proper legal advice is needed to fight back.
however, disagreed. "The
present process is flawed." She said the mayor should present issues
in a public forum before bringing them to the commission.
And "too many
commissioners seem to have already made up their minds" on issues, she
claimed, adding that it seems public comment at commission meetings is barely
tolerated by commissioners.
also defended the work of the commission the past few
years. A number of major decisions have been reached
always voted "according to the desires" of her fellow citizens.
Barford said the mayor is the town manager
and she pledged an increase in customer service. "The citizens are our
customers, our stock holders."
She said she would look at getting more
grants for the city. With her contacts from her prior
public service, she would lobby for lower taxes and
Barford was mayor of Temple Terrace,
near Tampa, for six years and before that, a city commissioner
there for eight years. She's also been a member of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council
and a Florida League of Cities member for 16 years.
"I have the experience to make a
difference and preserve the charm and uniqueness of Anna Maria. I have the
energy," she said.
Barford and her husband moved to Anna
Maria permanently in 2002.
Turner said his management experience
will pay off as mayor. As mayor, he would have P&Z review all ordinances
on a regular basis, not the city attorney, building official or city planner.
added that if elected, he would donate his salary as
mayor to charity. Turner also said all candidates should
declare who made their campaign contributions.
"I can fulfill all aspects of the
job," he promised.
Turner is a former chairman of the P&Z
board and the code enforcement board and served on a number of city boards
and committees since moving to Anna Maria in 1984. He retired from the U.S.
Air Force after 22 years and spent another 20 years in the insurance claims
All candidates urged
the electorate to vote on Nov. 7.