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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Stormwater fee may flood city

Anna Maria city commissioners have scheduled a special meeting March 3 to first decide how the proposed stormwater utility fee should be structured before they determine how much to assess city taxpayers annually for the fee.

At its Feb. 10 workshop, commissioners heard a presentation from Chris Collins on a number of options for the fee, called an Environmental Resource Unit, including how long it would be imposed and how to implement capital improvements based upon collection of the fee.

Collins presented several different options for an ERU, ranging from $136 to $149 annually for a single-family home. Businesses, duplexes and triplexes, condominium units and vacant lots would be charged based upon the ERU for a single-family residence.

"The ball's now in your court," said Collins, following his technical presentation of how money could be collected, borrowed and spent over various periods.

Indeed, said Commission Chairperson John Quam.

"One-hundred and forty dollars a year might be a tough sell in Anna Maria," he observed, when people in Bradenton Beach are complaining about paying $70 annually as a stormwater fee [although Bradenton Beach's stormwater fee is $125 annually, less mitigation]. Holmes Beach has a fee slightly more than $30 per year for a single-family residence.

Commissioner Carol Ann Magill agreed. "We started at $50 for an ERU, now we're at this level." She suggested the ERU be based on lot size or square footage of a residence or structure, but resident Shirley O'Day said this would open up a "can of worms" if the city has to determine size or square footage to come up with a fee.

O'Day added that if the city approves and collects the fee, then can't come up with any drainage projects that work, the commission will "look like fools."

Magill observed that some city residents pay less in annual city taxes than a $140 stormwater assessment fee.

"Well, it's in your ballpark now," Collins told the commission. "Now, you have to make hard decisions."

Commissioner Dale Woodland suggested the special meeting include the capital improvements advisory committee, city engineer and the public works director.

The meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, March 3.

Outdoor dining ordinance

Commissioners agreed the definition of a restaurant in the city code is ambiguous concerning outdoor dining. At the same time, they noted the city should review site plans for outdoor dining.

Following advice from City Attorney Jim Dye, the commission agreed to rewrite the definition of a restaurant in an ordinance that will regulate outdoor dining.

Magill said she wanted the city to have control over outdoor dining through submission of a site plan.

She also wanted the city to have some control over outdoor entertainment near a residential area, but Quam noted that such noise is already covered in the city's noise ordinance.

Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles said that if the commission's intention is to stop amplified music outdoors, then, "You have a rifle shot aimed at us."

Magill said she didn't want to penalize any currently existing outdoor entertainment, and Quam added that the noise ordinance and the time limit already apply to the Sandbar.

The commission also agreed to a suggestion from O'Day that restaurants that currently have outdoor dining would not have to file a site plan and go through the review process in the proposed ordinance, just new establishments.

Dye agreed that the commission could modify the proposed ordinance to exempt already existing but non-conforming restaurants with outdoor dining.

"You could just set a cut-off date," he said, after which all new restaurants that want outdoor dining would have to go through the site plan review process.

That brought a sigh of relief from Chiles and several other restaurant owners who attended the meeting.

Dye added, however, that outdoor dining seats are still tied to the city's code requirements for parking. If a restaurant adds outdoor seating, it must meet parking requirements for a restaurant.

The second reading of the ordinance was scheduled for Feb. 24.

Early voting

Commissioners agreed to have Dye draft an ordinance opting out of the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections plan for early voting in the 2005 elections.

Florida Community Trust Grant

The commission agreed with Mayor SueLynn that the city should pursue a Florida Community Trust Grant to help it purchase lands for public use. The city can enlist Manatee County Grants Coordinator Maggie Marr for assistance, she said.

The mayor said that she is still interested in buying the site of the former Island Marine facility on Pine Avenue. A prior deal on a possible purchase with the Trust for Public Lands fell through when it was discovered that TPL would only cover 50 percent of the purchase, and wanted 10 percent of the selling price from the city for operating expenses.

The FCT, however, is a state-run trust and doesn't ask for expense money. An FCT grant, however, usually requires 50 percent matching funds from the city.

Pile driving ordinance

Commissioners gave approval to Dye to write an ordinance regulating use of "vibratory pile drivers" that are utilized to install the foundation of a building.

The city can't prohibit use of a pile driver, said Dye, because its use is established by the Florida Building Code. But the city can regulate such operation and require a permit with an accompanying fee. The proposed ordinance would require a builder using a pile driver to carry $1 million in liability insurance for damage to surrounding property, and would create a system for nearby residents to file claims for damages from the pile driver.

The second reading was scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 24.

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