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Date of Issue: April 01, 2009

Anna Maria landscape ordinance needs more study

Anna Maria city commissioners at their March 26 meeting decided a controversial landscaping ordinance needed further scrutiny, especially after the ordinance was amended moments before the meeting began.

The amended ordinance removes a requirement that a landscaping offender would receive a city citation and eliminates some plant buffers and parking lot landscaping. Commissioners said they needed more time to understand the changes.

The ordinance would set minimum standards for numbers of native plants and shrubs for any new development or major renovation in the city.

Proponents of the ordinance, including Robin Wall of the city’s environmental education and enhancement committee, said many Florida cities have landscaping ordinances.

“This will benefit our city,” she said. She noted that the city needs a landscaping ordinance to comply with the 2007 comprehensive plan. The EEEC originally proposed the ordinance, and has worked with city planner Alan Garrett to prepare the document.

But former planning and zoning board chairman Tom Turner said the ordinance is “out of proportion to the size of our lots.”

Many Florida cities with landscaping ordinances have plenty of vacant land. “We have only a few empty residential lots left,” he said.

“The way I read this, if my two avocado trees die, I have to replace them from an approved list. This ordinance is far too restrictive,” Turner said.

Commissioner Christine Tollette said that with so many small lots in the city, it might be an issue just to walk around a house.

“And what if you don’t want trees?” she asked.

The ordinance requires a specific number of select native trees on a site.

“I have a lot of problems with the things that are in here and I’m not prepared to vote on this now,” Tollette said.

Commissioner Chuck Webb agreed. “I have to digest these changes, and I can’t do it sitting here.”

After Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said she was shocked to see so many changes from what she had read the previous day, Commission Chairman John Quam accepted a motion to continue the hearing to the commission’s April 23 meeting.

The commission did pass an ordinance that combines the city’s Residential-2 (duplex) zone with the Residential-1 zone, but removed a controversial provision that would have limited a second floor addition to a single-story, single-family residence in the new zone to just 50 percent of the footprint.

Existing duplexes are permitted uses in the new residential zone, but no new duplexes will be allowed.

The commission agreed to address the issue of second floor additions and non-conformities in the new zone at its April 9 work session and unanimously passed the revised ordinance.

The ordinance combining the R-2 with the R-1 was necessary to have the city’s residential zoning ordinance comply with the 2007 comprehensive plan.

In other business, the commission agreed to an e-mail policy proposed by city treasurer Diane Percycoe.

Percycoe presented the policy and accompanying plan to store city e-mails after learning that Venice had run up a legal bill of more than $1 million in defending city officials for improperly storing public record e-mails.

The commission approved a proposal that will give all city officials, including committee members, their own e-mail address and account.

Percycoe said the service and software is run by Integrated Tech Support and will cost the city $368 a month.

Mayor Fran Barford noted that the city is getting by on a bare bones budget, but the money would be well spent because of the potential for litigation and liability.

“Anything pertaining to city business is public record. It will be everyone’s responsibility to look at their own e-mail account, but we don’t have to worry about e-mails being saved,” Percycoe said.

ITS will store all e-mails to and from all 24 of the city’s staff, elected officials and committee members.

Webb, a lawyer, agreed that the potential for liability offsets the cost of the service.

“I like the idea,” he said.

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