Record meeting in Anna Maria
For one of the few times in the history of Anna Maria City Commission meetings, commissioners had little to say at their June 23 meeting and wrapped all agenda items well before 9 p.m., an unofficial record in a city noted for loquaciousness.
Of course, that easily could have been because for much of the meeting, just two commissioners - John Quam and Dale Woodland - were present and discussion of agenda items was limited and general in nature.
Commissioner Linda Cramer's return flight to Tampa was diverted to Orlando for nearly three hours, but she reached the meeting shortly after 8 p.m., giving the commission a quorum to vote on matters.
The commission did get a legislative review from State Rep. Bill Galvano of Bradenton, who cast a "doom and gloom" spell when he said that because of the growth boom in Florida, projections indicate the state needs between $20 billion and $40 billion for infrastructure additions and improvements in the next 15 years.
But not to worry. At the present time, Florida has a budget surplus of more than $3 billion, and is one of only five states to have a surplus of more than 5 percent of its budget.
He did express concern with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain issued early last week, and pledged that the Legislature would examine the decision at its next session for any potential impact in Florida. However, he said, the Legislature can't change the decision, only attempt to narrow its focus.
City Attorney Jim Dye asked Galvano to have the Legislature look into the issue of submerged land ownership. In Anna Maria, many beachfront lots plotted in the early 1900s now have a significant portion of that property under water. Some owners are still paying taxes on the property, but Dye believes the state may now actually own the submerged lands.
Commissioners also heard from accountant Ed Leonard, who gave the city the "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval for its 2004-05 financial audit.
The city is in "great shape" financially, he said.
Mayor SueLynn announced that the city was "No. 1 on the priority list" for a $300,000 enhancement grant from the Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization to landscape and improve Pine Avenue and other areas of the city.
She cautioned, however, that several approvals were still needed. "It's not a done deal, yet," she said.
If approved, the funds would be in the MPO's 2010-2011 budget, but the city could begin improvements immediately and be reimbursed during the appropriate fiscal year.
Sandbar restaurant owner Ed Chiles, who spearheaded the grant application effort by the city, said he's been told by MPO officials that the MPO has never rejected a "No. 1 priority project" from its sub-committee.
The mayor also said a group of citizens recently purchased seven new trash receptacles for public use at various locations throughout the city.
Pine Avenue property
Commissioner Dale Woodland asked the mayor to bring information to the next commission meeting on how much money the city would need to purchase one of the lots now for sale at the site of the former Island Marine on Pine Avenue.
The mayor indicated the money could be borrowed from the Florida League of Counties.
SueLynn would like to purchase the lot currently adjacent to the area used by the Anna Maria Island Historical Society and the public works department. The lot is presently owned by John Agnelli, who has agreed to wait on a response from the city before proceeding with his plans to build a single-family residence on the site.
Cramer and Woodland appeared to favor a purchase, while Quam indicated that his informal survey of 20 residents found that 12 said "no," while eight said "yes."
Resident Diane Canniff supported the purchase, noting that the city had the opportunity to purchase Bean Point many years ago, but declined, and could have purchased the property where the Villa Rosa housing project is being developed, but also rejected that option.
Other residents supported the purchase, particularly if the city could convert it to a park with recreational use.
"Now is the time to do it," said Cramer. Prices will never be any lower, and vacant land in the city is rapidly disappearing.
In other business, the commission unanimously passed an ordinance amending the definition of "substantial improvement" of a single-family home and eliminated the requirement that in a five-year period, only a maximum 50 percent of the home could be improved. Under the new ordinance, the 50 percent rule applies from building permit to building permit.
The commission also approved a resolution to form the mitigation planning committee to examine stormwater runoff and other water-related issues in the city.
Formation of the committee allows the city to get points under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Community Rating System that regulates the cost of flood insurance for homeowners.
SueLynn said the committee, composed of staff and private citizens, is still looking for another member and asked if any member of the public wanted to volunteer (see separate story).
Open house Thursday
Anna Maria's newly created mitigation committee on stormwater runoff and other water and drainage issues will hold an open house from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, June 30, for any interested persons to come and discuss stormwater-related issues.
The committee is composed of city staff members Kevin Donohue, George McKay and Alice Baird, along with private citizens Sandy Oldham and James Curtis Bell.
Mayor SueLynn said an opening for a volunteer from the general public still exists on the committee and anyone interested in joining should contact her at city hall or attend the meeting to express their interest.
City hall is located at 10005 Gulf Drive at the corner of Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue. The telephone number is 708-6130.