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Date of Issue: July 05, 2007

Record grant for Anna Maria

Thank freshman Anna Maria City Commissioner JoAnn Mattick for delivering the largest non-matching funds grant ever to the city.

Chris Piazza of the Florida Department of Transportation told the commission at its June 28 meeting that Mattick's application for a federal transportation enhancement grant had been approved for $307,000, in addition to $42,000 for the design phase of the project.

The money can be used to improve the aesthetics of the commercial district along Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue with landscaping, shelters, directional signs, a dune walkover by the city pier, a new pavilion by the pier entrance, or public rest rooms. The final choice for improvements will be made by the commission based upon recommendations from a committee that Mayor Fran Barford will form within the next few weeks.

Remember, said Piazza, in today's market, $307,000 "can't get you very much," so the city needs to be very selective with its recommendations.

Piazza said the DOT will manage the project from start to finish, including the designs, as an "in-house" effort because the city does not have a certified design engineer on staff. Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue are not part of the Florida highway system, but Piazza said that because the funds come from a federal program, the DOT is allowed to manage the project for the city.

"We can use these funds off the state highway system without any problem," he said.

Piazza also noted that Mattick's application, begun in 2005, arrived at the DOT in plenty of time for review and approval. The design phase ($42,000) is in the DOT's 2009-10 budget, while construction is part of the 2010-11 budget. "I really appreciate the city getting the application to us well in advance of the deadlines," he said.

Mattick, who began the application before she was elected to the commission, said she saw the opportunity to improve the business district with some federal funds that did not require a corresponding match by the city and volunteered to write the grant.

"I'm just really happy that we were approved. I think it's a winning situation for everyone," she said.

But not everyone agreed the grant was a winner for the city.

Resident Tom Turner said that, while the money "looks great upfront," the proposal should be "put on the shelf" and forgotten.

Not so, replied Sandbar Restaurant owner Ed Chiles.

"Congratulations to Commissioner Mattick. This is a unique and tremendous opportunity" for the city. He added that he would be happy participate on the committee.

Barford said she will select a committee to work with the DOT in preparing the designs and recommendations and present that list to the commission at its July 27 meeting.

In other business, the commission gave consensus approval to a proposal by architectural designer Emily Ann Smith of the non-profit Legacy III Inc. for a performing arts pavilion and eco/nature center at Coquina Beach.

The $2.5 million project was first conceived in 1998, said Smith, but the time now seems ripe for implementation, particularly with all the recent negative publicity about Coquina Beach. "We want a rebirth of Coquina Beach," Smith said.

Funding for the project will come primarily from private sources, she indicated.

Other members of Legacy III include Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Holmes Beach real estate agent Barry Gould.

The group will make a presentation to each Island city before appearing before the county commission to seek formal approval of the project.

Commissioners also gave the go-ahead to city attorney Jim Dye to prepare an amendment to the city ordinance on roof replacement that would allow a flat roof on a non-conforming structure to be replaced by a gable or pitched roof, as long as the capacity of the structure is not increased.

The planning and zoning board will review Dye's draft amendment at its July 9 meeting.

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