Anna Maria candidates different yet similar
Jo Ann Mattick
The four candidates in Anna Maria for the three seats available on the city commission in the November elections expressed a variety of viewpoints on issues at TheIslander candidate forum Oct. 26. Incumbents John Quam and Dale Woodland are seeking re-election, while political newcomers Jo Ann Mattick and Christine Tollette have also entered the race.
The candidates were in general agreement on the recently enacted ordinance governing parking along beach access-zone streets.
Quam said he was "positive" the ordinance would be workable, but observed there is no "right plan" for the entire city. He also noted that alternate side of the street parking was first proposed in 1975.
Woodland said he also supported the plan and said it was a "tremendous occasion" for the city, because prior commissions and committees had been unable to compromise on the issue.
Mattick said that the current plan was "better than nothing," but was concerned there will be "difficulty" when the signs change from one side of the street to the other. She was not in favor of resident-only parking.
Tollette said it will be "interesting to see what happens in the season," when more homeowners and visitors are in the city. However, any plan is better than no plan.
Comprehensive plan and retail-office-residential
Candidates were asked their opinion on a change in the proposed comprehensive plan to restrict new construction in the retail-office-residential area along Pine Avenue to just one floor of office or retail and one floor of residential.
Woodland said his issue was with intensity and density. He could support one floor of retail or office space and one or two floors of residential area. ROR property owners should be able to utilize the current 37-foot height restriction for new construction.
Mattick said she favored the property rights of owners and those who invest in ROR property should not have to "sacrifice" a retail-office floor. She said it was "ridiculous" to have just one floor of office-retail and one floor for a residence. Owners in the ROR should be able to have one floor of retail-office and two floors for a residence.
Tollette also said she had "no problem" with the "2 over 1" concept in the ROR. It doesn't make "economic sense" to have just one floor for office-retail. However, she said, all new construction should fit in with the city's appearance and architecture as a beach community.
Quam noted that the planning and zoning board is still discussing the proposal, but he would favor one floor of office-retail and one floor for a residence.
Beachfront overlay district
The city is studying the establishment of an overlay district seaward of the coastal construction control line to halt a developer from acquiring enough parcels to have an acre or more of land, then build a subdivision with six units per acre.
Mattick said that just like in the ROR, she was a "property rights" person, and would need "more information" on the overlay district proposal before reaching an opinion.
Tollette, however, said she agreed with the concept of an overlay district to control further development seaward of the CCCL. Nature is adding more and more land to the beach and she said she "couldn't imagine the city losing Bean Point" to developers.
Quam said he favored a "moratorium" to prohibit further construction beyond what is currently in that area. He noted there is a safety issue with living so close to the water and the city is supposed to "discourage" more development near the coastal zones because of the potential for hurricane damage and flooding.
Woodland again referred to intensity and density. He supported the proposed moratorium, noting the city should not be increasing density seaward of the CCCL. "It's a very important issue for our city," he observed.
Density per acre
Regarding any restriction on density seaward of the CCCL, Tollette said that she was not an expert on what the city can legally do to halt development and suggested the city obtain "a very good attorney."
Likewise, Quam said he would defer to the opinions of the city planner and city attorney.
Woodland said he was "comfortable" with the current density requirements in the land development code, while Mattick said the city needed to be "clear" in its comprehensive plan on density. She would not favor increasing density.
Building height limits
Candidates were asked their opinon of building height limits.
Quam said he was not in favor of a 27-foot height restriction, but would like to "avoid" the 37-foot high "boxes" that are being constructed. He suggested the city could consider a larger setback for the top floor.
Woodland said he would listen to the proposal, but was not in favor of such a change for non-conforming lots. He also would like to have the top floor as something "other than a box," and would support the city "encouraging" flexibility in design.
Mattick likewise disagreed with a 27-foot height restriction for such lots. It would create "disparity" because owners of conforming lots could build to 37 feet, resulting in a larger house than a neighbor on a non-conforming lot.
Tollette agreed it was "unfair" to saddle owners of non-conforming lots with such a restriction. She would also encourage property owners to design a new house to look like something "other than a box." The city should allow "creativity" in new construction.
Capital improvement projects.
The candidates were asked their view on the city borrowing funds now to start construction of the estimated $1.6 million worth of capital improvement projects needed in the city, as opposed to the city just taking what it can find in each annual budget for capital improvements.
Woodland said the city should look first to what grants are available for stormwater drainage projects from the Southwest Florida Water Management District. He is, however, "softening" his stance on borrowing for road projects, but the city does "not have a good track record" on recent road repair efforts. Once the city has "credibility," he could support borrowing funds for the remaining projects.
Mattick observed that if the city had borrowed the money a few years ago when the idea was first discussed, the project costs would be considerably less. "It makes no sense to put this off. I think we should borrow the money to do this," she said.
Tollette said the city should never have allowed its roads to deteriorate to such a poor condition. Many are a safety concern. Money can be borrowed at 3.5 percent interest and the city should proceed with funding to do the projects as quickly as possible. To delay will only cost the city taxpayers more money in the long run.
Quam said he favored a line of credit for the city to do the roads and drainage projects now, then spread the cost over seven to 10 years. "This will get the roads done and get us started on drainage."
All four candidates were asked their opinion of the current mayor-city commission form of government enacted two years ago that separated the mayor from the city commission.
Woodland said he was "comfortable" with the current system, adding it was "better than it was before. It's a good system" of government.
Mattick said that there appears to be "too much adversity" between the commission and mayor and the mayor receives "too much flak" from the commission.
Tollette said she favored establishment of an oversight committee to review the work of the mayor's administration and report to the city commission.
Quam, however, said he as comfortable with the status quo. "The commission is policy, the mayor is administration."
Candidates were asked their opinion on the recent proposal to allow the Anna Maria electorate to vote in a non-binding referendum on whether or not they wanted the city to proceed with studies on Island consolidation. The commission decided not to place the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Mattick said that her belief is that it's "valuable" to gain the opinion of the voters and the referendum should have been placed before the voters. "There was no reason not to since the referendum was non-binding," she said.
Tollette said that one reason she decided to seek office was when the commission turned down placing the referendum on the ballot. "I would have allowed the citizens to have a voice."
Quam said he would favor a referendum on a study on consolidation of services among the three Island cities, but he was opposed to consolidation.
Woodland was also opposed to consolidation. He said he had changed his mind on placing the referendum on the ballot after attending town hall meetings where the public had expressed no interest in a vote. He did say that any consolidation vote should include a "City Bill of Rights" to ensure each city retains what elements it wants.
Mattick expressed interest in an Island manager as she believes it would save all three cities money, particularly for major projects.
Tollette said she needed to study that proposal more before rendering an opinion, while Quam said that while it might sound like a good idea, he was not in favor of the proposal.
Woodland said an Island manager would not save any money and he was not in favor of such a measure.
In closing, Quam said that if re-elected, he will serve as faithfully as he has done the past four years. He wants to be part of the decision-making process that will guide the city through a revised comprehensive plan and retain the character of Anna Maria as a city primarily for single-family homes. He said his accomplishments the past four years speak for his ability.
Woodland said he was seeking re-election because he enjoys what he's doing. "I've been dedicated and I take this job seriously. I believe I'm always well prepared."
Mattick observed that some people seem to run for office just to "impose" their viewpoints on other people. "I approach every issue with an open mind and I believe in being fair and balanced" on decisions.
Tollette said she was no "expert," but she's learned how to talk with people and how to get organized. "I think I would make a good and dedicated commissioner" and there's no better place to serve the community than on the city commission.