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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Another Anna Maria parking solution presented

Parking plans in Anna Maria are like opinions. Everybody's got one.

After more than 30 years of parking committees, studies, reports and recommendations, it often seems that finding a parking solution agreeable to all the special interest groups in the city is like trying to solve world hunger.

But the city commission slogged ahead at its Feb. 5 parking workshop, rejecting a prior proposal by Commissioner Duke Miller that would have essentially allowed property owners throughout the city to control use of the right of way in front of their homes and businesses (The Islander, Jan. 21).

The initial warmth that had greeted Miller's compromise plan presented at the Jan. 21 parking workshop was quickly chilled at this meeting as one commissioner after another rejected the plan.

Commissioner Carol Ann Magill said she could not support the plan, and doesn't want to see the city give up any right of way.

Commissioner Linda Cramer said she couldn't support Miller because the city "has to come up with a plan that takes care of visitors and people who live on these streets."

Cramer, who lives within the Beach Access Zone as defined by the Baskerville-Donovan Inc. parking plan, said she thought Miller's plan would actually reduce available parking in the city.

Likewise, Commission Chairperson John Quam rejected Miller's plan, claiming there were safety and drainage issues involved.

"I get the message," said Miller.

The next plan presented to save Anna Maria parking - unofficially Parking Plan No. 2,486 proposed since 1923 - was Commissioner Dale Woodland's "option" to eliminate all No Parking signs except those needed for safety.

Woodland claimed the city's parking woes are "normal problems" in a beachfront community, and are the same as they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

Not so, replied Cramer.

"I think we do have a problem. It's not 20 years ago. We have more visitors now," she said.

This option would create "bedlam" in the city, added Miller.

Woodland suggested the city try this option for a year and Magill would have supported it, but Miller, Cramer and Quam declined.

Enter "Plan X" as presented by Quam.

The plan is based on the BDI report, which identified 171 parking spaces on streets within the Beach Access Zone. Quam has reduced that to just 106 parking spaces.

This plan is based on "location," he observed, not designated spaces.

Under the original BDI plan, a parking ordinance would have been a nightmare, Quam said, because each space would have to be surveyed and identified in the ordinance.

He said he personally inspected each street and location identified in the BDI report to come up with Plan X.

Most blocks would have only one parking location at most, he claimed, and those blocks would require only minimal signage to designate where vehicles could be parked. All other areas would be No Parking.

The 200 block of Pine Avenue between Gulf Drive and North Shore Drive would be removed from the BAZ, Quam noted.

Plan X would accommodate handicap parking, he said, and property owners with no driveway for parking could apply for a permit to park in front of their residence.

Cramer said the plan "seemed to be moving in the right direction," but she was concerned about parking for guests.

Miller, however, suggested guests could learn to park elsewhere and walk to someone's house. He liked the direction of Plan X.

While acknowledging the plan requires a lot of "tweaking" and has to consider turn-around areas at the end of the BAZ streets, Miller said the city should try this plan. "If it goes to hell in a handbasket, we'll try something else."

The commission consensus was to proceed with Plan X, although Woodland said he had "some objections."

"It's only a draft," replied Quam.

Cramer thought the plan would require a lot more commission workshops, but Quam suggested City Attorney Jim Dye immediately create a draft ordinance based upon the plan.

He and Dye will meet to go over details of the plan and ordinance, then Quam will schedule another parking workshop.

In the meantime, commissioners will individually study the proposed parking locations on each BAZ street and provide input at the next parking workshop.

Members of the public, however, were concerned about parking on their own particular street.

As always in Anna Maria, everyone seems to be in favor of a parking plan, as long as there's no parking where they live.

Oak Avenue resident George Lott said some residents on his street are already parking on the right of way. He said Plan X, in its present form, would only cause more congestion on Oak.

Maple Avenue resident Miguel Yavalar was concerned for the safety of his children and didn't want people parking next to his house.

Likewise, Jack Guggino of Maple Avenue said he didn't want a concentration of parking by his house.

He suggested commissioners look at individual streets for parking problems and spaces, and at the same time, they should consider rest room facilities.

Other city residents also spoke against public parking on their particular street.

Joe Perricone of Palmetto Avenue lobbied for permit parking, an idea the commission rejected.

Only Elizabeth Moss of Willow Avenue, who has lived in Anna Maria for more than 50 years, said she and her neighbors didn't mind open parking on that street and wanted parking kept there as it is.

Quam said he appreciated all the safety concerns, but the commission is trying to "limit the number of parking spaces," not prohibit parking or access to the beach.

"There's still a lot to be worked out and a lot of homework for commissioners," he said.

While Quam and Dye are preparing a draft, commissioners will be inspecting the spaces and streets Quam has identified in his plan.

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