ANNA MARIA – City Commission Chair Mark Short doesn’t want Anna Maria’s parks, beaches and rights of way to be commercialized in a manner similar to what’s currently taking place along the Palma Sola Causeway.
During the commission’s May 25 meeting, Short noted there are now multiple commercial entities offering horseback rides, personal watercraft rentals and more along the Palma Sola Causeway on Manatee Avenue/State Road 64. Short also expressed concerns about commercial activity occurring in city-owned rights of way.
“I don’t want this to become another Manatee Avenue,” he said.
Short said during his preliminary research of the city’s code of ordinances he didn’t find any prohibitions pertaining to commercial activities taking place in conservation zones, parks, beaches and other city-owned properties, and is not aware of any city regulation that prohibits such activity.
Short said he doesn’t want the city to prohibit short-term right-of-way uses during city-permitted special events. He also said he doesn’t want to prohibit commercial activities at The Center of Anna Maria Island, which is owned by the city, or the commercial activities already approved by the city on the City Pier.
He recommended asking City Planner Ashely Austen and City Attorney Becky Vose to draft a city ordinance that would prohibit commercial activities in public spaces. He then sought input from other commissioners.
Commissioner Jon Crane agreed that the city’s rights of way should be protected, but he’s not sure a new ordinance is needed.
Commissioner Charlie Salem asked Short if there are currently any commercial activities taking place on city property that he’s concerned about. Short said there are, but he didn’t name any specific activities.
Commissioner Robert Kingan noted there are already businesses operating in Anna Maria that rent, deliver and retrieve beach cabanas, beach chairs and other beach supplies. Kingan said there are also restaurants that deliver to beach patrons.
Short said he wasn’t aware of the cabana rentals taking place in Anna Maria.
Salem noted the city already has an ordinance in place that prohibits beaching personal watercraft at Anna Maria’s public beaches and parks.
Crane said he’d like to see some additional analysis from city staff but he didn’t share Short’s desire for a prohibitive ordinance.
Mayor Dan Murphy agreed that some staff analysis would be a good starting point and he asked what specifically the commission wants analyzed. Crane said he’d like to know whether the city has the right to prohibit commercial activities in public spaces.
Murphy said that’s a legal question to pose to the city attorney. Murphy said the city attorney could analyze what the city can and can’t regulate before requesting any additional analysis from the city planner.
“I like that approach. Find out what we can and can’t do,” Short said.
Murphy said he would ask the city attorney to provide her legal insights at a future meeting.