Vol 8 No. 6 - October 31, 2007

October bridge surprise a scary prospect

By Louise Bolger
sun staff writer

Happy Halloween! If think they’ll be scary things going on in your neighborhood tonight, believe me it’s nothing compared to what’s going on in Tallahassee this month. Our state representatives and agencies have been dressing up in their best suits and vests, but just like the kids on Halloween night, they’re just pretending to be lawmakers.

While the House and Senate try to find a way out of the property tax straight jacket we’re in, the Florida Department of Transportation has dropped an October bomb on the residents of Anna Maria Island.

By now everybody knows that FDOT is planning on shutting down the Anna Maria Island Bridge for up to 75 days for repairs shortly after Easter of 2008. Their, apparently not very enlightened, plan is to leave the bridge in an open position to allow for boat traffic, while not giving vehicle traffic access on or off the Island.

Island residents, worried about safety in the event of a storm or medical emergency and Island business owners worried about customers getting to them, have let out Halloween screams heard all the way to Tallahassee. However, what hasn’t been mentioned too much is the affect this event will have on Island real estate already moving at a snail’s pace.

Everyone is holding their breath waiting for the buyers to come down and snatch up some of the attractively -priced properties on the Island. Seasonal visitors always take their time looking for potential homes to purchase. They kick a lot of tires, attend a lot of open houses and, traditionally somewhere around early March, make a decision before returning north. This season, with the large number of properties available for sale, their ability to make an informed decision will inevitably take longer, stretching the home selling time line further into April than previous years.

Complicating an already tenuous real estate market further is one of the two bridges to the Island being inoperable for part of the prime buying season. Potential buyers, especially those from off the Island, will certainly wonder if living on a barrier island is really what they want. The cumulative affect of high taxes, high insurance premiums, the threat of hurricanes and ongoing bridge problems could quickly make many buyers think that Island living may just not be worth it.

Island residents who want to sell their homes aren’t the only ones that are worried about the bridge issue. Realtors and owners of rental properties stand to lose a lot of business from Island visitors who come in March and April, the year’s two best weather months.

In addition, as of this writing there was still no meeting of the minds among our state representatives relative to the property tax amendment. If they remain at a standoff beyond their end of the month deadline, Florida residents won’t see an amendment on the ballot in January and, therefore, will not see any property tax modifications in the near future. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse, guess what, they can.

In politics, an October surprise is a news event designed to influence elections. Anna Maria’s October surprise will influence business, real estate and resident safety.

So if someone rings your doorbell tonight dressed as a Florida state official, be afraid, be very afraid.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper