SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Critics say this building at 315 Pine Ave.,
which is part of the project, is too big and doesn’t fit in with the area.
ANNA MARIA — A barrage of letters and e-mails are flooding into city hall. Some are in favor of the Pine Avenue Restoration Project (PAR) and a proposed inn on the northwest corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, some are opposed and some are vehemently opposed.
"Why do we need more inns, shops and restaurants when nearby Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach and Bradenton are rife with them?" wrote Susan Willis in e-mail to the city.
"Hooray for the Pine Avenue Restoration Project!" wrote Candy Conte. "My husband and I are big supporters, and hope you will be too!"
There are more letters against the project than in favor, but Michael Coleman, the project’s managing partner, said he has a petition with more than 100 signatures of supporters.
The first two buildings of the project are nearing completion at the corner of Crescent and Pine.
"We could have built them up to 37-feet, but we thought we were honoring the wishes of the community by limiting the height," Coleman said. "We thought we were honoring the wishes of the community by putting in mixed-use buildings rather than houses, which would be easier to develop and sell."
The project is in the residential/office/retail district (ROR) of the city, a district that was designated more than a decade ago to attract mixed-use concerns to Pine Avenue.
"So far, my business is the only one in the ROR that is being used as a business and a residence," Sandy Mattick, owner of Pine Avenue General Store, said at a recent meeting.
The mixed-use district never really took off, and the construction of several single-family homes, especially the three occupying the site of the old marina, raised concerns that the chance to create a mixed-use district was endangered.
The current code and the previous comprehensive code mandated that the owner of the business or an employee of the business should occupy the residential component of mixed-use structures. That requirement was eliminated by the city commission and the Florida Department of Community Affairs accepted the revised comp plan last year.
Now, with the knowledge that the residential units might be used as rentals, some members of the community have become alarmed and are urgently trying to block the deletion of the owner occupied clause in the land development regulations (LDR), which are being revised to reflect the changes to the comp plan.
"I was in favor of deleting the owner occupied requirement," City Commissioner Dale Woodland said during a public hearing earlier this month. "I must say I never envisioned that there would be short-term rentals there. I’d hate to see that."
There are no minimum rental restrictions in any districts in the city. Coleman said he was willing to stipulate that he’d include one-week minimum rentals of the residential units as deed restrictions.
The revision of the LDRs for the ROR district seems to have stalled over this point at both the planning and zoning level and at the city commission level.
Another issue that has riled residents is the possible construction of the guesthouse or inn on North Bay, an idea that has been tossed around for a couple of years.
"We live at the end of South Bay Boulevard," wrote Lenda and Bob Anderson in an e-mail to the mayor. "We do not want a motel at the end of the street where we live! That adds insult to injury."
Coleman and his partners, Ed Chiles and Ted LaRoche, have an option to purchase the six lots across Pine Avenue to the north of Bayview Plaza.
A discussion of the possibility of a special exception to allow construction of a 24-unit guesthouse on that property was on the agenda for this month’s commission work shop, but it was shut down when Commission Chair John Quam stated that he had been advised by the city attorney that the matter could not be discussed until there was a site plan to review.
"It’s a dead issue for us now," Coleman said last week. "Unless the city acts on that, we aren’t going to push it. We have an option on those lots contingent on our being able to use them as a guesthouse – a use that Commissioner Woodland suggested to us."
Coleman reiterated that for PAR, the guesthouse would not become reality unless the city commission takes the next step and votes to allow it.
Pending public hearings
Who occupies the residential units and how long of a stay will be allowed was to be discussed at a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 20. It will come up again at the continuation of the public hearing at the Jan. 29 city commission meeting.