ANNA MARIA – Architect Gene Aubry unveiled a new parking plan for the six lots the city purchased at the corner of North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue.
"Anna Maria is a tourist island, whether we like it or not, and as tourists come, unfortunately so do automobiles," Aubry told commissioners at Thursday's work session. "We have to deal with it."
Aubry's previous plan showed parking spaces along the North Bay Boulevard and Pine Avenue sides of the lots, but he noted, "All you can see is the butt end of automobiles." The new plan puts parking in the center of the lots surrounded by trees lining a 15-foot wide walking path.
"On Pine Avenue we're trying to build a pedestrian street," Aubry explained. "That means we need a beautiful place for people to walk.
"My thought was to contain the parking. You end up with the same amount of parking, but all you can see is green."
He said whenever the city wants to use the space in the center of the lots, it could close it to parking. He said the city also could create the same path with trees along the North Bay Boulevard side of the city pier parking lot.
"The plan up there is not what I'm proposing," he stressed. "I truly do not believe we have a parking problem. We have people who come to this Island that will not walk one city block to go to the pier."
A new idea
Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland said the city told residents that the lots would be open space. Commissioner SueLynn said she liked the concept, but if the commissioners promised open space that should be considered.
"This is totally against open space." Woodland pointed out. "Our parking problem is seasonal. An idea I've had is to have one lot open during peak season for parking and leave it like it is. If that doesn't work, have it open year 'round.
"The city shouldn't provide public parking with public money for the business community, but I've had ideas for using some portion of those lots for pier parking. The city owns the pier, so we're helping ourselves."
Chair Chuck Webb said he doesn't like parking around the six lots, but he doesn't want them turned into a parking lot either and asked, "Do we need that much parking?" He said someone had suggested having parking along the back of the lots.
He said in its lease, the city pier has the right to parking spaces north and south of the pier, and Mayor Mike Selby said 150 feet on either side of the pier is for pier parking only.
"We can't handle the traffic that comes in here on a daily basis," said Commissioner John Quam. "We can't try and provide parking for everybody.
"I am in favor of not using the lots for parking other than what's there today on the Pine Avenue part and leave the parallel parking across from the city pier."
"We have a finite amount of land," Commissioner SueLynn said. "We've reached the point of saturation. We can't meet everybody's needs. We have to protect what we have and not give in to making space for more tourists to come.
"We bent over backwards in the past years to accommodate visitors and bring more businesses in to support our businesses. Now its time to bend over backwards to accommodate our residents and do what is going to keep us the residential community that we want to be."
City Planner Alan Garrett said he and Building Official Bob Welch are working on a change to the city's code to allow more public parking in districts where it is not currently allowed.
Resident Larry Albert said he prefers the lots to be open space with parking on North Bay Boulevard.
Nick Walter, of Roser Church, said he objected to Woodland's statement that the parking problem is seasonal and noted. "We have a problem, and our issue is year 'round. We don't want to be in the public parking lot business because of the liability issue."
Billy Malfese, chair of the Environmental Education and Enhancement Committee, said. "We need to come up with a compromise. I feel parking is a huge issue in this area. It's a major attraction.
"With all the marketing and promotion, the influx of people will grow and grow. I feel the more parking the better. We can't turn a blind eye to the people coming here."
He said the six lots should include green space and parking. He asked if commissioners have discussed metered parking and suggested remote parking at the Community Center with golf carts to shuttle people to Pine Avenue.
SueLynn said Ed Moss, pastor of CrossPointe Fellowship, has offered its lot, but they would have to find a way to shuttle people to Pine Avenue.
Dave Sork, of the city pier, said the pier is a magnet drawing people to the city, but so are the boardwalk, the beach and the shops on Pine Avenue.
"For us to be viable, we have to accommodate people during the peak time," Sork said. "It carries us through the year."
Webb said he would keep the issue on future agendas.