Anna Maria officials to consider charging for parking

skennedy@bradenton.comAugust 15, 2013 

ANNA MARIA -- Buffeted by huge crowds of beachgoers, officials at the city of Anna Maria are considering charging for parking for the first time.

"It's not something any of us want to do," said Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn on Wednesday.

Still, the city commission is slated to discuss the idea "conceptually" at a meeting Aug. 22, she said.

The small city at the northern tip of Anna Maria Island did an informal count over the Fourth of July weekend, and found 51,000 vehicles had come or gone from the city over a six-day period, the mayor said.

The city has been inundated with day-trippers who park in peoples' driveways, jam their vehicles every which way and leave great mounds of trash behind, the mayor said.

"The residents stock up on food, and don't leave their homes or go to the beach because of gridlock and parking problems," said the mayor.

Beachgoer Suzanne Ukleja, 37, of Lithia opposes charging for parking. She was at the Anna Maria beach with her children.

"This is easy here, so easy," she said. "Why make it more difficult?"

Her companion, Shannon Derby, 39, also of Lithia, agreed: "It's a terrible idea. We come from Lithia, by Tampa, so we spend a lot of money on gas to get here. So that's more money."

Parking costs would probably drive her to another beach that does not charge, she said.

However, others felt differently.

"We're willing to pay a couple of bucks for parking," said Kim Knapp, 47, a retired vacationer from Wisconsin who was at the beach with her husband, David, 50, a police officer.

She would pay $5 or so to park, she said.

She said the area was gorgeous and she was "loving it."

Joseph Zaleski, 49, an insurance agent who works at Anna Maria and lives in Bradenton, said charging for parking near the beach might not be a bad idea, but it might adversely affect businesses.

A downtown business co-owner, Casey Coleman, 21, voiced the same thought.

"I don't like it. I don't want to pay parking, especially since I grew up here," said Coleman, who co-owns Poppo's Taqueria at 212 Pine Ave. "Once you get paid parking, you become more commercial. People are more inclined to eat here if they don't have to pay to park."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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