Parking woes continue to tie up Anna Maria Island traffic

acastillo@bradenton.comMay 12, 2014 

ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- Parking headaches are nothing new to Anna Maria Island.

Elected officials on the 7-mile island are tackling the issue head on with creative ideas and plans to charge for parking for greater control and to raise revenue for their individual cities.

Dale Woodland, a city of Anna Maria commissioner, spoke at length recently about a paid parking proposal he presented to fellow commissioners April 8.

Woodland said: "The growing demand to visit our city and beaches has increased the stress on our infrastructure (roads, swales, etc)." His plan suggests implementing parking permits at kiosks in Anna Maria to generate revenue for the city.

"We're just asking for help. We've got an increased demand for code enforcement, police. ... Basically I ask the question: 'Who should pay for that?' I think we're already taxed plenty," he said. "We're simply asking for some help with the visitors."

Over in the city of Holmes Beach, Commissioner David Zaccagnino also recently proposed the "Commissioner Zaccagnino Preservation And Parking Control Plan." Zaccagnino, who is running for mayor in the next election, said "public outpour" compelled him to draft a plan.

"Something needs to be done," he said. "We can't just let this problem perpetuate."

Zaccagnino proposed a $24 annual pass for all Manatee County residents and island residents. Nonresident passes pass, for people from other counties and states, would cost $120 annually.

"I hate to say this but a lot of it comes down to money. We just don't have the resources to get extra traffic management or extra police shifts," Zaccagnino said of the parking woes at Holmes Beach.

"We're just trying to regulate things a little bit better so everyone would have a good experience," Zaccagnino said.

Jeff "Rusty" Roberts, co-owner of restaurant Cast-N-Cage in Bradenton Beach, is against paid parking permits.

"It's just going to make a mess and confuse everybody on the island," he said, and will hurt tourism during the offseason when businesses rely on locals.

"If they have to pay for parking, they'll find another beach to go to," he said.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti has some ideas of his own, which include installing a gondola lift on the island and building a parking structure by Manatee Public Beach. At a recent public meeting, Monti presented colorful illustrations of his parking structure idea, which would come with changing rooms, an outdoor shower and electric bike-charging station.

"All I did was generate the ideas to get people to start thinking about what should we do with regard to traffic, congestion and the inevitable onslaught of more tourists," Monti said.

Bradenton Beach Mayor William Shearon said parking has always been an issue.

"Basically what we have is too many cars and not enough parking places," he said. "There's no quick and easy answer. If there was, it would have been taken care of by now."

Shearon was reluctant to share his personal feelings about paid parking, saying it is up to his commission.

"As mayor of Bradenton Beach, I'm open to any suggestions and hopefully a suggestion that can be supported by all three towns," he said. "I know that's kind of in between. I'm just a strong believer in issues like this that affects all three towns ... that we work together."

SueLynn, mayor of the city of Anna Maria, declined to comment on the parking issue.

Holmes Beach resident Melissa Hadley, 34, said she knows the time of day to navigate through the island to avoid heavy traffic. She said it's hard to get onto the island sometimes, though.

For her, the issue is like a "fable."

"Its kind of embedded in the hearts of people that have lived here for a long time," she said.

Lindsay Durham, a retiree visiting from Tennessee, said traffic is congested but "it's not unbearable."

"I'm impressed with the island so far," she said. "I'm glad I'm here."

Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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