Officials pick apart Anna Maria Island parking issue

acastillo@bradenton.comJune 19, 2014 

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Motorists are guided by a maze of signs on Anna Maria Island. Elected officials on the island have discussed paid parking as a way to boost revenue. GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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BRADENTON BEACH -- Island officials picked apart the parking issue at a Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting Wednesday.

Inside Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., officials from the cities of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach discussed paid parking, an idea that has been the subject of much criticism. Representatives from Longboat Key were also present.

In the city of Anna Maria, nothing has been made concrete in terms of paid parking. Mayor SueLynn said the city is still discussing it and plans to ask the city attorney to devise a permit/paid parking ordinance for residential areas.

Bradenton Beach Mayor William Shearon said the city is still discussing the subject and brought up former Mayor Katie Pierola.

"She wanted me to bring up, that back in her day, there was talk of putting a toll booth at Coquina and Cortez Beach and there was a plan for it," Shearon said. "Basically you enter in at this street here and then it would be a one-way entrance in -- a quarter-mile or whatever it is. It might be an interesting option if we're going to pursue the parking issue."

When Holmes Beach was brought up, 73-year-old Carol Soustek, chairwoman of the Holmes Beach Island Congestion Committee, presented a "Proposal to Eliminate Street Parking in Holmes Beach Residential Areas." Mayor Carmel Monti was not present because he was out of town.

Soustek's presentation passionately laid out the idea introduced by member Jayne Christenson to prohibit street parking in certain residential zones in Holmes Beach. Issues include difficulty accessing driveways, public urination and trespassing.

"The volume has tripled of people coming to visit the island and we don't have any more space," she said. "We're the same space we were 10 years ago, 20 years ago, but we have multitudes of people -- so that's what's escalated this whole problem in the neighborhood."

The proposal will be brought up July 22 at the Holmes Beach City Commission work session, she said.

After the meeting, Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie said parking has been a problem in the past and will continue to be an issue for the island communities.

"There's only so many people you can fit out here on the island," he said. "The county administratives have basically said the cities need to tell the county what they want because we don't want to make any moves one way or the other because it's undecided."

Chappie said Manatee County will not tell the cities what to do.

"It's up to the cities. They know best what's in the best interests of their residents," he said. "They're the closest government to the people."

Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.

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