Petition initiative adds to Pine Avenue parking debate

ANNA MARIA — A committee of residents is circulating a petition to require businesses on Pine Avenue to have parking lots on their property.

At the same time, the Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing a parking plan for the main commercial street in this mostly residential community.

The two actions illustrate the division among residents over the redevelopment of Pine Avenue.

Michael Coleman and Ed Chiles have been building retail storefronts with residential or office space above on several lots they purchased along the two-lane, half-mile stretch that connects the Gulf of Mexico with the City Pier on Tampa Bay.

Since being elected in November, Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus has questioned at several meetings the safety of allowing businesses to have parking spaces that require vehicles to back out across sidewalks.

“This is just another effort from Commissioner Stoltzfus to get his campaign chairman to create another unworkable parking plan,” Coleman said of the petition drive. “Their only purpose is to stop businesses in the business district.”

Anna DeAugustine filed papers with the City Clerk’s office July 1 that provided the language for a ballot to change land development regulations if the petition drive collects 204 certified signatures.

“Existing land development regulation in Anna Maria require parking needs generated by new development to be satisfied on-site,” the ballot summary would read. “The public parking options recently proposed eliminate the on-site requirement and instead place the burden on the City for providing parking.

“We the undersigned, do not want City taxes, or the City rights-of-way used to create parking,” the summary continued. “We ask the following be adopted to minimize spillover parking into residential areas,” and the revised language to the city ordinance is presented.

The new ordinance language would require developed lots to have a least one driveway, disallow parking on the public right-of-way for new development and require vehicles re-entering the street from a business to do so in a forward motion.

DeAugustine could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

According to a press release from Judith Chable, the committee of citizens filed the ballot initiative petition “seeking to uphold land development regulations which will impact parking on Pine Avenue and neighboring side streets.”

The committee felt the “legislative process ... was not addressing the interests of the majority,” according to the press release.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is working on a parking scheme that would move the sidewalks closer to the buildings away from the street and permit either diagonal or parallel parking on the street.

Mayor Fran Barford said the petition language was somewhat misleading.

The city was not giving away city land or using taxpayer funds to provide parking for businesses, she said.

“I’m all for citizen initiatives,” Barford said. “I think it’s a wonderful democratic process.

“But this one is coming during a huge emotional atmosphere,” she said.

“We need to come together and develop a sensible plan for parking on Pine Avenue.”

Carl Mario Nudi, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7027.