ANNA MARIA ISLAND -- As 2014 winds down, many on Anna Maria Island are preparing for what's to come in the new year. Below is a summary of key points keeping people buzzing on the island:
An islandwide study will be conducted in February by experts from the Urban Land Institute, an independent global nonprofit specialist in land-use and real estate development issues.
Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson said he's looking forward to the study.
"I think it's a real key study because the real theme of the effort is 'How do we keep our old Florida family oriented beach community lifestyle here given all the other pressures that exist?'" he said.
The study will guide island officials on key issues, including maintaining balance between residential and short-term rentals, how to gain full-time and seasonal residents and what to do about traffic flow issues and connections to the mainland.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy shared what's in store for the city's Gulf Front Park and City Pier Park.
"I'm looking forward to having those two parks being created for our residents to enjoy this year," he said.
An action plan is in place to clear Gulf Front Park and replant native plants in it between Magnolia Avenue and Oak Avenue.
"We're not going to cut down the Australian pine, contrary to rumors," Murphy said.
With regard to City Pier at the end of Pine Avenue, Murphy said a park committee just formed is expected to OK members Jan. 8, then hold its first meeting to discuss the park's future.
Though already open in Bradenton Beach, the park dedicated to Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie is undergoing enhancements. Officials broke ground in August on the uneven patch of land at 1400 Gulf Drive North park.
"I think we have a meeting here during the first week of January where we're coming up with a new plan for Chappie Park on what we're doing to do," said Bradenton Beach Mayor William Shearon, with regard to park vegetation.
Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, said the park will be an educational tool for the public about sea turtles.
In March, Mainsail Lodging and Development of Tampa will break ground on a waterside boutique hotel named Waterline. Initially opposed by neighboring residents and business owners, it will be a four-building, 37-unit luxury hotel around an existing 50-slip marina at 5325 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach. Projected to cost $20 million, construction is scheduled to be done by summer 2016.
There's an event being planned by the woman behind Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust Community Connections group aimed at preserving the sense of community on the island.
"The Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust is going to sponsor a Valentine's Day evening soiree at the Anna Maria Island Community Center with an eight-piece swing band," said Sissy Quinn.
Details are still in the works, but Quinn said the center fundraiser will be open to non-members on a first-come, first-serve basis.
"I am so excited (about 2015). I really am," Quinn said. "We weeded out the people that just went into (the group) to see what it was about. ... We're down to the real nitty-gritty of people who really enjoy spending time together. We have really moved into a wonderful space and people are talking about it."
The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus & Orchestra recently announced its coming Gulf Drive Band music events featuring special guest Koko Ray. Jazz Fest is scheduled Feb. 12 and Oldies Beach Dance is March 12 at the Sandbar Pavilion, 100 Spring St., Anna Maria. Both are fundraisers, according to AMICCO Executive Director Jeanie Pickwick.
AMICCO will also stage two shows -- "Afternoon with Amadeus" and "An Adventure with Gilbert & Sullivan" -- at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road, Bradenton, at 2 p.m. Feb. 22 and March 22, respectively. The organization moved the shows off Anna Maria Island because of the heavy traffic it generates.
"We feel optimistic. We're doing well with our grants and donations and contributions and everything," Pickwick said. "We're just hoping when we do have these two concerts off the island, that we'll have good attendance. I like to think that we're helping to alleviate traffic on Sundays. We are very optimistic that this is something that we need to do to get ourselves out there a little bit and to bring our mission to the county."
The future is bright for the Anna Maria Island Community Center, according to new Executive Director Cindy Thompson, who was hired to lead the once financially troubled organization after Dawn Stiles resigned in October for personal reasons.
"We have instituted significant financial controls on our budget, and we have restructured the business plan for the center, and it will improve our annual revenue stream," Thompson said.
The center's major events in 2015 include a Valentine's Day dance, a St. Patrick's Day celebration and "An Affair to Remember," an annual black-tie fundraiser April 18.
Thompson said the center will also upgrade its fitness room.
"I'm very excited," Thompson said. "I feel like this is an extremely exciting time for the center. We've recovered from our crisis and we're moving forward."
In Bradenton Beach, the Historic Bridge Street Pier will reopen after months of reconstruction.
"We're really excited," said Bradenton Beach Mayor William Shearon. "We're right on schedule with that, which will be mid-January."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.