ANNA MARIA -- Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker denied recent reports the county ever had plans to charge for parking at Manatee Public Beach on Anna Maria Island.
"The board of county commissioners has never had a discussion about charging for parking at Manatee Beach, nor have it had any discussion about paid parking anywhere on the island or in any property that we own," he said at a special meeting Thursday in Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.
Hunzeker said misinformation had reached the media, then brought up a discussion county commissioners had several weeks ago with island police chiefs about what to do with out-of-town mullet fishermen who park overnight at boat ramps. The county administrator said they examined how other communities deal with the issue.
"What some communities do is they charge for parking at the boat ramps," Hunzeker said. "That's about as close as we got to a discussion of paying for parking. How that morphed into a discussion of charging for parking year-round at Manatee Beach I don't know, but those things happen."
Hunzeker assured Anna Maria commissioners county officials have no intention to install paid parking at any county properties in the near future.
Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker; and Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Manatee County Convention and Visitors Bureau, attended the meeting as did Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie.
Scarce parking and the quality-of-life strains it causes residents on Anna Maria Island has long been an issue. Island officials last picked apart the issue at Longboat Key Town Hall in late January.
Chairwoman Jaynie Christenson of the Holmes Beach Island Congestion Committee presented a draft during that meeting of a resident parking permit application for the city of Holmes Beach, which would give residents and property owners a spe
cial parking decal to park on streets and rights-of-way in the city unless otherwise restricted.
Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy expressed concern stickers would push people to park in Anna Maria. Bradenton Beach Mayor William Shearon also gave his 2 cents on the issue, saying all three cities have "wholly different parking issues."
Murphy said he asked Hunzeker to come by Thursday to clear up confusion about paid parking after reading about it in one of the island newspapers.
"He was right on target. He made no ifs, ands or buts about it," Murphy said. "He was perfectly clear and succinct saying 'not going to happen.'"
Anna Maria resident Ruth V. Uecker, 73, described the parking issue as confusing and complex.
"It's complicated because some people who live on the Gulf side -- on those streets that are going off of Gulf Drive that way -- they have more of a problem than we do in the interior, where I live," she said. "It's hard for us to say this is not a problem when we know people who do have a problem."
Anna Maria business owner and resident Jack Brennan, 58, said he doesn't have an issue with people parking on city right-of-ways in Anna Maria.
"Back 20 years ago, did we have tourists? Yes," Brennan said, adding his wife has lived on the island 66 years. "Today, I see a different kind of person coming to Anna Maria. ... They're not caring. They're much more selfish. They don't clean up after themselves. So, with that influx of a different type of mindset, now it's starting to upset me."
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. Follow her on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.