As Anna Maria Island focuses on 'authencity,' big duplexs threaten that charm

The Old Florida paradise that is Anna Maria Island will play host to an intriguing gathering next week entitled the Sustainable & Authentic Florida Conference. The subtitle reads: "An inquiry into its appeal to investors, innovators, visitors and residents."

The island, the historic fishing village of Cortez and other coastal locations will be showcased to demonstrate how Manatee County is a leader "in how locally resourceful places can help maintain the good life while responding to climate change and the waning of limitless consumption."

During the Oct. 17-19 event, various academics will present case studies of Manatee County and three other Florida places identified as examples of authenticity and sustainable development.

Yet Anna Maria Island's unique charm as a haven for low-rise residences and families is under siege by developers building gigantic duplexes to house large groups of vacationers -- some up to a dozen people in one side alone. Permanent residents complain about piled-up trash, after-hours noise and parking violations. The island appeal to investors comes at a high cost to residents.

This election season in Holmes Beach ranks as something of a referendum on new construction and building codes -- or big vacation rental properties versus quiet residential neighborhoods -- as voters select two commissioners and a mayor.

The island attracts visitors who return year after year once its charms cast their spell. That authenticity cannot be replaced once lost.

Tourism is a valuable industry here, and we hope islanders can find a balance between new construction and the city's quality of life. This is indeed a slice of authentic Florida that merits preserving.

For conference information, visit www.sustainableandauthenticflorida.com.

A new nature asset

Speaking of Holmes Beach, the city stands poised to dedicate the Grassy Point nature and kayak preserve on Oct. 18. The 32-acre park stretches down Sarasota Bay just south of Manatee Avenue and will feature a long nature trail and several picnic tables. A boardwalk and observation tower are in future plans. Talk about authentic Florida.