ANNA MARIA ISLAND — The City of Bradenton will be included in the Anna Maria Island consolidation study being conducted as a result of legislation filed in this year's session by Rep. Will Robinson (R-Bradenton). Robinson recently confirmed that consolidating the three island cities with Bradenton is one of the options being examined at the state level.
The study was proposed at the same time that Robinson filed legislation that ultimately allowed the county to permit its own parking garage in the City of Holmes Beach, after Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge engaged in a feud with city officials over public parking, despite the city having the most public spaces of the island municipalities.
Holmes Beach Mayor Titsworth reached out to The Bradenton Times last week to inform us that she understood a consolidation with Bradenton was being considered, but we were unable to confirm that the option was being studied until Rep. Robinson issued a statement to the AMI Sun.
Robinson told the Sun that the options being considered include no consolidation or annexation, consolidating the Anna Maria Island cities into one Island city, or annexing the island cities into unincorporated Manatee County. Robinson sent the Sun a lengthy follow-up statement, that criticized Holmes Beach's public parking and stated concerns over the full-time city population and whether even raising enough potential candidates for public office in the three cities would be feasible in the future.
On Nov. 9, Titsworth posted a statement on the city of Holmes Beach’s Facebook page.
"The biggest concern I have with this study is that neither the residents nor city officials asked for it," wrote Titsworth in a four-page statement. "They were not consulted about the development of the scope and remain unaware of the motivations behind this emboldened act of the Legislature. It is my understanding that we are the only coastal cities in Florida being threatened by consolidation, though we may not be the last as there have been more than 80 bills passed by the state Legislature in recent years that have greatly diluted home rule...
"It is unclear what the path forward looks like if state leaders move to consolidate, especially when it is an act not supported by the cities and citizens which are directly impacted. Is a referendum by the people even necessary when the decision is made at the state level? Is the governor tasked to appoint a board to write a new charter, zoning districts, comprehensive plan and land development codes? Is a new charter even needed, or will one city absorb the others; and if so, which city? Will the new board respect current density and height restrictions? If there is a new charter, are the grandfathered minimum length of stay restrictions for resort housing to be preserved or will they be removed, turning neighborhoods into motels?"
At stake is around $6 billion in combined taxable property value within the three cities. Partly because of the much higher values of island property, the cities also have some of the lowest millage rates in the county. Both unincorporated Manatee County and the City of Bradenton have millage rates that are more than double that of the island cities, which could have a significant impact on island property owners.