Holmes Beach hopes to block Manatee County's proposed 3-story parking garage

Nearly every day, more than 20,000 drivers make their way onto Anna Maria Island, but the city of Holmes Beach is at-odds with Manatee County over a three-story parking garage proposal, which the county says would help alleviate parking and traffic at the public beach.

It started in 2020 when the city cut residential street parking from 2,400 to 1,300, after getting complaints from residents about beach visitors trashing their yards, home and pools. 

County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge said they've tried to come up with other solutions, but the city keeps turning them down. 

"We are trying to find places to park people that are not in the neighborhoods. We tried to a do a water taxi," Ostenbridge explained.

Holmes Beach officials say the county is now withholding money for city improvements that's collected through a bed tax.

"I, like most elected officials, I think am uncomfortable allocating countywide tax dollars to a small city that is unwelcoming to the residents of the rest of the county," said Van Ostenbridge.

Holmes Beach City Commissioner Terry Schaefer said they do welcome guests and are only asking for a long-term fix, with improvements to infrastructure.

"It's not a way to try to find compromise by being strong-armed," he said.

Commissioner Schaefer and others are in favor of a parking garage, but they want it on the mainland near 75th Street, with a dedicated trolley lane to take those who park in the garage to the island. 

He believes a parking garage at the public beach would not solve the long-term problem of "excessive volume."

In a statement, Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth said commissioners aim to preserve the way of life on Holmes Beach for residents and guests.

"The loss of home rule and the neighboring cities' inability to regulate the influx in resort housing has greatly attributed to the county residents becoming casualties to available parking. No amount of parking will ever address the thousands of people wanting to get to this stretch of sand," the statement said.

Holmes Beach City Commission will discuss banning the parking garage on July 20.