Will Robinson considers bill to preempt Holmes Beach parking controls
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 1/5/23-Rep. Will Robinson, Jr., R-Bradenton, during the House Water Quality, Supply & Treatment Subcommittee, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Could Manatee County get to build a parking garage with or without city permission?

A yearslong fight over parking on Holmes Beach could threaten the authority the city holds on the island.

Rep. Will Robinson said he’s crafting legislation that would preempt the municipality’s ability to regulate a parking garage.

“I’m still working on the bill,” the Bradenton Republican said, “but it would allow the county, without approval from Holmes Beach, to build a garage, and Manatee County could issue that permit itself.”

The county and the island city have wrestled for almost three years about access to publicly owned beaches on the barrier islands. Near the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Manatee County closed down its beaches except to island residents, and subsequently city officials in Holmes Beach limited access to around 2,000 beach access parking spaces. The city eliminated parking even after the county reopened the beaches to visitors after less than two months.

In June of 2020, the city decided to simply eliminate 1,100 parking spaces. That prompted a letter at the time from Robinson and then-Senate President Bill Galvano, also a Manatee County Republican, asking for reconsideration of the decision.

But despite years of negotiation, Robinson said the city has continued to limit access to the beach.

Meanwhile, Manatee County officials have said this compromises an important public asset owned and maintained by the county.

“The city of Holmes Beach is neglecting this duty: under the guise of safety, its officials are withholding public beach parking spaces and restricting on-street parking for visitors,” wrote Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge in a 2021 op-ed published in the Herald-Tribune.

The Manatee County Legislative Delegation last year also sent a follow-up letter to Holmes Beach calling for parking to be restored. “Manatee County residents and visitors should not be turned away from our beaches, due to parking restrictions,” the letter read.

More recently, the county delegation has discussed a bill that would dramatically change governance on the island completely, potentially looking at consolidating three municipal governments on Anna Maria Island.

Robinson said he’s in no rush to push that concept, and it would need to wait for a study by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability to be completed. “There is not going to be a local bill filed this legislative session on consolidation,” he said.

But he said he was discouraged when he had a seemingly productive meeting with city leaders in the summer, only to see that followed shortly after by a city decision to disallow parking garages in Holmes Beach.

As things stand, the county-owned beach now remains accessible essentially only to those who live in Holmes Beach or can pay for a short-term vacation rental there, he said.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Thomas Reynolds

    February 6, 2023 at 7:38 am

    This article is incorrect in stating the public beach has no access unless you have a permit or a Holmes beach resident. Very inaccurate. There are many hundreds of public parking available to anyone. Not sure how such inaccurate information is getting published.

  • Laurel

    February 6, 2023 at 1:25 pm

    PLEASE fact check before believing the misinformation our elected officials seem to be pushing. We have over 1200 well informed people protesting this government overreach, as well as the studies and parking ordinances developed as far back as 2105 over in our Facebook Group, where we fact check EVERYTHING before sharing misleading information.

  • Nancy R. Deal

    February 6, 2023 at 5:13 pm

    Please fact check. HB did not close down the beaches. The county closed the county parking lots, driving even more beach goers onto residential streets. HB did not remove “beach” parking. It restricted parking on city-owned, city-maintained, residential streets where historically there have been safety and health issues.

    Blame developers, tourism industry for bringing too many people from all over the world to compete with Manatee residents for parking.

  • Charlene

    February 6, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    “As things stand, the county-owned beach now remains accessible essentially only to those who live in Holmes Beach or can pay for a short-term vacation rental there, he said.”

    This is deeply untrue. There are hundreds of parking spaces available to the general public. This article does not capture the complexity of the issues with parking, and beach access and feels like propaganda for Robinson and the County Commissioners. I also find it curious that the reporting only asks questions of one side. You didn’t even really need to ask, you could have linked to Mayor Titsworth’s various writings and other articles written about it locally.

    The problem with parking on the entire island, and not just Holmes Beach, is that the beaches are rather small and they fill up quickly. And each time the county rubber stamps a new development with hundreds or thousands of homes, each one of those will dwarf the amount of available parking that they are grousing about. Lake Flores, which is about to be built, and approved years ago, will have up to 6,500 residences. Multiply that by at least 2 for the number of cars that will be on the roads and trying to get to the beach during the summer. It dwarfs the new parking at Coquina Beach and /every other beach/ on the island. So we don’t have enough parking? Now you see why.

    Manatee County is growing at a rate that is not sustainable for the small beaches that are here, and neither Robinson nor the BOCC want to deal with that reality.

  • Terry Schaefer

    February 7, 2023 at 9:41 am

    Please, in the future get your facts straight prior to publishing an article concerning pre-emption of Home Rule. Holmes Beach welcomes visitors as evidenced by the accommodating business and housing availabilities. The County Commission and now the County Delegation refuse to acknowledge that their excessive promotion of Anna Maria has resulted in traffic and congestion well beyond our infrastructure’s capability to accommodate safely. The issue is TRAFFIC, not PARKING. Holmes Beach provides more parking than the inter local agreements with the County and State of Florida require. In addition, the County has failed to offer options such as off island parking lots or garages with shuttle service to the public beach. In addition, the County failed to pursue available property in Holmes Beach suitable for parking lots referred to the Chairman by Mayor Titsworth. A parking lot will not accommodate the demand placed by 30-40,000 vehicles circulating H.B. on many days and represents the County’s short term solution to a long term challenge. I hope the legislature realizes this overstep of authority deserves a reasoned approach to solution, as continued growth will increase the intensity of traffic that a garage will never solve. If Representative Robinson’s pursuit succeeds, Home Rule throughout the state will be in jeopardy.

  • ChrisAnn

    February 7, 2023 at 11:16 am

    With the exception of two large county-maintained lots, the vast majority of beach parking on the island is in residential areas. Holmes Beach, as the largest city in the center of the island, bears the brunt of this load, affecting the quality of life for the people who live (and vacation) there. FACT- The city has provided more than 100 additional parking spots than the required number of spaces to maintain beach renourishment funding. FACT- Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge publicly commented in a BOCC meeting that renourishment funding could be withheld due to Holmes Beach’s move to restrict some parking; a statement which could be considered extortion.
    The reality is that the county benefits by using the island – as the treasure pot of Manatee County – to draw more people here. They want free reign over AMI without thinking of the ultimate cost- the destruction of the island’s unique character; the element that brings people here in the first place, as well as the potential devastation to the shoreline and marine environment as a result of negligent over-crowding. Additionally, what about Home Rule? Operating from the people up, not the government down. This sentiment did not issue from the people the live on (or near) AMI. It came from the bigger government that has it’s own financial interests at stake, not those of the island and its people.

  • William Allen

    February 7, 2023 at 12:35 pm

    Wow, some serious fact checking needs to be done. The publisher may want to apply a “for entertainment only” tag to this article. Just remember, guilty or not several serving county commissioners have been involved in scandals recently – some made national news They’re making us look bad as a county – and these are the people calling the shots. They behave more like internet trolls tan elected officials.

    • ChrisAnn

      February 7, 2023 at 12:37 pm

      Very true!!!!!

  • William Allen

    February 7, 2023 at 12:44 pm

    I’m also unsure why the county doesn’t take the hit and buy land on the island for parking. Yes, it would be expensive. But realistically the island cities would be earning that money for the county anyhow. Look around, there isn’t much for tourists in Manatee County that isn’t on the island. In my humble opinion, that is much better than attacking a community, in effect choking the golden goose.

  • Barbara Quinn

    February 7, 2023 at 1:09 pm

    Wow! Parking being inaccessible to most people is so untrue !! People park at the county beaches and throughout the neighborhoods in designated areas. The island is small and can’t take all the traffic caused by overdevelopment. It’s not about a parking garage as that won’t solve the problem and will have severe environmental repercussions. Theres an entire lifestyle at stake for people and the ecosystem. Please research!

Comments are closed.


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