Home, Sweet Home Wooing Families to Anna Maria


SARASOTA, FLORIDA, April 15th, 2016 – An organization called AMI—Home, Sweet Home has taken several initiatives to help stem the decline of permanent residents in Anna Maria, a drop seen as a threat to the island’s Old Florida charm. In recent years, many old-time island residents have moved elsewhere, having been tempted by the top dollars that their homes commanded amongst investors on rental properties.

AMI—Home, Sweet Home is led by three lady commissioners from the island’s three cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. This group said its mission is to attract and welcome permanent residents as well as inspire current island residents to “love living here.”

Working groups have been mobilized within the organization, including volunteers to help publicize its objectives through traditional advertising and promotions as well as web-based tools like social media. Officials are also considering an online newspaper which would carry the organization’s focused message about Anna Maria homes for sale.

Marked Decline in Permanent Islanders

Home, Sweet Home Wooing Families to Anna Maria

Attracting younger families as island settlers is top on the wish list of Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter, who is spearheading this group along with Holmes Beach Commission vice chairwoman Jean Peelen and Bradenton Beach Commissioner Jane Robertson. To achieve this target, these officials are pinning their hopes on an increasing number of work-from-home young folks, which they believe is a segment with the potential to help arrest the recent drop in the island’s population.

The recent decline in Anna Maria’s permanent residents is quite significant. As of September 2015, the island had 4,809 registered voters, down 12.8 percent from the 5,512 count in March 2012. The property owners claiming homestead exemptions have also declined by 13.8 percent to 1,976 in 2015 from 2,293 in 1998.

Enrolment figures at Anna Maria Elementary, which serves both the island and the northern half of Longboat Key, likewise indicate Anna Maria’s need to attract younger families. This lone public school in the island, which is located in Holmes Beach, enrolled a total of 172 children from Anna Maria and Longboat in the current school year compared with the 209 enrolment during the 2007‒2008 school year.

In the same comparative timespan, schooling kids from the mainland has increased. Mainland kids accounted for 28 percent of the enrolment in Anna Maria Elementary in 2007‒2008, a share that rose to 37 percent kids by fall 2015.

Thrust in Plotting the Future

Besides younger families, Home Sweet Home is also targeting executives moving to Manatee County. Through this push to market Anna Maria as a place not just to visit but to live in permanently, its prime movers likewise want to bolster the local civic institutions and counter whatever negativity arises on various discussions about the island’s future.

Much of the conflict that surface in the island is on some real estate developments and vacation rental properties that many residents believe are detrimental to the island’s character, which in the first place, has made Anna Maria popular to tourists. Common residents’ gripe include the height and footprint of new rental homes, a complaint addressed by some regulations limiting the size of new rentals in some areas in relation to the size of the parcel on which they will be built.