Anna Maria residents fear resort will change small-town atmosphere

A new resort has longtime residents worried their hometown will change.

Anna Maria Island is where people go to escape the theme parks, sprawling cities and traffic that's become Florida.

Joseph Klein has lived here for more than 20 years.

"When I first moved here, it was like Margaritaville," he says.

 So when the island's very first full service resort hotel broke ground across the street, he and many others weren't too happy.

"I would prefer it wasn't here," Klein said about the Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club. "You could walk out here and see sailboats coming out.

The resort's general manager said she understands their concerns.

"People are afraid," Sandy Zinck said. "They love this island so much, they're so passionate about it. "

Now just a month away from the resort's opening, she hopes locals will begin to realize how special and unique the property really is.

People thought, "Oh my gosh, they're going to build this monstrosity.  It's going to be flashing light, Vegas style, it's going to be terrible and it's going to ruin our island. We don't believe in any of that."

In fact, the hotel only has 37 rooms. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in service and amenities.

The two-bedroom suites will be equipped with a full gourmet kitchen and will start at around $250 a night, getting all the way up to $600 during peak season.

"I think there are people specifically looking for this product," Zinck said.

And it's not just the beach attracting guests. Fishing is also a big draw. The resort has a marina, so guests can unload their bags at the dock and check straight into the room."

The hotel is scheduled to open Aug. 16 and employ about 60 people. Most have been hired, but there still have a few housekeeping and restaurant staff positions open.

The resort is locally owned but will be part of the Marriott's Autograph Collection of high-end resorts.

And while there are still those who are reluctant to see change, many are starting to realize some of the positive impacts this resort might bring.

"Its changing," said Klein. "I think it will be a good hotel. They didn't build it too tall."

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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