Vol 7 No. 17 - January 17, 2007


County to price pier, groin fixes

Embattled GSR requests extension

New officers for Community Center Board

2006: Record year for manatee deaths

Commission to get tough on pier maintenance

County approves Island renourishment project

Group gets landscape project update

Commission to set 30-day stay in R-1 district




County to price pier, groin fixes

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Manatee County Commissioners have voted to investigate fixing an ailing pier and at least one of three groins that are in disrepair along the Gulf coast of the Island.

Commissioners directed Conservation Lands Management Director Charlie Hunsicker to look into the matter. Hunsicker appeared before the commission last week after corroded reinforcement bar forced the closure of the Manatee County Beach pier in Holmes Beach.

A recent engineer’s inspection report said that the structure poses a hazard to people walking on top of it and those walking under it along the shore.

When County Commissioners Jane von Hahmann and Carol Whitmore found out about the need to repair the pier, von Hahmann asked if the county could also fix the three groins at Coquina Beach. That’s when Hunsicker scheduled it as an agenda item before the commission meeting last week.

Hunsicker said the groins were last repaired in the early 1980s at the county’s request, even though the state was not too sure they were necessary.

"The Department of Environmental Protection asked at one time that they be removed, but the county convinced the state that their functionality had to be preserved," Hunsicker said. "We tried to make one of them into a recreational facility, but now one of them has completely failed. Now we need to fix it, knowing that the other two could go out at any time."

Hunsicker said he would prefer that the county preserve at least the northernmost groin by placing a new deck over it, making it safe to walk on.

"I’m excited, because this needs to be done," von Hahmann said. "The Manatee County Beach Pier needs to be done and at least one of the groins needs to be done."

Von Hahmann said she and her husband questioned the county’s refurbishment of the groins back in the 1980s, saying it would not last.

Whitmore asked Hunsicker if the county would take the concrete tops off the other two groins, leaving the pilings and debris to act as erosion arresting structures, and he said yes. Whitmore said she would accept that.

The commission voted unanimously to have Hunsicker get prices on fixing the pier in Holmes Beach and at least the northernmost groin in Bradenton Beach.

Embattled GSR requests extension

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

GSR Development has requested a second extension of time to file its reorganization plan under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code, one day before the reorganization plan was due.

The Bradenton-based land development company, which failed to complete the Villa Rosa project in Anna Maria and the Rosa del Mar project in Bradenton Beach, filed bankruptcy last year.

Calling GSR "one of the largest landowners on the Island," the company’s Tampa attorney, Richard Prosser, requested another six weeks to allow the debtors’ restructuring manager, William Maloney, to complete a marketing plan to sell the property and pay off creditors.

The motion, filed Jan. 8, also requests more time to allow unsecured creditors an opportunity to review the marketing plan before it is filed with the court.

U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge K. Rodney May previously granted GSR an extension of time in December.

Meanwhile, lawsuits against GSR’s principals, Robert Byrne and Steve Noriega, continue to mount. Last month, they were named among four defendants sued by First Victoria National Bank for $456,577 in indebtedness on a private airplane. The other defendants are Edward Furfey and Esrair LLC.

Robert Bryne also was sued individually last month by Bayfront Holdings II LLC for approximately $1.5 million in loans secured by two properties in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.

Byrne owned the properties, but GSR Development claimed that corporate funds were used to develop them, which subjected them to the bankruptcy court proceeding and necessitated suing Byrne individually to protect Bayfront’s interests, according to Tampa attorney Richard McIntyre.

The sale of the property may not cover the loans, McIntyre said.

"At the time the loans were made, the real estate market was a lot hotter than it is now," he said.

New officers for Community Center Board

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

For the first time in 14 years, the Community Center Board of Directors has a new chairman.

Tom Breiter took over as chairman last week and one of his first official acts of business was to thank outgoing Chairman Andy Price for his 14 years of service. Center officials also presented Price with gifts.

Other new officers include Vice Chairman Scott Rudacille and Treasurer Bill Ford. Secretary John Horne continues in his position, as does Stewart Moon, chairman of the capital campaign.

The board also welcomed new members Carol Carter and Derek Pettigrew. Pettigrew is a fifth generation Manatee County resident and grew up on the Island. He graduated from University of Florida and is a sales associate with Duncan Real Estate. Carol Carter is sharing the board seat with her husband, Bob, and has a background in charitable gift fund raising.

Executive Director Pierrette Kelly reported that the Center has raised $1.3 million to meet the terms of the loan from Northern Trust. The grand total raised to date is $3,787,564, and the remainder of the $4.8 million needed for the new building is $1,037,436.

"I would not have committed to do this building without knowing that we’ll have revenue-generating centers in the new facility," Kelly said.

She said the culinary arts center will host local chefs presenting food programs and Meals on Wheels clients will be transported to the Center once or twice a week for meals. Other areas will be the gift shop and café.

Members voted to co-mingle the endowment trust fund with those of the Manatee and the Sarasota community foundations. Benefits include professional money management of the funds and a higher return on investments.

The members of the Center’s auditing firm, Kerking Barberio, reported to the board that 85 cents of every dollar raised by the Center goes back into the community.

Trudy Moon, chairman of the Affaire to Remember, gave board members their auction packets and said the event is set for Saturday, April 21, at St. Bernard Catholic Church activity center. Tickets are $150 per person and reservations are being taken at the Community Center office by calling 778-1908.

2006: Record year for manatee deaths

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

More manatees died in Florida waters last year than in any year on record, according to a preliminary report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The 416 manatees killed were one more than the worst previous year a decade ago, the report said.

Records from 1996 show 415 manatee deaths, 151 from red tide exposure, according to the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, which has tracked manatee mortality since 1974.

Preliminary findings suggest red tide may have been responsible for the deaths of 61 manatees in 2006. Watercraft claimed 86 manatees, the second highest number on record, according to the report.

Red tide and watercraft-related mortalities combined contributed to more than half of the deaths in 2006 in which scientists could determine a cause of death, up from 40 percent the year before. A cause of death could not be determined for 37 percent of the manatees.
Ten of the 2006 deaths occurred in Manatee County and 19 were in Sarasota County.

The record number of deaths could reflect increased mortality, manatee population growth or better detection of dead manatees, researchers say, adding that the population is stable or growing in most of the state, except in southwest Florida, where more than a third of Florida manatees are believed to live.

The report prompted FWC law enforcement officials to assign a special statewide manatee speed zone detail last weekend. Officers say that law-abiding boaters who hit manatees will not receive citations if they report such accidents, which helps establish the location of manatees.



Commission to get tough on pier maintenance

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Saying they don’t want to end up with city pier situation like they have in Bradenton Beach, commissioners in this city are looking into ways to ensure their pier is maintained.

"This is a major tourist attraction which creates revenues for the city and keeps us vital," said Commissioner Chris Tollette, who has been pushing to get a better handle on pier maintenance. "It’s a historical attraction much like Belle Haven, which we have so lovingly taken care of. We do not want to be in the same position as Bradenton Beach with a damaged pier, no tenant and no income for well over a year."

Tollette brought up the issue of pier maintenance at the city commission’s Jan.11 work session.

The city owns the pier. Under the terms of the lease the City Pier Restaurant has with the city, the tenant is responsible for maintenance. The term maintenance isn’t spelled out in the lease agreement.

"We can’t get them to do anything unless we get right in their face," Public Works Director George McKay told commissioners. "They don’t always fix things ASAP, but if it has to do with health, safety and welfare, they take care of it."

Because of the difficulty getting the tenants to maintain the pier, the city has been performing that work.

"I don’t think that’s the right way to do it," Tollette said. "Since the city owns the pier, we should be responsible for the maintenance of our property. Landlords are normally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the exterior of their properties."

Commissioner Duke Miller said he wouldn’t have too much problem with that.

"I don’t mind doing what you suggest, but we need to up the rent to do it," he said.

"That would require a renegotiation of the lease if the city would take over (the maintenance,)" noted City Attorney Jim Dye. "I’m not sure the tenant would be happy to renegotiate the maintenance agreement. They would dig in their heels."

Miller countered by saying that if the pier isn’t being maintained, then the tenants are in violation of the terms of the lease.

The mayor said she thinks the city needs to get more aggressive about requiring adequate maintenance of the pier.

"We’re not going after them aggressively and holding their feet to the fire," Mayor Fran Barford said. "I’d like to get together with Mr. Dye to find out what we can do. We are maintaining a lot of the pier and the pier is deteriorating."

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he agrees that something needs to be done, but he said he doubts that the tenant is going to agree to renegotiation of the lease.

"It’s not going to fly," he said. "I’d like to know what teeth we have in the lease. As far as not doing the maintenance, they’ve been doing as little as possible for as long as I can remember."

Dye said he’d review the terms of the lease, and the commission will discuss the situation at its February work session.

County approves Island renourishment project

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The county is taking the first steps toward renourishing the beaches at Coquina Beach on the southernmost portion of Anna Maria Island, a project that might also include Anna Maria beaches.

The Manatee County Commission has approved a Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant for $2,637,000, 50-percent of the engineering and construction costs for the renourishment project along Coquina Beach.

The project would start just south of where the first two renourishments in 1992 and 2002 ended at 13th Street South and at Longboat Pass. Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Director Charlie Hunsicker said the sand would come from a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sand dredging project.

"It’s tied in with the Corps of Engineers maintenance dredging project in the Intracoastal Waterway and in Longboat Pass," he said.

Manatee County has hired Coastal Planning and Engineering of Boca Raton to do the engineering for the project. Senior Vice President Rick Spadoni said the county would also try to get areas of beaches in Anna Maria nourished for the first time.

"What we need to do is identify how much sand will be needed in Coquina Beach and how much sand will be available from the Corps dredging," he said. "If there is enough, we’ll be in good shape, but if we need more, we might have to get sand from the barrow area we used in the last renourishment."

That renourishment was an emergency project paid for by the Corps. It was designed to build up beaches that had been previously renourished but had suffered erosion from the active hurricane season in 2004. The project was aborted after the contractor had problems with high waves in the barrow area.

Spadoni said if the county plays its cards right, it might save as much as $1 million in mobilization costs.

"The Corps will pay to set up the dredge for the project in the waterway and Longboat Pass, so we’ll save those expenses," he said. "If we can use the permit we used in 2005 for renourishing the beaches already done in Anna Maria, that project will pay for bringing the dredge into the area and setting it up."

Spadoni said he expects the projects to be done this summer, barring any delays. He said the Coquina Beach project would be under control of the Army Corps of Engineers, but the county would have control over the Anna Maria beach project.

Florida DEP Project Administrator Katherine Florco said there is no problem in qualifying for the grant for Coquina Beach, since it has an abundance of parking spaces. Under terms of federally-sponsored renourishment projects, the newly rebuilt beaches must be accessible to the public, and parking availability is a big consideration.

Hunsicker said the Coquina Beach renourishment could start as early as March, but that depends on whether or not the FDEP allows the placement of sand during sea turtle nesting season. If not, the project could begin in November, Hunsicker said.


Group gets landscape project update

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The newly hired programs and projects director is getting a crash course in what projects are on the agenda.

Former City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips was in attendance as Chris Piazza, the engineer contracted by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to oversee several beautification and improvement grants the city received, explained where those projects are.

Piazza spoke of four projects that are planned this year along Gulf Drive from Cortez Road north to the city limit. Two of the projects are for construction of sidewalks and the other two are for landscape.

Piazza brought plans showing all the improvements that the city’s Scenic Highway group had approved, sometimes on a piecemeal basis, over the past two to three years. Also present was Mitch McKnight, an engineer who is working with the city on improvement projects south of Cortez Road. He explained the city’s sidewalk project.

"We want to go as far as we can with the funds we have, but with a continuous project from one end of the city to the other on at least one side of Gulf Drive," McKnight told the group. "The intersections will meet the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and have handicapped ramps with some curbing at the side streets."

Piazza showed the plans for the sidewalk where it would go east at 22nd Street and then north on Avenue C and meet up with Gulf Drive again instead of traveling along the guardrail in the S curve there. The group asked if there was room for the sidewalk through the curve and he said it was too narrow and conditions there too dangerous.

Also present was Susan Kinney, a project manager for FDOT, who is overseeing a milling and paving project from the Cortez Bridge west to the intersection with Gulf Drive.

The city of Bradenton Beach has a knack for working with other agencies to get things done at little or no cost to the city. Manatee County Public Utilities has been installing new underground water pipes in the southern portion of the city and Bradenton Beach was able to work with the county to have it repave streets that it dug up after the city paid a contractor to take up the old asphalt. It was much less expensive than paying for the whole project.

In the case of the milling project on Cortez Road, which also includes installing a new mast arm to support the stoplight there, the city is trying to push the envelope to save money on improving the intersection.

Kinney said FDOT would mill and resurface from the west end of the bridge to the intersection, and that she is now trying to get the funds to include paving the intersection itself, since FDOT would have to dig portions of it up to install wiring for the new stoplight.

The city had also asked FDOT to wire a switch from the intersection to the bridge tender’s office, so that when the bridge is raised to automobile traffic, the left turn lane from southbound Gulf Drive to eastbound Cortez Road would turn red.

This would prevent cars from getting stuck in the intersection. Kinney said, however, that they could not afford to do that and would put a weight sensor in Cortez Road to tell the stoplight computer when eastbound traffic was backing up.

She said FDOT would refinish the sidewalks at the intersection to make them more accessible to the handicapped.

Piazza said that they would solicit bids on the projects in May and would choose a contractor within 90 days. He said the projects should be completed by late summer.



Commission to set 30-day stay in R-1 district

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH —Commissioners rejected a recommendation by planners to establish a 30-day minimum rental period in the R-1 and R-2 districts, but did agree to the minimum in the R-1 district.

The R-1 zoning district is primarily properties from 66th Street to the city limits east of Marina Drive. There are other pockets of R-1 in the north, central and south parts of the city.

"I don’t think we have a problem at this time with the rental situation, but we do have a serious problem with insurance and tax bills," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said during the discussion. "Some people could be in a situation where they need to have some type of ability to raise some money to pay their bills.

"They can’t even sell their homes because there’s absolutely no market out there. I think it’s the wrong time to consider this."

"I would point out that you don’t have a problem there now," planning consultant Bill Brisson said. "There are very few (rentals) there. You can stop it before it gets to be a problem."

Brisson said that property owners with existing licenses for seven-day rentals would be grandfathered. There is a seven-day minimum in the R-2, R-3 and R-4 districts, and a 30-day minimum in the R-1AA (Key Royale) district.

The residential rental limit was part of the revisions to the city’s land development code that planners worked on for a year. The rental issue was their most controversial recommendation and it prompted such a flurry of protest that planners held a special meeting to let people air their concerns.

Commissioners completed their review of planner’s recommendations last week and will hold public hearings on the suggested changes.


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