Vol 7 No. 30 - April 18, 2007

Community Center seeks cell tower

Anna Maria Island a bargain

Reward offered for summer jazz

Dock regulations on way to approval

Real estate agents to get second chance on signs

Homestead portability petition promoted

Senate tax reform plan a 'disappointment'

City pushes parking lot plan




Community Center seeks cell tower

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Community Center board members agreed to move forward with negotiations with Verizon for a cell tower on the site of their new building in Anna Maria.

"We were contacted by Verizon once the building started," board member Andy Price told the board. "Pierrette and I met with Verizon last week and they went through the facility and looked at it. I found out that we have the perfect location.

"They can put all the equipment on the roof where our air conditioning systems are now. They'll put the tower where we have a light pole, and it will still have our lights on it. The antennas will be internal, so it will be more pleasing to the community."

Price said the diameter of the tower's base, which would be on the ground at the corner of the concession stand dugout, would be 6 feet. The pole would be 120 feet tall and Verizon would strengthen the roof to hold the equipment. The Holmes Beach cell tower is 155 feet tall and the light poles at the Center are 40 feet tall.

"It's not a tower; it's a pole," Price said. "The only thing people will see is the pole. It's much smaller and less obtrusive than the one in Holmes Beach.

"It will add income to the Center to help us provide the programs that people want and need. It will be a benefit to the public and provide service to the people of Anna Maria. It's a win-win situation."

The board voted to provide building plans to Verizon's engineers.

According to the city's telecommunications ordinance, the applicant, Verizon, would meet with city staff prior to submitting an application for a personal wireless service facility (PWSF). The staff would inform the applicant of the application procedures in the ordinance.

Once the application is complete, staff would review it and assign it to one of three tiers. Each tier has its own set of review procedures. Tier One can be approved or denied by the staff or mayor. Tier Two requires a public hearing before the city commission, which approves or denies the application.

Tier Three has the most stringent requirements. It requires a public hearing before the planning and zoning board, which makes a recommendation to the city commission. The city commission then holds a public hearing on the application and approves or denies it.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said Verizon has not contacted the city yet.

Anna Maria Island a bargain

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

With lower room rates and more visitors than last winter, Anna Maria Island's busiest season proved a bargain for tourists and a boost for county tourism.

Meanwhile, accommodations in the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key hit an all-time high for average daily room rates on both islands.

Room rates were lower than last year for all three months of the first quarter on Anna Maria Island, and higher for all three months on Longboat Key, according to the latest statistics from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

January rates on Anna Maria Island averaged $150.90, down from $163.42 last year. February rates were $165.76, down from $176.63, and March rates were $176.10, down from $186.21.

On Longboat Key, rates averaged $156.18 in January, up from $151.95 last year, and $194.90 in February, up from $187.48 last year.

The average rate for March, $217.27, was up from $205.40 last year, and is an all-time high average room rate for both islands. Visitors to Anna Maria Island paid the Island's highest all-time room rates in March, 2006 at $186.21 a night.

Occupancy was up on Anna Maria Island during all three months of the quarter, with 30.4 percent of the rooms filled in January, up from 29.3 percent last year, 70 percent in February, up from 59.6 percent last year, and 84.7 percent in March, up from 77.3 percent last year, falling shy of the record high of 94.3 percent in March, 2005.

In the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, occupancy was up in January at 58.5 percent, up from 56.2 percent last year. Occupancy dipped to 65.1 percent in February, down from 71.5 percent last year, then rose in March to 85.5 percent, up from 80.2 percent last year.

Reward offered for summer jazz

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH - To transform Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key into "jazzy little islands," Manatee County is offering $1,000 to all restaurants and clubs in the county that feature live jazz during August.

The county's Tourist Development Council approved the idea on Monday to boost Jazz on the Islands, a tourism promotion aimed at attracting primarily German visitors to Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key during a traditionally slow season.

Tentative plans include outdoor performances at the two county beaches, on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, in the field at Holmes Beach City Hall and on the trolleys.

Businesses will be required to sign an affidavit that live jazz was featured at the venue at least four days a week, said Larry White, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Area middle and high school jazz bands will also be invited to participate in the month-long promotion, he said.

Council members also approved $7,600 for live radio broadcasts on JazzRadio Berlin, on the Internet at www.jazzradio.net. Half the funds are to be reimbursed by the state tourism agency. One hundred thousand dollars of county tourist tax revenue previously was approved for the promotion.

Advertisements have been broadcast on German television and radio since February, White said, and a Web site separate from the county's tourism site is advertising local accommodations, using the theme, "Time to take it down a notch and up a beat."

For more information, visit www.jazzontheislands.com.

Dock regulations on way to approval

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH - A year and a half in the making, the city's dock regulations are back in the water.

City planning consultant Bill Brisson outlined the main provisions in the ordinance to commissioners at their work session last week:

• Accessory mooring areas and docks must be associated with a principal use on an abutting lot, but grandfathering is allowed in eight specific waterways listed in the ordinance.

• The minimum mooring area is 10 feet.

• Docks in dead end canals have specific limitations and conditions. Dead end canals identified in the ordinance are between 56th and 58th streets, 58th and 59th streets, 65th and 66th streets, 66th and 67th streets, 67th and 68th streets, 69th and 70th streets 70th and 71st streets and 71st and 72nd streets.

• Exceptions to the locational requirements for mooring areas and docks can be made if adjoining property owners agree to spatial arrangements different that those required by the city, provided that certain conditions are met.

"These proposals would address the Lindhal/McCaleb dispute," Brisson said.
The Lindhal/McCaleb lawsuit involves the right to dock in the canal between 71st and 72nd streets. Steve and Sandy Lindhal, of 503 72nd St., filed the lawsuit in October 2003 against Mike and Melanie McCaleb, of 507 72nd Street, and the city. The city is involved because of a code enforcement decision involving setbacks in the canal.

Mike McCaleb told commissioners, "We think this is a good approach."

Brisson said the agreements between property owners should run with the land, but Mayor Rich Bohnenberger disagreed and said it should be between the two parties.

"It would be better if it did run with the land because a dock is an investment." City Attorney Patricia Petruff pointed out. "If two owners have agreed and they spend $10,000 or $20,000 to put in a joint dock and one party has to leave, you wouldn't want to lose that investment."

She suggested making the agreement effective for specific number of years. Commissioners agreed on 15 years.

The ordinance also includes limitations and conditions for existing mooring areas not associated with a principal use on a buildable lot. These are as follows:

• Mooring areas located in the Sunrise and T-end canals located between 72nd and 74th streets, 74th and 75thstreets, and 75th and 77th streets shall be governed by the provisions of ordinances 95-7 and 06-01.

• Existing mooring areas and docks located in certain waterways can continue and be replaced or rebuilt provided the conditions set forth in the ordinance are met. These waterways are 85th Street canal, Marina Court canal, 83rd Street canal, basin at the end of 77th Street canal, dead end canals between 71st and 72nd and 67th and 68th streets, basin between 68th and 69th streets and T-end canal between Coronet and Concord lanes.
The ordinance will have its first reading at the April 24 commission meeting.



Real estate agents to get second chance on signs

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH - Surprised that no real estate agents came to their work session on the new sign ordinance last week, commissioners will give them a second chance to comment at the April 24 work session.

Commissioners questioned city planner Bill Brisson about various provisions in the ordinance.

Chair Sandy Haas-Martens asked about a limitation on one real estate sign per yard and how it affects corner and waterfront yards.

"You are allowed two signs, but you can't have them in the same yard," Brisson replied.

Commissioner Pat Morton asked about Gulffront yards, and noted, "I see signs sitting out in the sand part of the beach."

"You can have a sign in your back yard but not on the state's or someone else's property," Brisson explained.

"What's happening is they're putting them there and enticing the folks that are just trying to walk the beach and what these visitors are seeing is an inundation of signs saying, 'For rent,'" Commissioner John Monetti commented.

Morton also asked about a limitation on one flag per residential property without a permit, and Brisson said commissioners could increase that number. They agreed on three.

The ordinance limits yard sale and open house directional signs to two, and Monetti said he thought three should be allowed. The others agreed.

Haas-Martens asked about attachments to real estate signs. Brisson said according to the ordinance, everything must be contained in 4 square feet. Commissioners agreed to change it to 6 square feet with a maximum of two attachments.

Homestead portability petition promoted

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

For voters who are dissatisfied with proposals by the Florida House, Senate and governor on homestead exemption portability, another alternative exists.

Manatee County Property Appraiser Charles Hackney, like appraisers in many other Florida counties, has posted a petition on his website to place portability on the next general election ballot in 2008 as a constitutional amendment.

The original Save Our Homes constitutional amendment was passed by Florida voters in 1992, capping the annual increase in the assessed value of homesteaded property at the lesser of 3 percent or the change in the Consumer Price Index from the previous year.

Under the current system, many homesteaded property owners are unable to relocate to a new residence because buying a replacement property triggers a new assessment and tax basis at current market value, which is typically higher than the value of the previous homestead.

According to Save Our Homes Portability Inc., which is heading the petition drive, the proposed amendment would allow homesteaded property owners to transfer the difference between the market value and the assessed value of the former homesteaded property to the newly-purchased homestead property, up to a maximum of $400,000.

The replacement home must be purchased in Florida within two years of the sale of the previous home.

The petition is available on the website of the Manatee County Property Appraiser at www.manateepao.com.


Senate tax reform plan a 'disappointment'

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

A new property tax plan proposed in the Florida Senate falls short of needed reforms, according to an Anna Maria Island-based tax reform group.

"We are disappointed," said Don Schroder, president of the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation (CART). "It doesn't go as deep as we wanted.”

Representatives from the group planned to travel to Tallahassee on Tuesday to lobby legislators for more reforms that would protect business owners and homeowners without homestead protection - primarily investors and snowbird owners of winter homes.

"All three Island cities are investor-oriented," Schroder said, with the majority of residential units owned by people who are not full-time residents. "For the cities to remain strong and viable, they (legislators) need to look at the needs of the majority of the taxpayers, and whether we like it or not, those happen to be non-residential owners."

Even for homesteaded property owners, the Senate plan doesn't go as far as the House plan, which would abolish property taxes on homesteaded property and raise the statewide sales tax to make up the difference.

In contrast, the Senate plan would double the existing $25,000 homestead exemption to $50,000, but only for first-time homebuyers and only for homes valued below $100,000.

The Senate plan also offers limited homestead exemption portability, allowing homeowners to apply Save Our Homes benefits only for the first year after purchasing a replacement home. After one year, property taxes would increase by 10 percent annually until reaching the level they would have been without the portability benefit, after which time the 3 percent cap would apply.

The plan includes a rollback of local property tax rates to 2005-06 levels with allowances for population and personal income growth after a one-year freeze. Beginning in 2008, local government revenues would be capped and increases would be limited to population and income growth beginning in 2009.

The plan also addresses business tax reform, adding a $25,000 exemption for taxes that business owners pay on equipment and office furniture.


City pushes parking lot plan

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH - While the county comes to grips with the near tragic gang-related shooting of three people at Coquina Beach on Easter Sunday, the mayor of this tourist town is working hard to implement a change.

Manatee County government staff members met with Mayor John Chappie in Bradenton Beach the day after the shooting. They toured the park and reviewed a plan to change the layout of the parking lot to make it more manageable by police and to put an end to cruising, which attracts gang members.

Manatee County Parks and Recreation staff began working on the plan following meetings over the winter with Chappie, Police Chief Sam Speciale and other department heads in Bradenton Beach. The plan would restrict ingress and egress to the parking lot and it would divide the lot into parking "pods." There would only be one way to get from one pod to another, which they feel would eliminate cruising.

Chappie continues to meet with the county officials and he said they are trying to finalize the plan.

"We'll hopefully be able to put the finishing touches on the plan before it goes to the county commission," he said Friday. "They're starting to put some numbers together and the commission is going to have to provide the funds to put it into action."

The county owns Coquina Beach and its parking lot and it pays Bradenton Beach to provide police patrols. Because of a gang shooting on March 28, police were alert to the possibility of a revenge shooting at Coquina on Easter. They had more than 40 officers from various departments visibly patrolling on Easter, but that didn't stop the two people they have in custody for the shooting.

The Bradenton Beach Police Department continues to investigate.


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