Vol 8 No. 18 - January 23, 2008


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Huge development under scrutiny in Cortez

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Limited bridge openings sought

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Cost of wind insurance increasing

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Bridge meeting draws little interest

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Another giant step for Pine Ave. project

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Custom golf cart and TV to be raffled at Center’s Affaire

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tax proposal on ballot Tuesday

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper What you don’t know is hazardous can hurt you




Huge development under scrutiny in Cortez

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Neighbors and Manatee County commissioners have serious reservations about Peninsula Bay, an ambitious development proposed to be built on 350 acres of Cortez farmland.

The Manatee Fruit Co. flower farm would be transformed into 1,123 residences, including 574 multi-family condominium homes in seven, five-story buildings and 12 three- to four-story buildings.

In addition, the plan contains 76 single-family homes, 261 single-family attached townhomes and 53 four-plex buildings containing 212 units.

The conceptual plan, which may be revised, also includes a restaurant, a 299-space dry boat storage facility, one public and one private boat ramp and a 120-slip private marina.
The site is between Cortez Road and Palma Sola Bay, west of San Remo Shores and east of Harbour Landings, and would wrap around Sagamore Estates and Sunny Shores mobile home park on three sides.

County Planning Manager Norm Luppino voiced concerns echoed by neighbors at a preview last week, primarily the five-story condo building height, which is taller than the highly criticized four-story Bradenton Boat Club dry dock under construction on nearby Cortez Road.

Other concerns include the proximity of the development to 400 homes in San Remo Shores, 70 in Sunny Shores, 200 in Sagamore Estates and 60 in Harbour Landings, and the proximity and size of the 300-foot-long boat storage facility.

The estimated impact on Cortez Road traffic and the environmental impact on .15 acres of wetlands along Palma Sola Bay have not yet been determined, Luppino said.

The development plan is designed to improve water quality in Palma Sola Bay, because an existing dead-end canal could be opened to create flushing between the bay and the Intracoastal Waterway, according to attorney Caleb Grimes, representing Manatee Fruit Co.

The company has owned the land since the 1940s, President Whiting Preston said, during which time it has donated property to the county, including property near the site, for a lift station and a fire department.

When the county identified its top two most desirable sites countywide for public boat ramps on Manatee Fruit Co. property, the company responded by incorporating a public boat ramp into the plans for Peninsula Bay, which has been in the works for three years.

"We understand the need for a boat ramp," Preston said. "The water is the biggest amenity we have in Manatee County. We’re planning around that boating facility."

The company sought the commission’s informal approval of the concept because of the high cost of a preliminary site plan, Grimes said. The commission informally approved the concept of one public and one private boat ramp on the site last year, when the plan was tweaked to include 75 spaces for boat trailers, 15 spaces for cars, dry boat storage, a small restaurant and a bait shop.

Two other prospective boat ramp sites nearby were turned down by the commission – Parrot Cove Marina in Sunny Shores, due to a $106,000 price tag for dredging the channel, and the Seafood Shack restaurant, due to opposition from the Cortez community citing traffic problems.

"We do need boat ramps," Commissioner Carol Whitmore said. But after experiencing the reflection from the metal roof of the new four-story Bradenton Boat Club while driving across the Cortez bridge recently, she has concerns about the proposed boat storage facility.

"Your dry dock is next to a mobile home park," she said. "That’s definitely not compatible with what’s next to it."

Commissioner Ron Getman agreed, calling the boat storage facility "overwhelming."

The five-story condo buildings also are too high, Whitmore said.

"The height is a deal breaker," Commissioner Joe McClash agreed, adding that the condos would be a visual blight for boaters.

"I don’t want to see some kind of a wall along the waterline" where mangroves now hug the shoreline, Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said.

"We’re designing this to save the mangroves, not to trim them, not to make them go away," Grimes said, adding that exotic trees, including a row of Australian pines bordering Sunny Shores, would be removed.

Commissioner Gwen Brown said she is concerned about increased traffic on Cortez Road, one of two hurricane evacuation routes for Anna Maria Island.

McClash noted the unusual configuration of the intersection at 119th Street and Cortez Road, saying, "It’s hard to justify an additional 1,000 homes surrounding a bad intersection."

The county does not need another ghost town development, suggested Commissioner Amy Stein, warning that the condominium market is weak and that the developer should do more market research before proceeding with the plans.

Limited bridge openings sought

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON – The four Island mayors have sent a letter to Coast Guard officials asking them to limit openings of the Cortez Bridge during the 45-day construction closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The Florida Department of Transportation plans to begin rehabilitating the Anna Maria Island Bridge in February. The project will include closing the bridge to all vehicle traffic for 45 days starting at the end of September.

Longboat Key Mayor Jeremy Whatmough reported to the Manatee County Council of Governments last week that the mayors asked that there be no bridge openings from 6 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., half-hour openings from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and openings on demand from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m.

"Did the Coast Guard accept your recommendation?" County Commission Chair Jane von Hahmann asked.

"Initially Mr. Lieberum seemed to accept what he verbally heard, but upon reflection he thought it would be more proper for the community to send him a recommendation," Whatmough replied.

According to Michael Howe, executive director of the Sarasota Manatee Metropolitan Planning Agency, Coast Guard officials are currently investigating the mayors’ request.

"They have been soliciting input from the contractor, the school district, the boating community and others and have been studying the bridge tender logs," Howe said. "They will evaluate all the information and draft a temporary rule in early February. They have advised me that if it does not take care of the congestion problem, they will take immediate action."

"The Island communities need to reach out to people that use the waterways, so people coming through our community don’t have a bad experience," County Commissioner Joe McClash stressed. "Waterways are as important as the Interstate to some people."

Whatmough said another issue is an anticipated increase in the number of vehicles traveling south on Gulf of Mexico Drive through Longboat Key, rather than east on Cortez Road.

Howe said the Longboat Pass Bridge opens on demand because of the strong currents in the pass and the Coast Guard is not planning on making any change to that schedule.

"The caveat is that if there’s an accident or problems at peak periods and Gulf Drive or Gulf of Mexico Drive backs up, they will immediately dispatch a cutter to close the channel to boat traffic," Howe said.

Mass transit option

"I would like our county administrator to look at mass transit for the closure," McClash said. "I don’t think it’s a far-fetched idea to look at some type of water taxi to give people the opportunity to park on either side.

"It is a disruption of people’s lives and I think DOT should help pay for it. We’re all going to have to suffer for this."

He said another option would be to use the Holmes Beach Yacht Basin.

Bradenton Beach Commissioner John Chappie reported that his commission has talked with an individual who is interested in providing a water taxi at the city pier and that he has talked with county transit officials about bringing the trolley down Bridge Street to the pier.

He noted there has been discussion about extending the northbound turn lane on Gulf Drive at Cortez Road. He said the city has been working on getting easements from private property owners.

"Hopefully, we can encourage DOT to come up with some funds to take care of that situation," Chappie offered.

On Thursday, Howe sent a letter to DOT officials asking them to study the issue, as well as making improvements to the southbound Gulf Drive stacking/turn lane.

School Board member Bob Gause pointed out that during the 45-day closure, boaters will have a difficult time using Kingfish Ramp and it will increase boat traffic to other county ramps.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she is concerned about the school buses during the closure and asked School Board members to "make sure your schedules will be adjusted accordingly."

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford agreed with Whitmore and noted, "The school representative at our ITPO (Island Transportation Planning Organization) meeting was very concerned about the schedule of buses coming on and off the Island."

She said there was no School Board member present at the ITPO meeting to endorse the mayors’ request for limited bridge openings. On Thursday, Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce, as chair of the ITPO, sent a letter to School Board Chair Barbara Harvey asking that members give their input to the Coast Guard regarding the Cortez Bridge opening schedule.

County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said that the DOT is still working on transportation alternatives for pubic safety and other services and he will report on those at future meetings.

Cost of wind insurance increasing

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Some Island businesses may see a 15 percent increase in their wind insurance premiums beginning Feb. 1, according to Citizens Insurance.

Citizens requested a 300 percent increase in commercial wind insurance rates in high risk areas, but the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved a 15 percent increase instead, spokesman Jonathon Kees said.

The office granted only a fraction of the requested increase because Citizens  should have been filing smaller requests for a number of years and failed to do so, he said.

The rate increase does not apply to residential wind rates, which are frozen, Kees said.

But some residential property owners will see premium increases anyway, for two reasons.

First, some policyholders may see premium increases due to surcharges or assessments, which are allowed to be imposed on both commercial and residential policies despite the freeze on residential wind rates, said Dilman Thomas, executive vice president of Oswald Trippe Insurance.

The Office of Insurance Regulation does not have jurisdiction to regulate surcharges or assessments, such as those that replenish hurricane catastrophe funds, Kees added.

In addition, residential condominium owners, especially on high-risk waterfront properties, also may see increases.

That’s because condo insurance policies are considered both commercial and residential, Kees said, meaning that they are commercial policies insuring residential units, and are only partly subject to the residential rate freeze.

While the interiors of condominiums are residential property, for which owners pay individual residential insurance premiums, the common areas are commercial property, for which owners pay commercial premiums through their monthly assessment fees. It is those commercial policies that are subject to the increase.

The premium increases are based on what Citizens maintains are increasing property values, Thomas said.

That infuriates Patrick McConnell of Holmes Beach, developer of Palm Gables condominiums.

"My bill came in for twice what I thought," he said. "I was stunned. The governor talks about suing insurance companies for not lowering rates, but the government’s own insurance company is raising rates."

McConnell disagrees that values are increasing, adding that not only have sales prices decreased, but construction prices also have come down since the rebuilding boom after the 2004-05 hurricanes, lowering replacement costs.

And even after applying mitigation credits, his bill is still higher, he said.

Improving the hurricane resistance of roofs, windows and doors – or mitigation – will not reduce wind insurance premiums as much as some consumers had hoped, Thomas said, since mitigation credits have been modified, reducing the credits in many cases.

"Even though people have spent thousands of dollars doing their homes, they may not see that much of a credit," he said.

For example, a single family homeowner’s insurance company may offer a 26 percent reduction on his wind storm premium for strapping down his roof and putting in hurricane resistant glass or storm shutters. If he only makes one improvement, such as spending $10,000 on shutters, he would receive a reduced savings, maybe 8-10 percent off of his premium, or a few hundred dollars, he said.

A rumor that Citizens will not renew policies on homes worth more than $750,000 unless they have hurricane windows or shutters is not true, he said, recommending that high-end single-family homeowners protect their homes with windows or shutters regardless of the amount of the mitigation credit, due to the value of the property.


Bridge meeting draws little interest

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A crowd of about 60 people, many of them elected officials and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) officials, attended the public meeting last Thursday on the upcoming Anna Maria Bridge rehabilitation. The communication was one-way, as FDOT engineer George Patton explained why they need to rebuild the bridge and information specialist Audrey Clarke talked about a new Web site for the project, www.amibridgerehab.com, but there was no question-and-answer period allowed from the audience.

The project is scheduled to begin Feb. 4 and the contractor, Quinn Construction, has 400 days to complete it. The bridge will be closed to traffic for up to 45 days, starting Sept. 29, while they fix the hydraulics in the moveable bascule part of the drawbridge. Traffic on and off the Island will be detoured to the Cortez Bridge during that time.

The U.S. Coast Guard is also considering a departure from its normal opening and closing schedule for the Cortez Bridge to minimize traffic congestion during the busiest times of day.

According to the Web site, "The work on this project includes repair and resurfacing of concrete decks, repair of railings, piles, seawall, rebalancing (the) span, cleaning and painting steel including lead abatement, renovation of control house, reconditioning of drive machinery, replacement of entire electrical power and control system."

The cost of the project is set at $9.14 million. Updates on the project can be obtained at a new FDOT website at www.amibridgerehab.com.

Following the meeting, Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said it appears there will be no need for further meetings because of the new Web site. Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce said the meeting, which is required by law, was informative.

"Too bad there wasn’t more participation from the public," he said. "I’m glad they brought up the Web site."

Former Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie was impressed with FDOT.

"I’m pleased to see FDOT is acting responsibly to the people and businesses of the Island," he said. "The key is to hold the closure to the (45 days) or less."



Another giant step for Pine Ave. project

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The Pine Avenue Restoration Project is good to go on the south side of Pine Avenue.

"We closed on the third property on the south side of Pine on Jan. 15," said Pine Avenue principal Michael Coleman. "We now have all the property we had originally envisioned for that side of the street."

Coleman and several partners are working on a project to turn Pine Avenue into a Gulf Coast Cracker destination of shops, offices and residences, which is in keeping with the city’s vision for that street.

Pine Avenue is in the residential/office/retail district of the city, which encourages the mixed use for the structures on that street.

Coleman closed on the two-lot property at 401 Pine Avenue last week. In December, he acquired the three lots at 503 Pine and the seven lots at 315 Pine.

"We may be looking at a couple more pieces on that side at this point, but things are in the very early stages," Coleman said.

The next step for the PAR Project is to work with the city to come up with a site plan that will meet all the needs of both the city’s existing codes and ordinances and the project itself.

"The ball is in the city’s court at this point," Coleman said. "But we aren’t envisioning any big road blocks. We have enough space for all the required parking on the properties."

Coleman said he expects there may be something drawn up sometime in the next 30-to-60 days.

There may, however, be a fly in the ointment. Coleman expressed concern that grew out of a discussion at this month’s planning and zoning board meeting.

"It seemed to me that (city planner) Alan Garrett interprets the existing codes as prohibiting the construction of single family residences in the ROR district on lots of 5,000 square feet or less," Coleman said.

Doug Copeland, chairman of the P&Z board agreed that Garrett seemed to be saying such construction is not consistent with city code, despite the fact that former Building Official Kevin Donohue and City Attorney Jim Dye had a different interpretation of the code, and allowed the construction of four residences on lots of 5,000 square feet or under at the site of the old Pine Avenue Marina.

"We’ll be looking at that again for sure," Copeland said. "That part of the code needs to be clarified."

The P&Z board is in the process of updating the city’s land use regulations to bring them into conformity with the newly revised comprehensive plan.

Coleman will continue to pursue his plans for the development of the south side of Pine Avenue while keeping a close eye on what develops with the land use regulations before making decisions about what to do with the lots he has under contract on the north side of Pine Avenue.


Custom golf cart and TV to be raffled at Center’s Affaire

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – If you’re in the market for a new golf cart or TV, now’s your chance to get one for a song.

Both will be raffled off at this year’s Affaire to Remember to be held on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Island Community Center, and you don’t need to be present to win.

The law firm of Lutz, Bobo and Telfair has donated a 50-inch Samsung plasma HD TV. Breiter Capital Management, with co-sponsor Golf Coast Golf Cars, of Sarasota, has donated a Fairplay custom golf cart that sports turn signals, lights, a windshield and custom rims and tires.

Tickets for the golf cart are one for $10 and five for $20. Tickets for the TV are one for $5, three for $10 or seven for $20. Tickets are available at the Center, 407 Magnolia Ave. or at Island businesses.

The event begins at 5 p.m. with the silent auction, champagne reception courtesy of Air and Energy Air Conditioning and Plumbing, open bar courtesy of Anna Maria Oyster Bars, and hors d’oeuvres courtesy of the Chiles Group of restaurants.

Dinner begins at 6:15 with dinner and dessert courtesy of Harry’s Continental Kitchens, salad and rolls courtesy of the Chiles Group of restaurants and wine courtesy of Premier Beverage.

While mingling, you can take a chance on winning the Pick of the Live Auction for a $100 ticket. Only 100 tickets will be sold at the event and you must be present to win.

The live auction kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with the drawing for the Pick of the Live Auction. The cash out begins at 9 p.m. An after party will feature the sounds of Shaman for your dancing pleasure.

Tickets to this sell-out event are $150 per person and are available from Center board members or at the Center.



Tax proposal on ballot Tuesday

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Voters have only a few days until Jan. 29 to decide what to do about the tax reform proposal on Florida’s presidential primary ballot.

The complex plan, with four separate components affecting business owners and homesteaded and non-homesteaded property owners, is not the kind of proposal that should be read for the first time in the voting booth.

To help explain the consequences of voting for the proposal, Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann held an informational meeting last week with some concrete examples of how voters might be affected.

The proposal creates a $25,000 tangible personal property exemption for business owners, eliminating the requirement for them to file tangible personal property tax returns on the value of office equipment, rental property furnishings and other business property, she said.

About 75 percent of local business owners have less than $25,000 in tangible personal property, she estimated, adding that they would save about $383 each.

For real estate investors and people who own second homes in Florida, the proposal would establish a 10 percent annual tax cap for non-homesteaded real property.

For homesteaded homeowners, the proposal would increase the Save Our Homes exemption from $25,000 to $50,000, saving about $192 a year based on local millage rates, she said.

It also would add portability to the Save Our Homes benefit, allowing property owners to transfer up to $500,000 of their Save Our Homes benefit to their next Florida homestead.
For example, homeowners downsizing from a $300,000 single family home to a $200,000 condo would wind up with a taxable value of $83,334 before the existing Save Our Homes $25,000 exemption and the additional $25,000 exemption in the proposal are deducted, leaving a total taxable value of $33,334, von Hahmann said.

Those who upgrade and sell a $200,000 property to buy a $300,000 property would wind up with a taxable value of $175,000, less the two $25,000 exemptions, for a total of $125,000, she said.

This part of the proposal is problematic because it is likely to be challenged as unconstitutional under federal law, she said, adding that local governments also could reduce the savings by raising their millage rates.

Voters attending the meeting suggested that the county should reduce its budget to lower taxes. Von Hahmann replied that commissioners will be doing just that as they examine all of the county’s 145 program budgets over the next 15 months.

Florida ranks 38th in the union in the amount of taxes paid, she said.


What you don’t know is hazardous can hurt you

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Most of us know about the obvious hazardous substances in our homes and garages like pesticides, latex and oil-based paint and fluorescent lights, but how about the not-so-obvious ones?

If you’re in a cleaning frenzy and ready to discard some old items and nearly used up substances, now’s the time to bring them to Saturday’s household hazardous waste and E-scrap collection sponsored by Manatee County. Here are a few household items that you may not know are considered hazardous waste when tossed.

Feeling green about buying those curly, compact fluorescent lights is a good thing, but they contain mercury.

Artists, crafts persons and hobbyists should watch out when discarding rubber cement thinner; photo chemicals containing selenium, sodium or potassium dichromate, ferricyanide or ferrocyanide; model airplane paint; and oils and acrylic paints containing the following pigments: antimony white; barium yellow; burnt umber; cadmium yellows, oranges and reds; chrome orange, yellow and green; cobalt violet; emerald or Paris green; flaked, mixed or lead white; lemon yellow; manganese blue and violet; molybdate orange; Naples yellow; thalo blues and greens; raw umber; Scheele’s green; strontium yellow; vermillion and zinc yellow.

If your child has an old chemistry set that’s been lying around the house for years, bring it on down and throw in the dead batteries from your smoke detector, remote and camera.

While cleaning up, bring in the old moth balls and flakes, rug cleaners and wood floor polish containing solvents, spot removers and dry cleaning solvents, furniture polish containing petroleum distillate and shoe dye.

Last but not least is the head lice shampoo containing lindane that’s lurking in the medicine cabinet.

The collection, which includes E-scrap, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26, at Coquina Beach Gulf side parking/access road. Special accommodations for handicapped persons can be arranged if requested in advance. Call Cari at 708-8561 for more information.


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