The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 41 - July 14, 2010


Stoltzfus served with recall papers

ANNA MARIA — City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus was officially served with the formal paperwork for recall on Friday, July 9, giving him five days to decide whether to resign or submit to a recall election.

According to state statute, the city clerk must serve the elected official to be recalled immediately upon receiving notice of the certification of the signatures on the recall petitions by the Supervisor of Elections.

Stoltzfus accepted service of the notice at his Lancaster, Penn., home.

Exactly when the five days are up is in question.

The clock on the five days during which Stoltzfus could choose to resign officially began running on Monday, July 12, according to the city’s calculations.

However, Stoltzfus’ attorney, Richard Harrison, disagreed with that calculation.

According to him, the clock on the five days officially began running on Friday, July 9.

That date is important because it determines the time frame for setting the recall election, if there is one.

“I find nothing in the statutes to indicate that this five-day period is anything other than calendar days, so the five day resignation window would start on July 10 and end on July 14,” Harrison wrote in an e-mail to attorneys and to Bob Carter, the chairman of the Recall Stoltzfus Committee. “The commissioner has five days after that notification from Ms Baird within which to resign voluntarily (which he does not intend to do).”

State statute dictates the recall must be held not less than 30 days or more than 60 days after the five day period.

Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat said in a communication with the city that the proper day for the recall election is Sept. 21.

Rebecca O’Dell, the attorney for the recall committee, disputes that date, saying it’s outside of the mandated time frame for the recall election.

Harrison agrees.

“By my calculation, that time starts on the day after the expiration of the five-day period, i.e. July 15. Thus, the recall election must be held not sooner than August 13 (the 30th day) and not later than Sept. 12 (the 60th day.)

Officially, the task of setting the date falls to the chief judge, which in the Stoltzfus recall election case is Judge Lee Haworth, Chief of the 12th Judicial Circuit.

There also remains a legal challenge to the sufficiency of the recall that was filed shortly after the first set of signatures was certified. In that case, Harrison requested an accelerated hearing. That request was denied in an order from Judge Edward Nicholas, who ruled that the proper time to challenge the sufficiency of the recall petition was after the final certification and before the recall election, if one were to be held.

Harrison appealed that ruling to the district court, where it was again denied.

Harrison noted in his letter to Carter and Baird’s attorney that he planned to serve an amended complaint against the recall petition and a renewed motion for accelerated hearing on Judge Edward Nicholas on Monday, July 12, asking for him to do a prompt review and set a hearing.

No date for the hearing had been set as of Monday.

Oil strategies for tourism industry eyed

HOLMES BEACH – The new Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau director urged tourism operators last week to keep beating the drum with the message that the beaches are clean and Anna Maria Island is open for business.

With $79,000 in lost revenue and 422 lost room nights reported to the bureau by the local tourism industry since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20,

Manatee County has requested $600,000 from BP to repay losses, CVB Executive Director Elliott Falcione said at a tourism industry meeting at Holmes Beach City Hall.

Some of the funds would pay for a live Web cam on a lifeguard stand at Coquina Beach, where it can swivel from the Gulf of Mexico to the Intracoastal Waterway to show prospective visitors that the Island is surrounded by clean water, he said.

Meanwhile, the clean beach/clean water message on the bureau’s Web site should be on every tourism business Web site, along with links to existing live Web cams showing the beach, he said, adding, “We’ve got to work together.”

Tourism operators also should use e-mail blasts and social networking sites to spread the word, and consider relaxing their cancellation policies, he suggested.

For example, a “book with confidence” guarantee is being offered at several Pinellas County properties, he said. If oil hits a beach where visitors are booked, they get the first night free. On the Orbitz and Travelocity Web sites, tourists get full refunds if any beach within 20 miles of their lodgings is closed by the government due to oil, he said.

The bureau is reaching out to a variety of prospective visitors, from United Kingdom tourists who fear that Floridians resent them for British Petroleum’s oil spill to 19 AAA offices in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee to German tourism officials, a joint venture with Sarasota County’s visitors bureau that will invite Condor Airlines to provide service to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Tourism operators should tell visitors about beautiful sunsets and recreational opportunities, rather than focus on the beaches being open because that raises questions in the minds of visitors, Bradenton Beach hotelier and Tourist Development Council member Barbara Rodocker suggested.

Operators should keep track of lost revenue and report it to the CVB for future payments from BP, Falcione said.

The next meeting is July 28 at 3 p.m. at Holmes Beach City Hall.

Feds: Odds favor oil missing AMI

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
A computer model shows that oil or tar balls from the Deepwater Horizon
have a 1-20 percent probability of reaching Anna Maria Island.

Tourism operators have a new tool to use to answer questions about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill’s potential impact on Anna Maria Island.

A computer model map showing the probability of the oil’s path shows the Island has a 1-20 percent chance of being directly hit by oil or tar balls, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA cannot pinpoint what percentage applies to the Island, spokeswoman Rachel Wilhelm said, but the Island’s location on the map lies at the border of the “below 1 percent” zone and the “1-20 percent” zone.

The shifting loop current, expected to keep oil away from the Island, and other weather factors during hurricane season could redirect the oil, she said.

Answering inquiries from prospective visitors about the oil’s chances of reaching the beaches is tricky, said Ken Gerry, of the White Sands Beach Resort in Holmes Beach.

Telling visitors about a 2 percent chance of oil hitting the beach won’t cause most people to cancel their reservations, while mentioning a 20 percent chance is “playing Russian roulette,” he said. “But saying ‘I don’t know’ is worse than saying, ‘there’s a 20 percent chance.’ ”

Zones were established using historic wind and ocean current data and are based on oil being released for 90 days (through late July) at a rate of 33,000 barrels a day. The model will be updated as conditions change.

The model shows the Florida Keys and southeast Florida at the highest risk of all Florida beaches, with a 61 to 80 percent chance of oil making landfall.

Money for wildlife stolen

BRADENTON BEACH – A donation jar containing an estimated $70 to $100 dollars was stolen last week from Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation in Bradenton Beach.

The wildlife sanctuary at the home of Ed and Gail Straight is often visited by members of the public, and the thief may have seen the jar when delivering an injured animal, Gail Straight said, adding that the money intended to feed wildlife was probably used to feed a drug habit.

“These are injured and orphaned birds and mammals that need to be fed,” she said. “The money that was stolen was to pay for their food and their medications.”

The not-for-profit wildlife sanctuary is affiliated with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, which has been designated by BP to coordinate the Deepwater Horizon oiled wildlife response with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

People should be cautious when donating money for oiled wildlife, said Straight, who participated in bird rescue operations during the 1993 oil spill in Tampa Bay that resulted from the collision of three ships.

Tri-State will not ask for donations since BP is paying for everything, she said, adding that Tri-State supplies everything from portable water heaters to tankers to remove wastewater.

Wildlife Inc. is not seeking material donations for the oil spill response, but is accepting inquiries from volunteers and donations for its normal rehabilitation efforts at its Web site,

If oil were to injure birds locally, Wildlife Inc. would not be a clean-up site, Ed Straight said, adding that a facility like the fairgrounds would be designated where oily water could be stored, then hauled away as hazardous material. The facility could accept birds after they are cleaned.

Untrained people should not attempt to rescue oiled birds, as sharp beaks and toxic oil can cause severe injuries. If you see oiled wildlife, call 866-557-1401.

Island home sales improving

Anna Maria Island property sales for the year ending June 30 are almost 50 percent greater than the year prior, with 268 total homes, condos and multifamily units sold compared with 182 for the year ending June 30, 2009, according to data supplied by Island Real Estate agent John Van Zandt.

That's a 47 percent increase in unit sales and demonstrates a healthy demand for inventory, which is now slightly more than 500 active listings in the three cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, Van Zandt said.

And for the fourth straight month, the average price per-square-foot for condos sold on the Island during the same period is up nearly 15 percent, at $315 versus $277 a year ago.

“The numbers represent pent-up demand for the vacation homes this Island offers, generally lower prices, and more flexible sellers than in recent years,” Van Zandt said. “Buyers also have shown confidence that their second homes can help pay a portion of their cost through strong rental income.”

For buyers, it's still great news, especially when one considers month-to-month comparisons, Van Zandt said. For example, comparing June 2010 with June 2009, the average selling price per square foot for homes is now just $251 versus $284 a year earlier; for condos, it's a similar story, $231 this year and $253 last year.

Unit sales for June this year are off 11 percent, average price per square foot is a bit lower and tales of cautious behavior have local agents wondering what, if any, additional effect the gusher in the Gulf will have on sales and property values, Van Zandt said.

This information is derived from the Mid-Florida Multiple Listing Service and is deemed to be accurate.

Board reaches consensus on parking issues

ANNA MARIA – Planning and zoning board members came to consensus on a series of questions raised by city commissioners regarding implementing the parking plan on Pine Avenue.

“There will be a combination of parking on city right of way and on private property,” planner Alan Garrett explained. “It would work through the city giving the owner of the lot a right of way use permit, and in exchange, the owner would give the city a sidewalk easement so the sidewalk could be moved onto the property.”

He said the city’s current parking regulations don’t apply to the Pine Avenue parking plan, and there are several issues that require decisions. The first issue was how to provide handicap parking.

Building Officials Bob Welch said according to the law, one per 25 spaces is required. Bob Barlow asked if there should be one on each site.

“Every time you put one more on site, there’s a driveway opening and less public space,” Garrett responded. “If handicap is on site, it has to be for that one use.

“If it’s public, we could say one out of every 25 spaces has to be marked as a handicap space. I could park in front of your shop, but I could go to the other stores.”

The board agreed on one per 25.

Driveways and maneuvering

The second question was whether to allow driveways on property lines. Currently, driveways must be 5 feet off the property line, and board members agreed that should be maintained.

The third issue was how wide parking spaces should be, and board members agreed on 9 feet.

The board was split on whether all maneuvering should be on site with vehicles exiting in a forward position.

However, Mike Coleman pointed out, “You would have to move the buildings back significantly further from the sidewalk to get that maneuvering space, or you would have to drive around the building to get out.

“When we start jamming buildings back up against property lines, we get in the green space, we get rid of back yards and jam the buildings up against the neighbors behind you.”

Board members agreed that they could revisit that question.

Spaces and percentages

The board agreed that, except in the case of a restaurant, owners should not be required to provide a certain number of parking spaces for employees.

The board agreed that owners should have the option of providing parking according to the plan or developing their own plan, as Mike and Lizzie Thrasher did at their green village planned for 501, 503, 505 and 507 Pine Ave.

The board also was split on reducing the maximum building coverage. Three felt is should remain at 40 percent and three felt it should be reduced to 35 percent.

All agreed the maximum impervious surface coverage should be reduced from 60 to 50 percent after Garrett pointed out that 60 percent was to allow for on-site parking, but the majority of parking on Pine Avenue will be public common parking.
Board members agreed that restaurants still should be required to provide one parking space for every three seats and one for every four employees. However, Garrett suggested they consider eliminating establishments such as coffee shops from the definition of restaurant.

Gardeners celebrate with food
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

This sign, with a logo designed by Inez Norman,
honors all who helped get this garden started.

BRADENTON BEACH – They came to celebrate their intergenerational community garden with – what else – food.

About 30 people of all ages came for the grand opening of the garden at the Annie Silver Community Center on Saturday, July 10, with a potluck luncheon. There was no food planted in the raised salad tables that will house the plants because of the summer heat, but the people who are participating have plans for later, when the temperatures fall. The only thing growing Saturday were some coreopsis plants, Florida’s state wildflower.

Lisa Marie Allen, who helped arrange the financing and donations for the garden when she was projects/programs manager for the city, welcomed everybody and told them she was proud of this garden because it represents efforts by a community to come together and build something that would provide fresh produce and vegetables as well as teach people how to work together.

The garden got support from the Communities for a Lifetime program of the Florida State Department of Elder Affairs and the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program. The Manatee County Extension Office provided the education and Geraldson’s Community Farm supplied seeds and seedling education.

The garden includes a rain catchment system consisting of rain barrels connected to downspouts to irrigate the plants. The salad tables are raised so people of all ages can get to them without bending down. In addition to plants on the salad tables, gardeners will also use buckets to grow some of the food.

P&Z says no to Segway regulations

ANNA MARIA – After a lengthy discussion, planning and zoning board members said they do not recommend any further regulations for the operation of personal mobility vehicles.

Opening the discussion, Chair Randall Stover asked each member his thoughts on whether the board should recommend that the commission adopt an ordinance similar to the one in place on Sanibel Island.

“I do not support the Sanibel Segway ordinance,” Bob Barlow said. “There doesn’t seem to be any separation between Segways, bicycles and electric vehicles.

“There’s too much intrusion by government. I do not support passing any more rules for the city. We should enforce the rules we have and comply with state law.”

Barlow said he visited rental businesses and they require renters to sign documents regarding liability, operator age, helmet laws and the like.

Tom Turner said he also visited rental businesses and the renter must sign an agreement taking responsibility for injury to themselves, others, pedestrians, the vehicle and property.

“I agree with Mr. Barlow,” Turner said. “I don’t think we need any more ordinances passed.”

Margaret Jenkins agreed with Barlow and Turner.

Stover disagreed and said, “Sgt. Turner said the state laws are so vague that they are unenforceable. Somebody’s going to be hurt or damaged very severely very soon.”

New member Mike Pescitelli said he has not been involved in the discussion and didn’t feel comfortable commenting on the issue.

New member Nancy Yetter asked if the vehicles could be altered so they operate less than 25 mph and said she has seen children operating them and one almost hit an elderly lady.

Turner said they should check with police in the other two Island cities to learn if they are having a problem and consider working together on a solution.

Stover made the motion to recommend that the commission adopt the same ordinance that is in effect in Sanibel. The vote was 5-1 against.

“We’re beating a dead horse,” Turner declared. “Put it to bed and move on. I move that we not move forward on it.”

That motion was approved 5-1.

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