The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 26 - March 30, 2011


Tourist BOOM

Harry Stoltzfus
Beachgoers packed Coquina Beach on Saturday afternoon,
tying up traffic in both directions for blocks. By all accounts,
2011 is the busiest in years for tourism.

Traffic may be creeping along, but business is brisk at the peak of the 2011 tourist season.

In fact, local retailers and tourism officials say this is one of the busiest tourist seasons they have ever seen on the Island.

Visitors are swarming local events, such as the Anna Maria Island Art League's Winterfest, the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, the Community Center's Tour of Homes and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Wedding Festival, with organizers reporting record crowds.

After a record cold Florida winter and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, a bustling 2011 is welcome, Island hotelier and Manatee County Tourist Development Council member David Teitelbaum said.

"This is the best I've seen it," he said, partly because of severe winter weather in the north. "They're coming from up north, but about half are (local) residents."

"They've had a lot of snow up north and we have great weather here. It couldn't be a better situation for us," said Stephen Ananicz, chief operating officer for the Chiles Group of restaurants.

"2009 was our best year and we are ahead of those numbers a good bit," he said. He added that 2010 was marred by prolonged cold, which cuts into the outdoor seating at the company's three waterfront restaurants.

At the Sign of the Mermaid restaurant in Anna Maria, "We're doing numbers we've never done before. March is exceptional," said Ed Spring, who is celebrating his establishment's 19th year in business. He credits a wide menu and price variety, adding breakfast and lunch and good service for the boost.

People are taking to warming water in droves on paddleboards, wave runners, sailboats and kayaks at Coastal Water Sports at Silver Surf in Bradenton Beach, said Beth Cole.

"It started earlier this year than last year," she said, adding that the Gulf got warm on March 23 last year, but began to warm up on Valentine's Day this year. She's seeing visitors from the Midwest, and Florida residents on weekends.

Wayne Genthner at Wolfmouth Charters is getting twice as many charter reservations as usual, he said

"I'm booked through Easter, and it's a late Easter," he added.

"It's been busy, but I think it will be more spread out this year" because college spring breaks are spread out, said Ronee Brady, of West Coast Surf Shop in Holmes Beach.

At the Sand Dollar in Holmes Beach, first time customers are boosting numbers over last year, and at Irene's Resort Wear in Holmes Beach, "It's super, the best ever," owner Nanette Almeter said, attributing the upswing to personal service, great products and higher visibility brought by charity fashion shows.

Cedar Cove Resort in Holmes Beach is filling up every day, according to the front desk, and lines for ice cream are occasionally out the door at Dips Ice Cream and at Two Scoops, both in Anna Maria.

Visitors are crowding the Island Branch Library in Holmes Beach to use the free computers, Internet and wi-fi, librarian Eva Ehde said. She noted that large numbers of tourists are also attending the free programs.

"We have more non-resident library cards than all the other branches in the county combined," she said.

Postal workers are noticing the surge, too.

"Our revenue is up," said Rich Stevens, postal delivery supervisor and letter carrier in Bradenton Beach. He said visitors are using the post office's for-fee forwarding system, which speeds up mail forwarding. "They set weekly and monthly goals, and we're surpassing goals ever since season started."

While delivery volume is about the same, letter carriers projecting a 4 p.m. return time often are late because of traffic jams throughout the day, he said.

"That used to only happen in spring break," he said.

Increased publicity of the Island in newspapers, magazines and on television, promoted by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, may have drawn some new visitors, but not all.

"Word of mouth is the main way people learn about it," said long-time winter visitor Claire Graham, of Washington D.C., who had six sets of friends visit her from out of town while she spent March in Bradenton Beach. "I saw it in the New York Times and thought that was too bad. It might become too crowded."

It's not overcrowded yet, said visitor Fran Manere, of Weston, Conn., who spends a month on the Island every March with her husband, Bob. But, she said, "There's a thin line between the paradise you have now and the nightmare it could become."

City: No permit, no light poles at Kingfish


HOLMES BEACH – Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said if the county proceeds with a plan to install 11 lights at Kingfish Boat Ramp without a city permit, he plans to act.

"If they show up, I'll have the police and the public works supervisor issue a stop work order," Bohnenberger said. "If they ignore that, we'll get an injunction.

"It's the typical arrogance of the county, and it's not necessary in government. They started the whole project without consulting us, and they think they can ignore the sovereignty of the city."

Manatee County Project Manager Walter Sowa said he is proceeding and explained, "I have not been told to apply for permit. The schedule is that the contractor will receive the poles on March 26 and begin installation on April 4.

Installation will be complete on April 8."

The issue began in February when Commissioner David Zaccagnino objected to the lighting plan. After touring the ramp area with county engineers, city officials OK'd the plan.

However, they had second thoughts after Zaccagnino objected again and pointed out that the poles would be 40 feet high with10-foot arms and have 400-watt, high-pressure sodium bulbs. They also received a letter of concern from AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff told commissioners at their March 8 meeting that the ramp area is on DOT property, is leased to the county for recreational purposes but was annexed into the city, so the city has regulatory authority over it and could request a site plan and a permit.

Bohnenberger wrote a letter to County Administrator Ed Hunzeker on March 9 making that request, He said the county has not responded, but Pertuff reported that a county attorney told her that the ramp area is exempt.

Bohnenberger said other examples of the county's arrogance are when it began work at the public beach without a permit and approved a new concessionaire for Manatee County Public Beach without any input from the Island cities.

"It's ridiculous to have to go to these lengths, but they set the stage, and we're just going along with the play," he concluded.

Affaire offers outstanding auction packages

Bayfest band Bootleg

"Dolphin Vision," by world famous marine artist
Robert Wyland will be offered in the live auction.
It is #154 in a limited edition of 950 and valued at $4,000.


ANNA MARIA – Come bid on a host of wonderful prize packages in the live auction at the Affaire to Remember, "A Magic Moment with Lee Greenwood," on Saturday, April 2, at the Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

Some of the auction items include:

• "Dolphin Vision," by world famous marine artist Robert Wyland, a signed 35-inch x 45-inch framed serigraph and #154 in a 1993 limited edition of 950.

• A six-day and five-night stay in a one-bedroom ocean view room at the lavish Mainsail Scrub Island Resort, Spa and Marina in the British Virgin Islands.

• Lee Greenwood will treat two guests to a VIP concert experience in Franklin, N. C., on Saturday, July 30, with back stage passes, plus stay one week in a luxurious mountain home in Franklin.

• The Tampa Bay Rays invite 24 guests to enjoy a 2011 regular season game in the owner's suite located behind home plate, and it includes a $1,000 gift certificate for food and drinks. A limousine will escort the entire party round trip.

• See "Les Miserables," at the Bob Carr Centre in Orlando on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, and stay two nights at the Orlando Grand Bohemian in a concierge level room. Prepare for the trip with a spa package.

• Enjoy a dinner for six at award-winning Charley's Steakhouse in Tampa with a special magnum of wine selected by owner Ron Woodsby and be escorted in a limousine round trip from your home.

The Affaire begins with a champagne reception at 6 p.m. Indulge in a selection of hors d'oeuvres, bid on silent auction items and purchase chances to win the following:

• A Vizio 55-inch LED Internet television sponsored by Lutz, Bobo and Telfair, PA. Tickets are one for $5, three for $10 or seven for $20.

• A diamond necklace and earrings valued at $7,500 and sponsored by Piero's Jewelers. Tickets are one for $50 or three for $100. Only 300 tickets will be sold.

Next comes dinner catered by Harry's Continental Kitchens. After dinner, country artist Lee Greenwood and his band will perform.

Tickets are $175 per person, and tables of eight are available. To attend a VIP cocktail party hosted by Greenwood from 5 to 6 p.m., with VIP seating and a private viewing of silent auction items, tickets are $250 per person.

For tickets or to donate or be a sponsor, call Sharen at 778-1908, ext. 9203, or e-mail or for more information, go to

All Island cities losing people, says census


Anna Maria Island's three cities lost 1,752 residents in the first decade of this century, according to new statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The 2010 census distributed its surveys a year ago this week. Results show that between 2000 and 2010, Holmes Beach lost the most people on the Island - 1,130 – with a population count of 3,836, a 22.7 percent decrease.

Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach each lost 311 people, according to the census. In Bradenton Beach, that represents a 21 percent loss, with a population count of 1,171 people. In Anna Maria, that represents a 17.1 percent loss, with a population count of 1,503 people.

The Island's total population is 6,510, according to the census, compared to 8,262 at the turn of the century, a loss of about 21 percent.

In contrast, Manatee County has grown by about 22 percent, from 264,002 in 2000 to 322,833 in 2010.

Results confirmed, questioned

The reported decline in population supports Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby's observation that the Island is becoming less residential and more of a resort.

"We're getting more and more tourists and part-timers. I think we are losing our residential character and becoming a tourist community," Selby said. "I don't like the trend."

The population of Longboat Key also is down, according to the census, and it has lost businesses in recent years partly due to that decline, he said.

The Island population seems to be getting more seasonal, agreed Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt, especially with the loss of some residents to foreclosures in 2010.

"Bradenton Beach is probably the biggest tourist town and Anna Maria is probably the most residential, with Holmes Beach in between," he said.

But based on numbers he researched while campaigning, he estimates 1,500 people and businesses in the city, while the census count is 1,171 people.

"I think the figures are skewed," he said, adding that he is not ready to commit city resources to challenging the census figures just yet, but would consider it a duty if he finds that it would impact federal and state grant money to the city.

The census questionnaire did not differentiate effectively between permanent and temporary residents, he said, adding that he received survey forms at his homes in both Bradenton and Bradenton Beach.

The census instructed people to fill out the survey where they live "most of the time," census spokeswoman Jennifer Smits said.

"We count people where they live most of the time, so they weren't counted on vacation," she said. "If they're seven months in Michigan and five months in Florida, and they're in Florida on April 1, they fill it out in Michigan."

The survey instructed people to: "Count all people, including babies, who live and sleep here most of the time, (italics added)" and stated: "The Census must also include people without a permanent place to stay, so: If someone who has no permanent place to stay is staying here on April 1, 2010, count that person. Otherwise, he or she may be missed in the census."

The first two questions were: "1. How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010? 2. Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010, that you did not include in Question 1?"

Census forms were not distributed at hotels and motels, Smits said, but were distributed at condos, which often are rented seasonally.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger doesn't believe the census figures, saying that his city has 5,145 people based on an annual study by a state university that uses public records, not surveys.

"What the census bureau does is inaccurate and outdated," he said. "I personally got three (census) forms at my house."

The Holmes Beach population count of 3,836 doesn't make sense compared to the number of registered voters in the city, he said.

According to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office, Holmes Beach has 3,253 registered voters.

"I can assure you every one of our residents don't vote," he said.

Anna Maria has 1,319 registered voters and Bradenton Beach has 918, according to the Supervisor of Elections.

Response rates in question

The Island's mail participation rate in the census was low in comparison with Manatee County's 74 percent rate, which is on par with the state and the country.

The mail participation rate was 49 percent in Anna Maria, 51 percent in Bradenton Beach and 59 percent in Holmes Beach, according to Thomas Edwards, assistant chief of the demographics/economics media relations branch of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Ten years earlier, the city of Anna Maria had a rate of 67 percent, Bradenton Beach had a 49 percent rate, and the Holmes Beach rate was 41 percent.

The difference between 67 percent and 49 percent in Anna Maria "could be our loss right there," Selby said.

In the city of Anna Maria, where mail is delivered to post office boxes, census surveys were delivered door to door.

"We don't mail to P.O. boxes," Edwards said. "Forms were left at houses and that would have affected the response rate," he said, adding that the actual response rate would have been higher than the 49 percent mail participation rate.

"The mail participation rate is not the final rate," Smits said, adding that the exact response rate is much higher, but is not known.

When a form was not returned from an address, "We sent enumerators (census workers) out to the house a number of times," she said, adding that if there was no one home repeatedly, a common scenario where homes and condos are rented seasonally, the workers asked neighbors to answer the questions for the absent people.

"We tried every way to get everybody counted," she said.

Tree removal stalls after nests found
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Mayor Bob Bartelt will get a second
opinion on whether this tree needs
to be removed or just trimmed.

BRADENTON BEACH – The city has delayed cutting down a distressed and dying tree on the grounds of Annie Silver Community Center because it might be harboring nests of critters inside.

And while they wait for nature to take its course, Mayor Bob Bartelt is going to seek a second opinion.

The city commission voted March 17 to pay C&S Lawn, Inc., of Bradenton, $990 to remove and dispose of the tree, which although has a crown of new growth, has several large holes in its trunk from past limb removals.

C&S owner Casey Shoots, inspected the large tree and said, "The tree is deemed dead/dying."

His proposal to remove the tree, which he said was a Cuban laurel, said that the base was hollow and rotted as are two other main leads that are attached to the trunk.

Following the vote, former Scenic Waves Committee head Pat Gentry, who belongs to the community center, wrote a letter to the city saying she was upset.

"It offers shade and habitat for birds and many other creatures," she wrote. "It gives off oxygen, takes up carbon dioxide and is beautiful beyond description. In no way is this tree dead as there is a huge canopy of green leaves right now. Dead trees do not produce thousands of leaves. There are some dead limbs on the tree but I believe these could be trimmed off."

Shortly after her e-mail was sent, former Island reporter Paul Roat sent an old story he wrote in 2000 about the tree and quoted Master Gardener Allen Garner, who said the tree was a strangler fig, which is native to the area, and the rot on parts of the tree trunk are normal. After hearing what Garner said, former Mayor Gail Cole changed his mind and had crews trim the tree, not take it down.

When the current commission voted to have the tree cut down, Commissioner Ed Straight said the city needs to make sure there are no nests in the tree. After he inspected it, he said he found nests inside the hollow areas of the trunk. After hearing that, Mayor Bob Bartelt said they would wait until the creatures in the trunk mature and leave.

Local native plant specialist Mike Miller, of Anna Maria, said in an e-mail to Gentry that he inspected the tree and he also thinks it is a strangler fig. He and Gail Straight, wife of Commissioner Ed Straight and owner of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, expressed concern that the city is going to cut down the tree without an opinion from a professional.

In an interview Friday, Bartelt explained why the city had to take action.

"The tree man we had look at the tree said it is dying and poses a risk to people and property," Bartelt said. "Once the city receives a warning like that, it has to act or face the liability of legal action if a limb hits people or property."

Bartelt said when the city first got a complaint, he sent Public Works Director Tom Woodard to inspect it. He said Woodard came back and said the tree is unique and he felt unqualified to make any determination of its condition and recommended a licensed tree person inspect it.

Bartelt said the city will find an arborist to have another look at the tree while it waits for the animals inside to leave their nests.

"One of my duties is to keep the city from getting sued," he said. "We'll have somebody else look at this tree."

Commisioner objects to pension appointments


HOLMES BEACH – Tempers flared during a discussion of reappointments to the police pension board when Commissioner Al Robinson objected to the reappointment of Sean Murphy.

Each month, Murphy, owner of the Beach Bistro and Eat Here, gives restaurant gift certificates to the city to be distributed to employees whose names are drawn out of a hat. Others such as Mote Marine, Commissioners Sandy Haas-Martens and John Monetti and Regions Bank have donated gift certificates to the drawing.

"Sean Murphy is in a position to influence things in this town," Robinson said. "He's demonstrated that by his gifts to the city that are passed on to city employees. I think he has a conflict of interest."Business people don't give things, don't do things unless they expect something it return. He doesn't give to Anna Maria or Bradenton Beach. He gives it to us because he wants to influence this town."

Then he focused on Rose Quin-Bare, an independent consultant to Waste Management, who was in the audience.

"When Rose passes out Christmas gifts, her boss tells her to do that because they're wanting to influence. If Rose passed out Christmas gifts to the homeless man, Rose wouldn't have a job."

In defense

"People are getting thrown under the bus here," Commissioner Pat Morton exclaimed. "Business people here are being thankful for what the city does for the residents and the city. Now you've thrown Waste Management under the bus. Do you know all they do for people?"

Commissioner David Zaccagnino, the commission liaison to the police pension board, said it's important to have business people on the board because of their knowledge and experience.

"I take exception to the statement that people don't do things without an expectation of return," Monetti added. "I think these two people you talked about tonight are in that group.

"I take personal exception to it because the reason I sit here on the commission is to give back to my community with no expectation. To imply that I do it because I'm going to get something back for it I find highly offensive."

Quin-Bare said she is not employed by Waste Management, but works for herself.

"I take offense that you question my integrity," she said. "I know all the commissioners and mayors and respect all of them. I have never done anything in my career that I felt was trying to influence anyone."

Robinson was the lone opposition to the reappointments of Murphy and Dan Hardy to the board.

Ordinance discussion

Commissioners also discussed delaying approval of a revised police pension ordinance, which has been ongoing since November 2010.

"We're waiting for more information from Tallahassee," Haas-Martens said, adding that state legislators are adopting new regulations governing pensions. She suggested continuing it to June 14.

Lt. Dale Stephenson said one of the city's police officers is eligible for retirement July 1, and the commission might not have enough time to approve the ordinance if it waits until June14.

"We've given you all the information we can to make a decision," he pointed out, "We've come to listen to some dialogue, and there hasn't been any."

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said commissioners could continue to work on the ordinance and then adjust it after legislators are done. Monetti suggested continuing it until May 14.

"I'm disappointed that you didn't make progress tonight," police pension board member Dan Hardy said. "This is a cost saving measure for the citizens and taxpayers of the city, and some people ran on that."

He said the majority of the revisions are the result of changes in IRS regulations. It also adds a deferred retirement option or DROP plan in which an officer can stay in the job five more years with salary and benefits, but pension payments are suspended.

Benefits of the ordinance

"What is the urgency (to pass the ordinance)? Robinson asked.

"It gives the city the ability to make transition and saves money," Hardy replied. "I don't think it makes sense to wait and see what Tallahassee does. That can change."

Robinson asked what is the benefit to officers, and Hardy said it gives them stability.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said the DROP plan gives the city the ability to keep a key person while looking for a replacement. He gave the example of the city clerk who recently retired with three weeks notice. He said the city was fortunate that it had a qualified person on staff that could assume the duties.

"If it's so good for us, why are the police asking for it?" Robinson asked.

"We pay 6 percent of our salaries to the pension fund," Stephenson responded. "As soon as we enter DROP, we no longer pay that. I am able to continue working, have a health plan and better be able to focus on what my retirement will be. And I can leave any time during those five years."

Discussion was continued to May 14.

DOT presents pier boardwalk plan
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Matt Anderson, of Woodruff and Sons, explained the final
plans for the pier boardwalk and parking improvements
to Anna Maria City commissioners last week.
Work starts May 14.

ANNA MARIA – Officials from the Florida Department of Transportation and Woodruff and Sons presented the final plan for the pier boardwalk and parking lot improvements at last week's city commission meeting.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who spearheaded the project for the city, gave a short history, which dates back to 2005, when the city received a $300,000 FDOT grant to enhance the business district.

The city formed the Transportation Enhancement Grant Committee in 2007 to determine how to use the funds. However, the project they envisioned exceeded the grant funds.

"Fortunately, from the very beginning, we have had the support and encouragement of Manon LaVoie, FDOT liaison, who attended most of our meetings," Mattick said. "In early 2010, Manon informed us that some FDOT projects were coming in under budget, which meant that there might be funds available which could go to other projects needing additional funding."

LaVoie lobbied for the pier project and obtained the needed funding. In the fall of 2010, Woodruff and Sons received the contract for the work.

Construction plans

"We'll take the existing area that's there now and create a boardwalk that runs parallel with the shore in both directions," explained Matt Anderson, of Woodruff. "We'll remove the existing gazebos and replace them with a new bigger shelter."

The boardwalk will be eight feet wide and accessible it entire length. Native landscaping will be added and the parking will be changed to one way in and out on the northern side with pull out parking on the southern side.

"We'll maintain the same aesthetics with the sign and the rustic feel of everything that's out there," Anderson continued. "We'll work from the pier to the humpbacked bridge and maintain access at the south end."

Construction is slated to begin May 14 and be competed at the end of September. He said the north end will be unusable during construction, but will reopen approximately July 4. Then construction will begin on the south end.

A public information meeting on the project is set for Tuesday, May 3, at the Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. The meeting will be an open house format with no formal presentation.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper