The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 16 - January 30, 2013


Settlement proposed for Sandpiper border dispute
Carol Whitmore

Cindy lane | sun
The feud started when Sandpiper installed no trespassing
signs and a lockable gate in a fence along 27th Street.

BRADENTON BEACH – The City Commission voted unanimously on Friday to approve a long-anticipated proposed settlement agreement to end a legal dispute among the city, Sandpiper Resort Co-Op Inc. and the city of Holmes Beach.

The other two parties had not decided on the proposal by press time.

In an action for declaratory relief filed in May 2012 against Bradenton Beach and Sandpiper, Holmes Beach alleged that Sandpiper wrongly prevented Holmes Beach residents from using 27th Street as a shortcut to the beach by installing no trespassing signs and lockable gates in a fence along the street, which borders both cities.

When the gates are locked, beachgoers in the Holmes Beach neighborhood north of 27th Street must walk to the other end of the block to cross Gulf Drive and reach a beach access.

In an attempt to force Sandpiper to remove the signs and gates, Holmes Beach asked the court to declare that Sandpiper does not own the property, alleging that the 2008 transfer of the property from Bradenton Beach to Sandpiper was void because the city didn’t own it outright at the time of the transfer.

Additional problems

Since the original suit was filed, the parties have raised several other disputed issues that remain unresolved.

Sandpiper alleges that it was improper and a violation of the Florida Constitution for Holmes Beach to pay public funds to its city attorney for what it called the “private purpose” of former Holmes Beach Commissioner John Monetti, who owned property adjoining 27th Street and originally raised the public access issue.

Holmes Beach contends that Bradenton Beach violated its own charter by conveying public property to a private entity, Sandpiper.

Sandpiper claims that the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case because Holmes Beach did not timely challenge the 2008 Bradenton Beach ordinance that quitclaimed 27th Street to Sandpiper in 2009.

Bradenton Beach alleges that Holmes Beach does not have standing to pursue a legal action concerning property that is outside its city limits. In an attempt to prove its standing, conjectured Bradenton Beach attorney Ricinda Perry, Holmes Beach has asserted that it has a valid drainage easement on the property that allows it to discharge stormwater into Anna Maria Sound.

The proposal

More than $35,000 in legal fees later, the proposed settlement would end the dispute by having Sandpiper and Bradenton Beach grant an easement to Holmes Beach for pedestrian and bicycle access across the property. No mention was made of allowing golf cart, skateboard and Segway access, which Sandpiper officials said originally prompted them to install the gates and signs.

Sandpiper also would be required to remove private property, no trespassing, and similar signs from the area and remove locks from the gates on the fence, which will be required to have openings for pedestrians and bicycles, as it did before the dispute arose.

The proposed settlement also would allow Holmes Beach to install signs stating the area is open to pedestrians and bicycles.

Under the settlement, Sandpiper and Bradenton Beach also would convey a drainage easement across the northernmost 30 feet of 27th Street to Holmes Beach, allowing Holmes Beach to continue to discharge stormwater.

Under the proposal, the parties would agree to place the pending litigation in abeyance until the parties comply with the terms, dismiss all claims, cross claims and counter claims, give up the right to make related future claims and pay their own attorney fees.

Commission acts

Voting in favor of the proposal were Vice Mayor Ed Straight and Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Ric Gatehouse. Mayor John Shaughnessy and Commissioner Gay Breuler recused themselves from the vote because they each own property in Sandpiper.

The vote included one change – approval of a separate interlocal agreement between the two cities to maintain drainage on the property. That way, each city will know when the other city is working on the property and “the cities aren’t fighting about where the water is going to or coming from,” Bradenton Beach building official Steve Gilbert told the commission.

Gatehouse suggested adding terms to protect the city from litigation on stormwater issues. Perry said the liability issue could be addressed in the interlocal agreement.

The settlement probably will not be acceptable to the Sandpiper board without changes, said Chuck Webb, Sandpiper attorney, who told the commission that the proposal would result in Holmes Beach getting what they asked for in the lawsuit.

Sandpiper is willing to negotiate, but the settlement proposal needs “tweaking before we sign off,” said Doug LeFevre, Sandpiper president.

For example, he told commissioners, any beach access signs installed by Holmes Beach should have arrows pointing to Gulf Drive and the Gulf beaches to keep people from walking the other direction to Sandpiper’s bayside dock, where more no trespassing signs are posted.

Vosburgh, who made the motion to approve the proposed settlement, thanked Shaughnessy for taking the lead in negotiating the dispute, with Perry adding that he saved the city attorney fees by doing so.

Shaughnessy expressed frustration that every time an agreement is seemingly reached, the issues change.

“I’m only interested in solving the problem and moving forward,” he said.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carmel Monti declined comment on the settlement proposal; Holmes Beach Commission Chair Jean Peelen said she had not seen the proposal.

If the settlement is not approved by all parties, Judge Diana Moreland is expected to proceed on a hearing for a motion to dismiss the case on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 1:30 p.m. at the Manatee County Judicial Center.

Code could end short-term rentals

ANNA MARIA – Provisions in the city’s zoning code and the city’s future land use element of its comprehensive plan might be the tools the city can use to prevent the construction of large, multi-bedroom structures for short term rentals, according to City Commissioner Chuck Webb.

Webb’s assertion is what brought an overflow crowd of residents and professionals from real estate and construction to city hall on Thursday, Jan. 24.

In a memo to the city, Webb said, “The zoning code is interpreted so that it is consistent with the comp(comprehensive) plan, and the comp plan prohibits short term rentals if they are not consistent with the comp plan and are in violation of the comp plan.

“The comp plan mandates that the single family residential character must be maintained and protected,” he said. “This, at a minimum, requires that adjacent land uses must be compatible.”

The memo said that short-term rentals are not on the list of uses allowed under the residential land use category.

This proclamation brought thanks from commissioners Nancy Yetter and Dale Woodland, who asked City Attorney Jim Dye for his opinion.

“There is a (state) statute (House Bill 883) that says cities cannot treat rentals differently from other uses,” Dye said. “Since this (provision) is already on the books, one could say we are not singling them out.”

Woodland asked Dye if he would defend them in court, and Dye said of course he would.

“My family owns a rental unit on the Island so I might have to step back,” he said, adding he felt the comprehensive plan tie-in would be adequate to go against HB 883.

Woodland said he looked at HB 883 and, “there’s no way this can be constitutional.”

“The city has been working under all the rules and then HB 883 comes along,” said Commissioner Gene Aubry. “It kicks things out and makes every house a potential motel.”

Dye said from he has learned, most experts say the fix for HB 883 is in the legislature, not the courts.

And then the public spoke.

“My husband and I chose Anna Maria several years ago because it appears to be a residential city,” said Cheryl Talbot. “I think we all agree the city is hitting the tipping point to where that won’t be the case.”

Talbot suggested the big houses be regulated like motels.

Bob Carter suggested the commission enact a moratorium on building permits beginning that night, before the word gets out.

“We have been discussing this for some time, but with the state statute, we cannot move forward,” Webb said.

Attorney Scott Rudacille, of Blaylock Walters, said his firm has clients who might be concerned with what is happening in the city.

“The city cannot change that process without going through a series of public hearings,” he said. “North Port tried it and got sued. They enacted an ordinance and they’re still in litigation.”

He said it is a major policy change and should be taken up in the proper manner.

Larry Chatt, of Island Real Estate, said this would bring financial consequences to the property owners and the city.

“The people who own rental properties would not be able to afford them,” he said.

“My wife and I came down here years ago for peace and quiet and we’ve had it,” said Richard Penn, who lives on North Shore Drive. “Now three properties on my block are rentals; the one next door advertises it can sleep 10. Another one we had to call the Sheriff’s Office. I am encouraging you to take aggressive steps on this.”

There was applause from the crowd.

Penny Naylor, who lives on Elm Avenue, said she agreed with Penn that the neighborhoods should stay as they are.

“I feel property values will go up if they preserve the way they are now,” she said, drawing applause.

David Teitelbaum, developer and vice chair of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, said the quality of life in Anna Maria is very important.

“We should be concerned with the residents here,” he said. “They are our bread and butter.”

Gary Perez, from Jacaranda Road, said the main purpose of the people who are investing in large houses is to make money.

“Our purpose is to retain the way the city is” he said. “You have to decide something here.”

Building Official Bob Welch said the city needs to find some money in the budget to enforce the provision. He said his office has a database of about 500 rental property owners who would need to be notified.

Woodland said they should be cautious and not take action that night, but Aubry opposed that.

“You know Rome is burning and it’s about time the city of Anna Maria put its money where its mouth is,” he said. “Let’s get to work and get happy again.

The vote on a motion to start enforcing the provision was four-to-one with Woodland dissenting.

Ordinance to tie parking spaces to bedrooms

ANNA MARIA – An ordinance tying the number of bedrooms in a house to the number of parking spaces provided got its first hearing at the city commission meeting last Thursday. Under the proposed ordinance, one- and two-bedroom houses would have to provide two off-street parking spaces. Three bedrooms would need three spaces and one additional space would be required for every two added bedrooms or a fraction thereof. One of the spaces would be required to be located under an elevated house, to discourage the illegal use of that space as a living area.

The ordinance would also exempt swimming pools and hot tubs from being counted as impervious coverage, unless they are under roof. The ordinance would also outlaw new waterfalls, fountains and pool slides and the replacement of such.

During the hearing, Commissioner Gene Aubry said he wants to make the parking requirements one space per bedroom. Mayor SueLynn said there should be a maximum of three off-street spaces and more spaces could be used in the right of way in front of the structure.

Commissioner John Quam asked City Planner Alan Garrett if the builder could call a prospective bedroom a computer room and then change its use after a permit to build is issued. Garrett said if the owner or rental agent advertises that computer room as a bedroom, it would become an enforcement issue. Quam said he was concerned that this ordinance would encourage people to tear down old homes and rebuild as elevated structures.

During public discussion, Sharon Talbot also said the ordinance might encourage replacing ground-level homes for elevated ones in order to get more off-street parking spaces. She also said they need to define parking spaces so they don’t use the front yard as off-street parking.

There was concern about single-family homeowners who have relatives come for a few days as opposed to rentals that have a lot of people most of the time.

Jill Morris said she feels the parking requirements fall short.

“I think the parking solution is not addressing the elephant in the room, and that is the fact that many of us don’t want ‘McMansions’ in the city of Anna Maria,” Morris said. “It is not typical of Anna Maria in the past.”

Jim Miller said there is a house on his block where the rental agent brought out a bunch of beds in a truck to handle the people staying there. Her said there were 10 vehicles parked around that house for many days in a row.

City Attorney Jim Dye said he felt the issues of parking and swimming pools would be better addressed with two ordinances, since ordinances are supposed to pertain to one issue but he said Garrett felt he could tie the two together in the “whereas” section of the ordinance.

The ordinance gets its second and final public hearing in February.

In other actions, the commission continued a hearing on a proposed easement swap at the Sandbar restaurant because a family emergency kept engineer Lynn (Townsend) Burnett from attending. She is spokesperson for the restaurant in this matter. The city’s Planning and Zoning Board recommended not approving the request. Both ordinances will be heard on Thursday, Feb. 14, at 6 p.m.

Sousa named Instructor of the Year
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

From left, Chief James Large, president of Florida
Fire Chiefs’ Association, West Manatee Captain Tom Sousa,
West Manatee Chief Andy Price and Jeff Alter
with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.


West Manatee Fire Rescue is proud to announce that Capt. Tom Sousa was recognized as one of Florida’s best and was chosen by the Florida Fire Chiefs’ Association as the 2012 Instructor of the Year.

Sousa received this award during the opening ceremonies at Fire Rescue East, which is the largest fire-rescue training conference in the Southeastern United States. He was recognized for his 35 years of service to the community, but more importantly, his remarkable accomplishments for West Manatee, as well as the fire services within Manatee County.

He developed a very effective training simulator using shipping containers that enables multi-jurisdictional and multi-company training drills that benefit fire agencies and their ISO ratings, as well as developing better working relationships between agencies. He developed an online Web-based in-service training program that can be shared by all fire agencies in Manatee County. This will enable agencies to access the online training from any fire station or any location that has Web access.

Sousa also received the Manatee County Fire Officer of the Year award, as well as receiving a Congressional Fire and Rescue Career Service Award during 2012.

Moratorium objectives being met

HOLMES BEACH – If all goes well, the moratorium in the R-2 district could be lifted by the end of March.

The moratorium on issuing demolition permits and building permits for any work that exceeds the threshold for substantial improvement for all residential dwelling units came into effect on Dec. 26.

Chair Jean Peelen gave a progress report at last week’s meeting and said the following objectives must be reached in order to lift the moratorium:

• The size of houses;
• The underground connection of duplexes;
• The number of pools allowed per duplex;
• The policy on the number of docks per lot;
• Clarification on setbacks for corner lots;
• Clarification of policy on elevator shafts;
• The procedure to be used to determine market value of rehabs.

At the same meeting, commissioners approved the second reading of the ordinance establishing a living area ratio, taking care of the first objective, and at the Jan. 17 work session they decided the number of pools per duplex would remain at two.

“If you make a decision about the underground connection of duplexes and move forward, it could go to first reading on Feb. 12 and second reading on Feb. 28,” City Attorney Patricia Petruff said.

“The dock ordinance could go to second reading as soon as it’s advertised, let’s say Feb. 12. Setbacks on corner lots and elevator shafts just requires a rewriting of the policy memos.”

She said the last objective has not been discussed, but they could do so in February and be done with it by March.

“Then we have to draft the ordinance to lift the moratorium,” she said. “You could give me direction to go ahead and draft that ordinance, so that we can move quickly on it and schedule that public hearing. We can always continue it until you’re finished.”

LAR approved for R-2

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners approved the second reading of an ordinance establishing a living area ratio (LAR) of .34 for homes built in the R-2 district.

The LAR is the relationship between the habitable square footage and the size of the lot. It is arrived at by dividing the total air-conditioned floor area of all habitable floors in the dwelling unit by the square footage of land area associated with that dwelling unit.

Earlier this month, the Planning Commission agreed that the ordinance is in compliance with the comprehensive plan, but recommended that the city commission consider some type of sliding scale of LAR for non-conforming lots.

City Planner Bill Brisson said he revised the ordinance to add the sliding scale for lots between 5,000 and 7,400 square feet, allowing living areas from 2,000 to 2,500 square feet.

The minimum lot size for a single-family home is 7,510 square feet, and a LAR of .34 allows 2,533 square feet. The same LAR would allow 1,481 square feet of living area on each half of an 8,712 square foot duplex lot.

Chair Jean Peelen asked what the highest LAR on the sliding scale would be, and Brisson said .4 for a 5,000-square-foot lot and added, “It allows people to have a reasonable home on a small lot.

“I also want to make sure everyone realizes that certain properties are grandfathered. If they have built one half of a duplex under the footer situation, and the other portion (of the lot) is empty, the other portion (of the duplex) can still be built at .34 on half of that lot area.”

Peelen said it appears from the way the ordinance is written, both halves have to be of equal size, Brisson said that is not the case, but neither one can be no more than .34.

He also pointed out that the whole lot is governed by impervious coverage of 30 percent.

“It’s important to remember that when we come to the ordinance that eliminates the underground connection (of duplexes), it will include a recommendation that lots where half of the duplex is built, that those lots won’t have to have a party wall,” City Attorney Patricia Petruff added.

The motion to approve the ordinance with the sliding scale was approved unanimously.

Girl Scouts protest loss of park concerts



HOLMES BEACH – Girl Scouts from Troop 316 put their civics lessons to work and came to the city commission meeting last week to protest the demise of Concerts in the Park.

Event coordinator Cindy Thompson said she would no longer produce the concerts after Mayor Carmel Monti made the decision to charge all users, including non-profits, the $250 special event fee for use of the field.

The Scouts lined up behind the microphone to emphasize that the event is about “people coming together to have fun,” where “kids can run around while parents talk to their friends” and a place where “kids can meet their friends and hang out.”

They also submitted a petition that stated, “We the people of Anna Maria Island do not agree with the decisions that have been made about canceling Friday fest. Friday fest brings our community together, by canceling it we are growing further apart from each other. We all disagree with the mayor of Holmes Beach! For just one night a month we would like to get together and have fun!”

Chair Jean Peelen thanked the Scouts for their concern and said, “I want to make it clear that we did not cancel. The promoter canceled the Concerts in the Park because of the fee.”

Monti agreed and added, “We just raised the fee to what it used to be. Cindy Thompson ran the organization before that and was even invited to come and speak to us so we could have dialogue, but she did not.

“What I look forward to is we plan on having more events in the park this year for non-profit organizations. We’ll do it in a very different way. People have already come forward without our asking. We’re in the process of looking at alternatives.”

Commissioner Pat Morton said a group approached him and plans to schedule events by late February.

One dock ordinance to go to second reading

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners approved on first reading an ordinance to clarify the language in the code to insure that only one dock per lot is allowed.

At a meeting earlier this month, Planner Bill Brisson said there are 99 lots in the city that have enough frontage to have two docks without the need for a DEP permit.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino objected and said, “There’s nine lots in the R-2, and we’ve had some problems with the R-2, but now we’re going in to the R-1, the R-4, the R-1AA. We don’t have people tearing down the doors complaining that their neighbors have two docks.”

Chair Jean Peelen said it’s not just the nine lots in R-2 but it’s city-wide, and Commissioner Marvin Grossman asked why anyone needs more than one dock.

Zaccagnino said the big properties on the ends of the canals that are overlooking the bay can have a dock on the canal side to keep their boat and a dock on the bay side for a view.

“If somebody has a house with a view of the bay, why do they need a viewing dock?” Commissioner Pat Morton asked.

Resident Don Schroder said a person also could have one dock for a boat and one for a personal watercraft.

“What’s really driving this? Resident Andy Sheridan asked. “I haven’t heard a single complaint regarding this abusive ordinance you’re proposing right now. What you’re proposing doesn’t make sense.”

The vote was 4-1 with Zaccagnino dissenting.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper