The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 36 - June 26, 2013


City reels in shark fishing
Carol Whitmore


This nine-foot hammerhead shark was caught from
the shore in Bradenton Beach and released.


HOLMES BEACH – Police Chief Bill Tokajer told Island elected officials last week that he has found two sections of the city’s code to address problems created by fishers along the Gulf beaches.

Representatives of three Gulffront resorts have complained to the city about shark fishing in front of their businesses. Problems include chumming in swimming areas, noise and leaving fish and shark parts on the beach.

Several resort owners contacted Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who said, “I am requesting that someone consider what we can do regarding the proliferation of shark fishing on the beaches with carcasses being left on the beaches.

“It seems to be in the 500 to 700 block of Holmes Beach, but I am sure there are other areas on the Island.”

“I told the guys to keep a close eye on the area and watch for things like noise, trash, fishing licenses, lights and drinking,” Tokajer said and added that he began looking for ordinances to alleviate the problem and found two.

“Chapter 30-81 talks about throwing out trash and dead animals within the city,” he pointed out “Another one, 54-1, talks about unlawful deposits and throwing, dumping or disposing of garbage, rubbish, trash, refuse waste in any canal, lake or other body of water within the city.”

“I think that’s going to take care of it. We’re talking about the people who are going out in front of our resorts, taking a canoe out while people are swimming, dropping chum in the water and fishing for sharks from the shore.”

Mayor Carmel Monti said police responded to the resort area for several nights last week, and the situation is under control.

Snake sighted on Island could be a boa

A boater reported seeing a large snake, possibly a boa constrictor, in a canal around 85th Street, Periwinkle Plaza and Archer Way last Friday.

The boater, who did not give his last name, called Anna Maria City Clerk Alice Baird to report it.

“He said it was huge, longer than six feet,” Baird said. “He said it was swimming in the canal. Snakes don’t normally like saltwater.”

Baird called Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Paul Davis, who heads the substation in Anna Maria.

“We went out there, but we couldn’t find it,” Davis said. “A Holmes Beach police officer went out there, and he saw it.”

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said Friday they tried to catch it, and one officer did see it, but nobody really knows what kind of a snake it is – only that it’s huge.

Regarding the fact that it was seen in saltwater, it is true some snakes like saltwater, but until officials know what kind it is, all they can do is warn people to keep their pets inside. Pythons can swim in saltwater except when they are eating, and boa constrictors have been known to swim in saltwater, according to online wildlife sources.

If you see the snake or any snake that large, stay out of its way, but if you can take a photo safely, you can send it to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and to this newspaper. Call the FWC at 1-888-483-4681 to report it to their exotic wildlife hotline. The Sun’s phone number is 941-778-3986 and the e-mail is

But if the creature has a large head with a long body and it isn’t a snake, we might have our own saltwater version of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

Mainsail agreement reached

HOLMES BEACH – After nearly seven hours of negotiations at a hearing held Friday at CrossPointe Fellowship, city and Mainsail Lodging and Development Company representatives came to a tentative agreement.

The agreement involves reconfiguring two buildings, one on the spit and one nearest Sunrise Lane, and containing parking on the development site near the corner of Marina and Gulf drives.

Special Magistrate Steve Seibert conducted the hearing required by Mainsail’s request for relief under the state’s private property rights act and the city’s dispute resolution procedure after the city commission revoked the company’s site plan for its development.

“This is not a trial; it’s informal,” Seibert explained at the beginning of the process. “It’s a negotiation. We’re taking a break from all of the legal adversarial processes.

“We talk to each other like normal people. It’s a mediation, a heartfelt conversation, but it’s in the public. It also is not a public hearing.”

Seibert said the discussion should be about seeking alternatives, not rehashing the history of the project, and if the negotiation fails, it would go to Phase II, in which he would make a recommendation to the City Commission.

Seibert said the question he must decide is, “Is the action of the government unreasonable or does it unfairly burden the use of the property?”

Attorney input

Each side’s attorney spoke about his/her client’s position.

“Mainsail had every reason to believe that their rights on this property included the right to finish construction based on the site plans that were approved and apply to amendment the site plan if they wanted to change it,” Mainsail attorney Robert Lincoln stressed.

“The city’s action revoking the site plan is unfair because it destroys all those rights. The city commission’s action is unreasonable and unfair. We are prepared to negotiate on key issues that are important to the city.”

The city’s attorney, Patricia Petruff, said there are four key issues – setbacks, parking, intensity of use and the private road issue with the residents of Sunrise Lane.

“From the city’s perspective, the site plan that was approved in 2002 is no longer acceptable or workable,” she said. “The developer indicated at the public hearing that it was not a workable site plan for a number of reasons.

“I think we have the opportunity today to see if we can reach some sort of compromise that allows the developer the use of the property, but brings it a lot more fully into compliance with the code.”

Two sides speak

Siebert then asked for input from each side.

Joe Collier, president of Mainsail, said his team worked with the mayor, city attorney and city officials to respond to city requests and make changes to the site plan and were under the impression they were in work session mode.

“We went off on our merry way and started spending money to do that,” he said. “Then we went to the City Commission meeting to show the design changes.

“Several of the commissioners were already prepared to revoke, regardless of what we had created with a site plan that said we’ll build exactly what you want us to build. It was a bit of a kangaroo court. I felt we were ambushed.”

Ed Chiles, a project partner, said revoking the site plan was a political matter because the commission was concerned about over development due to the proliferation of large rental duplexes.

“All of a sudden hotels were being dropped into residential neighborhoods,” he said, “The horse was going out of the barn in Holmes Beach, and we got brought into all of that. The mood was to stop development.”

“We had discussions with the city and gave in on the number of units, the setbacks, more green space, less seats in the restaurant, less slips in the marina. Then the commission revoked our site plan, and that was shocking to me.”

Commissioner Judy Titsworth, who voted to revoke the site plan, said the city did not require proper setbacks on the project, especially along the water.

“That’s wrong; people would lose their view of the water,” she said. “And I see the abandonment – permits not acted on, trees growing in the rebar. They continue to rent boats without parking.

“We all want the project. I don’t feel we’re unduly burdening them because we’re not taking their rights away. We want it to be developed by code.”

Mayor Carmel Monti was not in favor of revoking the site plan, but was in favor of continued negotiation.

He said, “I disagree with the method the city has taken. We all want to come up with something that’s in character with the Island. We don’t have very many commercial properties, so we need to make this one work.

“I’m very much in agreement with what we’re doing now – working together to come up with some real solutions. Instead of fighting each other on details, how do we get to an agreement?”

“We have to know we have the ability to make it economically feasible,” Chiles replied.

Making it work

“With every developer, they keep trying to make it work,” Titsworth said. “Everybody’s stuck trying to hold onto the original site plan. It’s so overly built. Revocation is the only answer because it’s that dead in the water.”

“We can’t wipe the slate clean and start anew,” Lincoln said, adding that since the project was initially approved, new regulations have been approved.

Collier agreed and said, “We can’t go by today’s code. It isn’t feasible. The city permitted the foundation. We were told to stick with the site plan. I have $500,000 in drawings.

“When you say let’s redesign it, be realistic. I don’t have enough room for another $500,000. Put those areas out on the table and say these are the things I think we can do and cut to the chase and move forward.”

He said he has reduced the number of units, the number of boat slips and the number of seats in the restaurant, all of which will cost him money, and asked what Holmes Beach is wiling to give.

Seibert advised them to talk about issues that would result in a modified site plan, which led to a discussion about parking. Petruff said the city commission would like more certainty with the parking plan.

They discussed various options for reducing the size of building D along Sunrise Lane, which Collier said would enable them to contain parking on site.

They also discussed the building planned for the spit, that Titsworth claimed was too massive, did not have a big enough setback and was not buffered from the residences across the canal, which led to suggestions for design changes.

Continue the process

“These are some pretty important design issues,” Seibert pointed out. “You have opened the door to look at them, and I don’t want you to go back into your corner and forget there was meaningful conversation. My recommendation is to continue this process.”

Lincoln said they should establish a list of tasks and duties, and Monti agreed and added, “I’d like to walk away with a list that’s acceptable because we’ve been in that situation where we came back to the City commission, and it wasn’t accepted.”

Lincoln said Seibert could write a report for the City Commission, and that the statute gives commissioners a second chance to make a decision.

Collier said Mainsail would create a drawing to show commissioners the changes to see if they are in agreement before proceeding any further. This presentation is planned for the July 9 commission meeting.


Attorney defines uses for tourist tax

With an all-time high of 538,000 visitors last year to Manatee County, with a 2012 population of 334,000, people have been asking whether tourism resort tax funds could be better spent on something other than advertising for more tourists.

Record tourism has caused complaints from Anna Maria Island residents about noise, crowds, traffic and parking, and Holmes Beach officials have wondered about using resort tax funds to replace the demolished pier at Manatee Public Beach and to build a traffic roundabout rather than advertise for more tourists. Anna Maria officials have wondered about using the funds to repair the historic Anna Maria City Pier. Others have wondered about allocating part of the fund to education to pave the way for kids to grow up and diversify the county’s tourism-heavy economic base.

The county’s 5 percent resort tax raised $8.3 million in 2012, paid by visitors staying in commercial lodging establishments including motels, condos and single family homes for six months or less. In comparison, over the next two years, Manatee County plans to spend nearly $8 million – about one year’s resort tax proceeds – to market itself as real authentic Florida.

“There is a lot of money collected on the beaches,” with Holmes Beach in the lead of the three Island cities, said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, the chair of the county’s Tourist Development Council, noting that the county advertised the Manatee Public Beach pier in Holmes Beach all over the world before it was demolished in 2009.

Holmes Beach collected 23 percent of the resort taxes in the county in April, the last month for which statistics are available, followed by Longboat Key, Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Bradenton and Palmetto. Visitors to unincorporated Manatee County paid 35 percent, the largest single share of the tax.

“We’re trying to find a way to help all the cities” with the resort tax fund, said Whitmore, who recently asked the county attorney’s office for a legal opinion on whether the resort tax, or tourist development tax, can be spent on infrastructure projects.

It’s not a decision that county officials can make, as state statutes define the allowed uses for the tax, according to an opinion issued last week by Assistant Manatee County Attorney Bill Clague, which lists fishing piers among these authorized infrastructure uses:

• Convention centers;
• Sports stadiums;
• Sports arenas;
• Coliseums;
• Auditoriums;
• Aquariums;
• Museums;
• Tourist information centers;
• Beach park facilities;
• Beach improvement, maintenance, renourishment, restoration and erosion control;
• Zoological parks;
• Fishing piers;
• Nature centers;
• Professional sports franchise or spring training facilities.

Any use “not expressly authorized by the subsection is expressly prohibited,” he wrote, adding that traditional municipal infrastructure projects such as roads, water and sewer systems and parks are not listed in the statute as an authorized use of the tax.

A 2012 Florida Attorney General opinion, which is not legally binding but is considered “persuasive legal authority,” states that the tax also may be spent on parking improvements that are an “improvement or extension” of an authorized project, Clague wrote.

Besides the infrastructure projects listed above, the statute also allows counties to spend tax proceeds on tourism advertising and convention and visitor bureaus.

“It’s always been interpreted that the county has to use it to promote tourism, and that usually means advertising,” Whitmore said.

Next year’s budget is nearly $6.6 million, with $3.9 million allocated for marketing, $1 million more than this year’s marketing budget of $2.9 million.

People in other Florida counties also are asking about other uses for the resort tax.

Miami/Dade County passed a resolution in February urging the Florida Legislature to pass a law allowing resort taxes to be spent on infrastructure improvements on the theory that they could boost tourism. The Legislature declined.

A bill originating in northwest Florida that would have allowed small counties to use tourist tax funds to pay salaries for lifeguards on beaches used by tourists was voted down during the 2013 Florida legislative session.

Whitmore said she plans to meet with the county administrator and the county’s tourism director to further explore the issue next week.

Enjoy independence – Island style

sun file photo

This colorful all-terrain vehicle entered by Wash Family
Construction was a hit with the crowd in last year's
Privateers Fourth of July parade.

You’re stranded on an island paradise – by choice, of course – and you want to celebrate the Fourth of July. Here’s how to do that.

If you want to celebrate the night before, the the BeachHouse restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N. in Bradenton Beach, will host a fireworks show starting at dark. You can gather on the beach or watch from the deck as part of a package that includes food, refreshments and live entertainment. Call 778-8709.

The Fourth of July brings the annual Anna Maria Island Privateers Parade starting at 10 a.m. from Coquina Beach on the south end of the Island to Bayfront Park in Anna Maria. It’s a fun time no matter whether you’re standing on the roadside catching beads and candy or riding in a vehicle waving at everyone. The first plan requires a beach chair and a bag for your loot and the second requires you visit for an application. You will need to have a vehicle and a sign showing who you represent. Condo owners sometimes go in together and the Sandpiper Mobile Resort has known to pull a float in the parade. The only thing they won’t allow is political messages, so keep your political intentions under wraps until after the parade.

After the parade ends, Privateers will reassemble at the Anna Maria Island Beach Café from noon to 3 p.m. with live music from the Tango Mangos, food and drink specials and the scholarship award ceremony where they will announce the winners and present them with checks. It’s part of what the Privateers do, and many a parent has thanked them for helping a child get through college.

Finally, the fireworks move north to the Sandbar restaurant at 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, where or you can see if there’s still an opening for the VIP seating, which includes a buffet and drink specials and a beachfront view of the fireworks from the deck. DJ John Rinell will provide the music leading up to and after the show. Call the Sandbar at 779-2222 for information.

As for amateur fireworks, law enforcement will be beefed up to make sure things don’t get out of hand. Generally, if it flies or explodes, it is illegal in Florida, and the beach is a magnet for those who would want to shoot fireworks. Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Paul Davis, of the Anna Maria substation, said they would have additional personnel on duty for the Sandbar show.

“Most important, be safe and leave it to the professionals,” he said. “Fireworks and alcohol are a deadly combination because you think you are OK, but your judgment is impaired.

“We will respond to what we see and to calls (911),” he added. “It could lead to confiscation and a citation.”

The fun doesn’t end with the fireworks. On July 5, the North End Merchants Association (NEMO) is hosting a beach cleanup. Everyone meets at Ginny and Jane E’s at 7 a.m., and NEMO will provide the gloves and trash bags. Call Diane at Beach Bums for information, 778-3316.


Newly purchased lot a blank slate for owner

BRADENTON BEACH – Jake Spooner, owner of Bridge Street Bazaar and The Fish Hole, has bought the vacant lot to the west at 107 Bridge St. with an eye to using it for parking, and eventually, a new retail shop.

The Bridge Street Market, an outdoor market scheduled to be held on the lot on Saturday nights through July 27, will continue as he investigates using the lot for valet parking, he said. Merchants on Bridge Street could share the cost of valet parking and validate tickets to make parking free for customers, but city permits, drop-off spots and other details need to be worked out.

Long-term ideas for the lot include building a retail shop and possibly relocating the Bridge Street Bazaar there, Spooner said, adding that business is booming on Bridge Street, which needs new retail space. If he relocates, the outdoor market also would have to relocate, he said.

In May, commissioners changed a previous vote and approved developer Michael Hynds’ plan to build a retail/restaurant project with 60 outdoor seats east of the Bridge Street Bazaar after Hynds purchased a lot south of Bridge Street to provide four parking spaces. A city ordinance does not require parking spaces for outdoor dining.

Even though the winter tourist season is over, scarce parking remains an issue, according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, adding that this year, there was only a two-week break between the winter and summer tourist seasons, and officers are busy issuing parking tickets again.

“The TDC (Tourist Development Council) did their job advertising this place, but they might have put in a little thought about infrastructure before they did that,” Speciale said.

Traffic and parking are on everyone’s minds, Vice Mayor Ed Straight said, adding that over Memorial Day weekend, traffic to the Island was backed up past 26th Street in Bradenton and the Kingfish boat ramp parking lot is overflowing every weekend.

“It’s probably not to going to get any better,” Straight said.

Electronic signs are still in use In Bradenton advising beachgoers that beach parking lots are full, but the two signs on the Island were removed after one fell down, Speciale said.

A new sign erected by a condo on Gulf Drive just north of Cortez Road warns people not to park on the vacant beachfront, warning that “Police take notice.” The area is cordoned off with stakes and tape.

But four new public parking spaces have been opened up at 21st Street North, where the city removed bushes that hid the spaces, making them inaccessible. The no parking sign in the area belongs to an adjacent condo and refers to condo property, Speciale said.

AMICCO announces new board members

The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO) announces its 2013-2014 board of directors, and artistic staff.

James Stolte is the new president; Robert Notari, first vice president; Leonard Murphy, second vice president and orchestra librarian; and the position of treasurer is open.

Laura Septic is the secretary and database coordinator, while Jeanie Pickwick is manager of contracts and compensation and the executive director.

Joy Leitner was chosen as chorus development coordinator and librarian, Nancy Ambrose is director of development, publicity, public relations, and Steve Gorman was picked as director of publications.

Etta Closser is in charge of the box office and at-large members are Dantia Gould, Jon Magendanz, Shawn Snider, Gregg Voorhees and Megan Schmidt.

The artistic staff consists of Artistic Director/Principal Conductor Alfred Gershfeld; Assistant Conductor Jon Magendanz; Chorus Master John Ferreira; Executive Director Jeanie Pickwick; Strings Coordinator Jon Magendanz; Winds/Percussion Coordinator Lita Tyler; and Chorus Coordinator Joy Leitner.

For information on AMICCO, contact Jeanie Pickwick at 941-795-2370.

Wait is on for pier restaurant identity

BRADENTON BEACH – Prospective restaurateurs are anxious for the city to issue a request for proposals for the former Rotten Ralph’s restaurant, but may have to wait a couple of months to bid on the space at the city pier.

It could take two or three more city commission meetings before officials hammer out the details of the request for proposals, including how much will be required for minimum bids, commissioners said last week at a work meeting on the subject. The commission meets twice a month, with only one meeting in July due to the July 4 holiday.

Prospective tenants toured the empty restaurant with Police Chief Sam Speciale on Thursday, as well as the bait shop and a kiosk originally intended as a harbor master’s office.

Whether the city will lease all three spaces to the same tenant or to different tenants is one of the many details that remain to be decided, including preferred menus and hours of operation.

Bids will be sealed, and likely will have to meet a minimum figure yet to be determined, said commissioners, who also discussed the possibility of renting the three spaces for different costs per square foot.

Half of the pier remains closed due to Tropical Storm Andrea the first week of June, which caused two boats to come loose from their moorings and hit the pier, damaging two pilings and prompting the city to make plans to remove the cupola over one of the damaged pilings, Speciale said.

The commission soon will hear a proposal to repair the pilings by reinforcing them with more pilings, according to city Building Official Steve Gilbert, who estimated a cost of $3,200.

The recently-repaired floating dock remains open, having only lost one bolt during the storm, which was replaced, Public Works Director Tom Woodard said.

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