The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 49 - October 2, 2013


Carol Whitmore


Firefighters responded quickly to a fire at the
Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria on Monday morning.


ANNA MARIA – The Rod and Reel Pier restaurant caught fire Monday morning with smoke pouring out of the landmark wood building atop the pier with the same name. It took 22 firefighters more than an hour to extinguish the source of the smoke because it had spread into the wall, according to West Manatee Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Rich Losek.

“It was a quick knockdown but the fire spread to the walls,” he said.

The first fire alarm was called in around 8:30 a.m. and two pumpers and a ladder truck responded from West Manatee. A ladder truck from Longboat Key and a pumper from Cedar Hammock fire departments also responded.

A number of people were inside the restaurant having a leisurely breakfast on the water when smoke began pouring out of a wall, bringing to an abrupt end what had been an idyllic Monday morning.

“Somebody came up to us and said smoke is coming in and then the waitress came over and said, ‘I don’t want to alarm you, but you’ll have to leave,’” said Marie Marsh, from Marion, Ohio, who was eating breakfast. “We’ve been coming here for 34 years and it’s so sad. This is a historic part of the Island.”

Marsh and her family sat under a thatched roof in the back of the Rod and Reel Motel as firefighters hacked away at the roof and walls of the restaurant, trying to find the source of the black smoke that filled the air.

Nearby, waiter David Mariotti and waitress Richie Shank watched the firemen work. They were still wearing aprons from their morning shift.

“The smoke was downstairs at first, but it came upstairs and we decided to get everyone out,” Mariotti said.

Shank said it was sad to watch the smoke billow out of the building.

The source of the fire appeared to be elusive as firefighters used chainsaws and wore air tanks, digging into the building’s roof. Finally, the dark smoke turned white, indicating the fire was being extinguished.

Anna Maria resident John Fara had been fishing at the pier and later went up to eat breakfast.

“I smelled smoke and it smelled a little electrical,” he said. “That’s when someone called the fire department.”

Fara said he was sorry to see the fire hit the restaurant.

“I’ve been coming here for 50 years,” he said. “I used to be a volunteer fireman for the early fire department and I’m impressed with how professional they’ve become since I was there.”

Later in the day, workers were taking the perishables out of the restaurant while the fire investigator checked for clues as to how the fire started. A chain blocked off the entrance to the pier with a sign that read, “Closed. No trespass.”

There was no estimate immediately available on the extent of the damage or when the pier might reopen.

ArtsHOP calls to artists to make birdhouses
Carol Whitmore


Birdhouses are the theme for artsHOP, coming
Nov. 8-10 at art galleries all over the Island.



Members of Cultural Connections invite artists and members of the public to participate in this year’s public art project as part of artsHOP, the three-day celebration of Island arts and culture, on Nov. 8-10.

This year’s public art is birdhouses, and people are invited to make, paint or using recycled materials, build a birdhouse that can be displayed at selected Island locations. There is no limit as to materials, size or color – just let your Island imagination guide you.

In addition to the public art, the artsHOP weekend includes a gallery walk, a play, a concert, a dance, a luncheon, art activities and an arts and crafts show. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, Nov. 8

• The Gallery Walk from 5 to 8 p.m. includes Artist’s Guild Gallery, Island Gallery West, Anna Maria Art League, Restless Natives, Libby's Fine Jewelry and Gifts, Art for the Earth, and Fukinsei Art Lab in Holmes Beach and The Studio at Gulf and Pine, Bob Brown Studio, Emerson's Studio, Shiny Fish Emporium, Artspace, Tide and Moon and Ginny and Jane E's in Anna Maria.
• Play Bird Bingo by getting a card at any of the Gallery Walk venues. Each venue will have a unique bird image. Find the image in the gallery and get the matching image on your bingo card stamped. When you have a straight line you can turn in the card and receive a discount coupon for dinner at the Sandbar restaurant and a chance to win the Gallery Walk raffle basket, which can be viewed at the Artists' Guild Gallery in Holmes Beach.
• A special performance of “Guilty Conscience” will be staged at the Island Players Theater at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at the box office at 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Saturday, Nov. 9

• Butterfly Arts and Crafts Show, Holmes Beach city field, 5800 Marina Drive, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• A farm to table luncheon at the AMI Historical Society garden, 402 Pine Ave. Anna Maria. Birdhouses will be on display, and Ed Straight, of Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Inc., will bring some birds, dispense information and answer questions. Luncheon details will be available at a later date.
• Symphony on the Sand with the AMI Concert Chorus and Orchestra, at Coquina Beach Gulfside, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at
• Dance in the Sand with Mike Sales at Anna Maria Island Beach Café at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach from 8 to 10 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 10

• Butterfly Arts and Crafts Show, Holmes Beach city field, 5800 Marina Drive, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Activities for adults and kids at AMI Art League, 5312 Holmes Blvd. Holmes Beach, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Birdhouses will be on display.
• A special performance of “Guilty Conscience” will be staged at the Island Players Theater at 2 p.m.
For more information on artsHOP events or the birdhouses and a registration form, visit The weekend of events is sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Sun.

Holmes Beach candidates file initial campaign finance reports

HOLMES BEACH – Five candidates are competing for the three Holmes Beach Commission seats to be decided during the Tuesday, Nov. 5 city elections and the first round of campaign finance reports provides a glimpse into the fundraising efforts and expenditures of each contender.

Covering the period of Monday, July 1 through Friday, Sept. 13, the first of four mandatory campaign finance reports required by the Florida Department of State Elections Division were due Friday, Sept. 20.

With a $5,000 loan to his own campaign, incumbent Commissioner David Zaccagnino leads all candidates in terms of money raised. His only listed expenditures include the $60 qualifying fee paid to the city of Holmes Beach and $1.50 paid to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office for petition signature verification.

Zaccagnino’s initial report lists no additional contributions or contributors.

Incumbent Commissioner Jean Peelen has received $1,550 in campaign contributions. In addition to a $500 loan to her own campaign, Peelen received financial support from Holmes Beach residents Anthony Butzek, Kathy Caserta and Jim Plath, Anna Maria resident Mary Beveridge and Bradenton residents Bill McGrath and Ron Travis.

Peelen also received contributions from supporters elsewhere in Florida, from Colorado and from Pennsylvania. Her expenditures include $338 for campaign signs from a graphic design firm in Houston, Texas, $200 for campaign postcards created by a graphic designer in Ephrata, Pa. and the $60 qualifying fee.

Incumbent Commissioner Pat Morton’s financial report lists $825 in campaign contributions, including a $150 loan to his own campaign.

To date, all of Morton’s support has come from Holmes Beach residents, including fellow commissioner Marvin Grossman, Grossman’s wife, Jane, Commissioner Judy Titsworth’s husband, Steve, and residents Lance Spotts, James Plath and Kimball Rash. The sole expenditures listed in Morton’s financial report are the $60 qualifying fee and $1.90 for petition verification.

Challenger Melissa Williams has raised $1,050, including the $150 she donated to her own campaign. Support has also come from Holmes Beach residents Sandy Haas-Martens, Phyllis Bohnenberger and Thomas Murphy. Williams, a graphic designer and owner of Steam Designs, paid her own firm $395 for campaign yard signs and $44 for a campaign website, in addition to her qualifying and petition verification fees.

Challenger Carol Soustek’s initial report lists $985 in monetary contributions, including a $100 loan to her own campaign and $250 in campaign expenditures. Soustek’s supporters include Marvin and Jane Grossman, Judy Titsworth, former Bradenton Beach Mayor Katie Pierola and Holmes Beach residents Lance Spotts, Billie Martini, James Plath and Nancy Deal, with additional in-state contributions received from supporters in Spring Hill and Tampa.

Her largest expenditure was $117 for campaign T-shirts created by J & J Graphics in Anna Maria.

Commissioners Grossman and Titsworth’s active support for some of the current candidates rendered them unqualified to serve on the city’s election canvassing board, resulting in some hard feelings and verbal exchanges between Grossman and Zaccagnino, who feels there is an effort to remove him from office in order to create a commission of like-minded thinkers.

The next campaign finance reports are due on Friday, Oct. 4.


Public to have more timely input at city meetings

HOLMES BEACH – In an effort to comply with Senate Bill 50, which grants citizens additional assurances to have their voices heard at governmental meetings, Holmes Beach commissioners clarified the city’s public input policies during last week’s city commission work session.

Passed recently by the state Legislature, SB 50 takes effect Oct. 1.

According to a memo sent by attorneys James Linn and Glenn Thomas to their firm’s “municipal and special district clients,” the intent of the bill is to “provide the general public with reasonable opportunity to be heard in meetings subject to the Sunshine Law."

The memo goes on to say, “While the Sunshine Law has long required meetings of boards or commissions to be open to the public, the law has not heretofore guaranteed a right to participate. Except for a few limited exceptions, the law expands the Sunshine Law in a manner that guarantees the right of the public to be heard at meetings of governmental bodies.”

Before recommending that commissioners create a resolution regarding the city’s public comment policies, City Attorney Patricia Petruff said, “We have always had a public comments section in our agenda because we’re the kind of city that wants to hear from our citizens.”

Seeking commission direction before crafting the new ordinance, Petruff said, “This law requires that you set forth your policy by ordinance or resolution and that it be a formal policy,” explaining that the key is to give citizens an opportunity to speak before votes are taken and final decisions are made.

After some discussion on the matter, Chair Jean Peelen proposed that during regular city commission meetings, citizens be given the right to speak on the issue being discussed at that time, as opposed to speaking at the beginning or the end of a meeting.

Peelen also suggested that during the less formal commission work sessions public input take place at the end of the meeting, in part because the work sessions are more conversational and less geared toward decision making.

She suggested trying this approach for a month or so to see how it works, while giving Petruff time to write an ordinance that will need final approval from commissioners.

Expressing her support for more timely public input, Commissioner Judy Titsworth said, “I know sometimes when I was sitting out there and I had to wait to the very end of the meeting to speak I always thought it would make a lot more sense if you could speak when it’s being spoken about up here.”

The new law does not apply to emergency sessions, ministerial acts such as the approval of minutes, executive sessions regarding litigation and quasi-judicial proceedings such as disability hearings or forfeitures.

Kids Zone to entertain youngsters

ANNA MARIA – One of the keys to the success of Bayfest is its diverse offerings of fun for everyone and the same holds true on Friday, Oct. 18, from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This year’s Bayfest will again offer a Kids Zone in the parking lot across the street from Roser Memorial Community Church on Saturday.

Kid LaLosh, owner of AMI Fitness at 5364 Gulf Drive, in Holmes Beach, has put together the Kids Zone for the last three years and he said there will be plenty for the kids to do. Admission is free, but there will be charges for some of the ride, he said.

“We’ll have a bunch of bounce houses, a rock climb, a bungee jump and games,” he said. “We’ll also have concessions to sell food and drinks.”

In addition, Roser Church will have make-your-own crafts and snacks, a game area with prizes and other fun for the kids. In addition, the Roser Thrift Shop will be open and the chapel will be open for prayer.

As for the adults, there will be dozens of booths selling arts and crafts, gift items and homemade items and non-profit organizations will offer information about themselves and what they do. The shops along Pine Avenue will also be open for those who have not visited the Island’s newest shopping area offering a wide array of items for all.

Enjoy live music, food and drink at the field at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard. Some of the best food outlets in Manatee County will be set up on Saturday.

Bayfest actually begins on Friday with a big party to welcome the weekend. The stage at the field will come alive with music and some of the food servers will be open, so there’s no need to make dinner.

On Saturday, the shopping begins and there will be refreshments available to keep yourself hydrated. There’s no better place to be, celebrating the end of the hottest weather and the beginning of the busy season for residents and businesses.

If you live on the Island, try to take the free trolley to Bayfest. If you don’t, there will be parking at CrossPointe Fellowship, at the entrance to Anna Maria City, and then you can take the trolley the rest of the way.

The Anna Maria Island Sun is proud to be the media sponsor for Bayfest. Other sponsors are the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, Miller Electric, Engel and Volkers real estate, Budweiser and the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. LaPensee Plumbing and Pools is the car show sponsor and the music sponsors are Island Real Estate, Anna Maria Island Resort, American Beauty Pools and Hancock Bank.

Come on out and enjoy the Island at Bayfest, and bring the kids.

Mayor lists parking options

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners agreed on Tuesday, Sept. 24, to work on a plan to help control parking while helping raise money to pay for accelerated wear and tear on the city’s infrastructure caused by the large influx of visitors.

Mayor SueLynn laid out her goals and criteria before the five commissioners and more than a dozen residents in the audience. They are charged with finding a solution that is in the best interests of the residents, creates a revenue stream, controls the volume of visitors, is simple to understand and implement, is fair and equal to all (or as many as possible) and is comprehensive.

SueLynn passed out a map of the city showing all the parking locations in the city by use, including angular, alternative side, city parking, allowed and prohibited.

The mayor unveiled four options to achieve those goals.

The first is to implement no parking in the right-of-way by anyone, anytime. It would not apply to the residential over retail (ROR) or commercial district and the Rod and Reel parking lot. Day visitors could park free in city lots, at the City Pier Park and in the designated City Pier parking lot and at Bayfront Park. There would be no paid parking.

Under the second option, each property owner would receive two free two-year parking permits. Again, this would not apply to the ROR or commercial district and the Rod and Reel parking lot. Parking would be authorized for all designated areas, overnight parking would be allowed in the rights-of-way, day visitors would be allowed to park free in city hall lots, at City Pier Park, at designated City Pier parking lot spots and at Bayfront Park. Vendors, contractors, Turtle Watch, service providers and individuals or organizations with special events and permitted special occasions would be exempt.

The third option includes the second option plus a paid annual pass for non- property owners. They would sell an annual pass for parking from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., they would retain opposite-side parking, there would be tiered fees for Island residents not living in Anna Maria or from unincorporated areas and municipalities in Manatee County, plus non-Manatee County residents.

The fourth option gets deep into paid parking with pay stations. They would decide if a daily fee would be allowed and what method of payment would be allowed.

“They say that paper money gets damp and clogs up the machines,” SueLynn said. “Credit cards might be better.”

After her presentation, Commissioner Doug Copeland said he didn’t see anything viable to their problem. Commissioner Gene Aubry asked why the city would host special events and then complain about parking.

“We’re inviting people here without any knowledge of how it is,” he said. “If you just leave things the way they are, people will come to visit.”

Commissioner Nancy Yetter disagreed with the plans saying they were elected to serve the residents of Anna Maria.

“They have expressed concern that there isn’t enough parking and there are too many tourists,” she said. “You have people picnicking on the right-of-way.

“We need to put a stop to this while we still have the power to do it,” she added. “I’m tired of sitting here and looking like I’m not doing anything.”

Some people in the audience applauded.

Commissioner Chuck Webb said they need to define the problem. He said they need to hit a balance between bringing in visitors and being able to serve the needs of the residents.

Resident Joe Paulk said he agrees with Commissioner Aubry that they don’t need to be called snobs on the Island because they have their share of festivals to attract people. He said parking in the rights-of-way is dangerous and they need to improve the landscaping around the city.

Micheal Coleman, who helped develop Pine Avenue, said if the city restricts rentals, it will restrict revenue. He said the situation with rental houses is not perfect but it is improving. He said they don’t need to do something just for the sake of looking like they’re doing something.

Webb said they need to define the problem before they can move to correct it.

The issue will be discussed in future meetings.

Budget hearing brings benefits discussion

ANNA MARIA – One city commissioner wants to take a look at how much employee benefits are costing the city.

At the second, and final public hearing for the 2013-14 budget, Commissioner Dale Woodland again expressed concern that the city would replace three part-time public works employees with three full-time people with the benefits the city offers. Although Mayor SueLynn explained at earlier meetings that she felt the city could no longer find quality employees on a part-time basis due to the economic recovery, Woodland brought up the new full-timers, suggesting they give them all the benefits except for one – inclusion in the state’s retirement system, which can get costly for the city.

“Give them a 401k,” he suggested.

Woodland said he did not feel a public works position should be a career position, but city budget officer Diane Percycoe said that since making the positions part-time, they had gone through 15 employees, but Woodland was not convinced.

“If you add up all the employees’ salaries and benefits, they are larger than the ad valorem,” Woodland said, referring to the money the city collects from property taxes. “I think we should at least offer a 401k to all new hires.”

Percycoe said she would have to check to see if the state would allow the city to not offer state retirement benefits since the other employees are on it.

“There’s never a better time than now, since we’re facing those new hires,” he said.

As for the budget hearing, John Connelly was the only resident to attend and he did not speak. The commission approved the budget with Woodland voting against it.

Turtle ordinance nears completion

HOLMES BEACH – City commissioners are moving forward with an ordinance that would provide nesting sea turtles greater protections from artificial lighting and intrusive objects, while granting the Holmes Beach Police Department increased enforcement powers in regard to the removal of discarded tents, canopies, beach chairs and other items left behind by beach visitors.

Working in conjunction with Suzi Fox, director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, and Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, City Attorney Patricia Petruff presented city commissioners with a draft ordinance that updates the city’s existing turtle ordinance. It also creates a new Sea Turtle Friendly District that “shall include all properties within the City of Holmes Beach that may directly, indirectly or cumulatively illuminate the beach with artificial light at any time, and regardless of whether those properties are beachfront properties.”

The ordinance also addresses lighting of dune crossovers, beach access points, parking areas and roadways, pool areas, pier structures and lighting associated with special events.

The ordinance establishes a beach lighting inspector’s title and stipulates that this person shall have the necessary training and knowledge to carry out the duties of that office that would include follow-up inspections of violating properties.

The ordinance notes that any person in violation of the ordinance who fails to cure the violation after proper notice is given will be subject to a fine of $250 per day per violation, with fines escalating to $500 per day for repeat offenders.

The ordinance provides the city the right to “encumber such property in violation with a lien for the amount equal to the total amount of fines owed at the time the lien is recorded.”

Petruff said the ordinance requires the day-end removal of items on a public beach year-round and pertains to privately-owned beaches only during the turtle nesting season.

The annual sea turtle nesting season on Anna Maria Island and throughout the rest of Manatee County runs from May 1 through Oct. 31.

Petruff said the ordinance also decreases the number of days the police department must store confiscated beach items from 15 days to seven days before they can be disposed of, allowing owners less time to retrieve their discarded items.

A city staff member pointed out that the law might require 90 days storage before items can be disposed of, prompting Petruff to say, “That seems like an awfully long time for a broken down beach chair.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he could not find the language pertaining to discarded items when reading over the ordinance. After confirming this to be true, Petruff told commissioners that language had inadvertently been omitted and would be reinserted into the ordinance document before it comes back to the commission for approval.

Petruff said she would check into the legal requirements pertaining to confiscated items and would also get some final input from Fox on the ordinance in general.

Chief Tokajer weighed in, saying, “We’re not looking to go out and clean the beach every night, but we have something that gives us a little teeth to do something if a problem does occur.”

Summing up his thoughts on the ordinance as a whole, Commissioner Pat Morton said, “I think it’s long overdue.”

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