Vol. 15 No. 18 - February 25, 2015


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryUnder Egmont: Found

ST. AUGUSTINE – When Rob Whitehurst began looking for the grave of his great-great-grandfather, the Internet was new, with scant information, and research was challenging.

When he learned that John Alexander Whitehurst was buried on Egmont Key in the cemetery next to the lighthouse, it was like striking gold. He recorded his findings on a website, Findagrave.com, and laid his search to rest.

Years passed. Then in 2015, research by The Sun about the people buried in the Egmont Key cemetery uncovered a handwritten ledger on Ancestry.com showing that 12 people, including Spanish-American War soldiers, an “Indian (Unknown),” and Whitehurst’s great-great-grandfather, had been relocated in 1909 from Egmont Key to the St. Augustine National Cemetery. More...

Latest net ban challenge stymied by high court

CORTEZ – Twenty years after a state constitutional amendment imposed a ban on gill nets, the latest challenge by commercial fishermen is dead in the water.

The Florida Supreme Court issued an order on Thursday, Feb. 12, saying “… the court having determined that it should decline to accept jurisdiction, it is ordered that the petition for review is denied.”

“Surprisingly, they refused to accept jurisdiction and will not entertain any motions for rehearing,” said Ronald Mowrey, attorney for the Wakulla Commercial Fishermen’s Association, Panacea bait shop owner Ronald Fred Crum and mullet fishermen Jonas Porter and Keith Ward. The plaintiffs sued the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in 2012, arguing that its rules designed to enforce the state constitutional amendment banning gill nets violates the equal protection rights of commercial fishermen and results in the unintended bycatch that the ban is designed to prevent. More...

Island, Cortez, to receive resort tax funds

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) voted on Monday to recommend three projects on Anna Maria Island and one in Cortez to receive resort tax funds from the Manatee County Commission.

If approved by the commission, all projects would be dollar-for-dollar matches with each organization, similar to the recently completed Bridge Street Pier project in which the county partnered with the city of Bradenton Beach to rebuild the pier.

Anna Maria Island’s three cities generated an average 45.6 percent of Manatee County’s $10.6 million in resort tax collections in 2014, or about $4.8 million, according to county tax collector statistics. Island residents have long complained that, prior to the pier project, little of the money made its way back to the Island. More...

Rebuttal letter raises questions

BRADENTON BEACH – Many city voters who signed the first of two recall petitions directed at Mayor Bill Shearon received a letter of rebuttal from the mayor last week.

In its entirety, Shearon’s letter states: “The following is my response to the recall election. I will be a candidate if there is a special election, I will also be a candidate for re-election Nov. 3rd. To save thousands of dollars of city funds and resources, don’t sign the recall petition. Vote in the regular election Nov. 3rd, not a few months earlier. I am committed to serving the citizens as your mayor.”

The letter is signed, “Thank you for your consideration. Mayor William ‘Bill’ Shearon.” More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryCity audit looks good ...

BRADENTON BEACH – The efforts of City Treasurer Sheila Dalton and the receipt of $320,000 in cell tower lease revenues were credited as significant contributing factors in the audit of the 2014 fiscal year budget that revealed far fewer problems than in 2013.

“Your revenue went up, and your expenditures went down, with the most significant item being the $320,000 from the cell tower,” Auditor Randy Dillingham told commissioners last week.

According to the audit report, “The assets of the city exceeded its liabilities by $8,668,788. Of this amount, $1,605,881 may be used to meet the city’s ongoing obligations. Of this total amount, $942,085, is available for spending at the city’s discretion.” More...

... but legal fees continue to climb

BRADENTON BEACH – Last week, city commissioners approved payment on invoice for $8,528 for attorney fees generated by Mayor Bill Shearon, his significant other Tjet Martin and resident Jo Ann Meilner in their continued opposition to a 2012 development agreement the city reached with restaurant owner Ed Chiles.

According to the Jan. 31 invoice submitted by the Blalock Walters law firm, $7,208 of that total monthly figure is directly attributed to the city’s successful defense of the emergency injunction Martin and Meilner filed in their unsuccessful efforts to prevent the development of a contractually-obligated, unpaved public parking lot adjacent to Chiles’ BeachHouse restaurant.

The invoice also notes that at least $925 was spent on a recent non-public shade meeting that allowed city commissioners and attorneys to privately discuss the city’s defense of a related and still pending lawsuit Shearon, Martin and Meilner filed against the city in 2012. An additional $302 is attributed to attorney correspondence and review of matters pertinent to one or both legal challenges. More...

Commission to vote on rental licensing

ANNA MARIA – After voting earlier this month to get a declaratory judgment on whether short-term rentals are a commercial enterprise in a residential zone, the city commission worked out an ordinance last Thursday that would require rental agents to be licensed with the city.

The commission worked on the plan that was drawn up with input from residents and real estate professionals and then put into legalese by an attorney.

Mayor Dan Murphy said they needed to re-examine the declaratory judgment process because when they voted to seek one, it was not listed on the agenda. More...

Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryBoard frustrates Moose lodge manager

BRADENTON BEACH – The Planning and Zoning Board wants the Moose lodge to remove its beachfront picnic tables, and longtime lodge administrator and manager Ernie Casali is not happy about it.

After Wednesday’s meeting, a frustrated Casali said, “Are they telling me I have to get rid of the picnic tables? That ain’t gonna happen. Those tables are over $10,000…over $1,000 apiece.”

The request to remove 13 picnic tables located on the lodge’s gulf front patio is one five stipulations the planning board collectively suggested when recommending approval of a special exception request that would allow the lodge to transfer 50 of its 190-seat seating allowance to a new rooftop dining area. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryPanic stricken to perfect

I can’t tell you how often when I’m invited to dinner at someone’s home how much pressure they put on themselves to cook the perfect meal for me and the fear of not living up to those standards.

When I met Amanda, who’s a better cook than I am, she wouldn’t cook seafood for me. She always thought she couldn’t do it as well as a seafood restaurant owner could. I remember cooking one of my favorite seafood dishes for her early in our relationship, and she watched and helped and said, “That’s it? That’s all there is to it?” I hated to admit it, but, yes, that is all there is to it. Many are apprehensive about cooking seafood, but it is so simple. But then again, after watching people that have cooked for years, like any other profession, it always appears easy. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryCleaning up Sister Keys

On Saturday Feb. 21, Sarasota Bay Watch members Larry Stults and I helped expedite an invasive flora cleanup at the Sister Keys off Longboat Key. The work was done by members of the Suncoast Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area group (CISMA) whose mission is "to address the threat to native diversity within the Suncoast CISMA by coordinating and increasing efforts to eliminate or reduce invasive, non-native plants and animals across public and private boundaries."

The Suncoast CISMA is primarily composed of interagency personnel involved in land management, but also a contingent of volunteers from Pinellas, Manatee, Hillsboro and Sarasota counties. More...

real estate

From big mortgage chill to big mortgage meltdown

It’s only February, but the mortgage regulations are going from chilly straight to meltdown, and the temperature has barely broken 75.

In November I wrote a column broadly outlining anticipated changes in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s mortgage guidelines. At that time, Fannie and Freddie had just announced plans to expand credit to borrowers with weak credit and low down payment funds. These changes were a response to the slow growth in the housing market, as well as pressure from organizations like the National Low Income Housing Coalition to make mortgage funding available to a broader range of buyers. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Passive indexing not always best

Investment Corner

After long periods of steadily rising markets, like we’ve experienced for most of the last 5 ¾ years, there is a predictable theme that comes to the forefront of investment conversations. The concept of indexing or passive investing is touted as the best way to go because most actively managed investment funds don’t beat their benchmark indexes during periods of rising markets.

The problem inherent in this argument is that index style investing generally gets riskier as market trends go on for longer periods of time. Index funds are required to hold their investments in proportion with the index the fund is based on. The most common example is the S&P 500 Index. Most indexes are capitalization weighted, meaning the largest companies as measured by the value of all their outstanding shares have a larger weight in the fund. So, companies like Apple, Exxon Mobil and Microsoft have a higher weighting than smaller companies like AutoZone or the WD-40 Company. More...


Anna Maria Island Sun News StoryThe Saints march past the Colts

The Saints in the 11-to 13-year old flag football league at the Anna Maria Island Community Center maintained their perfect record with a win on Saturday against the Colts, a complete team effort. Coached by Darren Horesh, the Saints started the game on defense and saw the Colts take the early lead. With Joe Rogers and Ava Zink as quarterback, an aggressive run by Jacklyn Schlossberg and key catches by Rogers, Roman Langley and Rutger Langley, the Colts put up six points. A critical sack by Saints Hannah McCracken kept the score 6-0.

In the first set of downs for the Saints, the Colts, coached by the Center’s athletic director Matt Ray, could not stop the quick legs and elusive moves of Jackson Hayes. In two plays, Hayes entered the end zone, tying up the game 6-6. The extra point conversion was successful as Morgan Horesh made a diving catch thrown by quarterback Tuna McCracken for the Saints. More...