The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper


Vol. 16 No. 17 - February 24, 2016

headlines

Mooring field proposed

Carol Whitmore

joe hendricks | sun

The navigable waters near the Historic Bridge Street Pier are home
to many liveaboard boaters.

BRADENTON BEACH – The owners of the Bradenton Beach Marina want to partner with the city to operate a managed mooring field in the occupied navigable waters south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Al Bazzy and his son Mike presented their ideas to the City Commission during the Thursday, Feb. 18, meeting. No decisions were made, but the commission agreed to schedule a workshop to further discuss the idea and other matters pertaining to the use of the city-owned pier, day dock and upland structures.

The proposal stems in part from the lawsuit the Bazzys filed against the city, Anna Maria Oyster Bar (AMOB) President John Horne, Paradise Boat Tours owner Sherman Baldwin and two additional tenants who sublease pier space from Horne’s We’re Back Inc. The lawsuit is based on the claim that the non-restaurant pier uses are not in the public’s best interest and that alleged Sunshine violations occurred during the commission-approved lease negotiations that granted Horne the rights to three city-owned spaces on the public fishing pier.

The Bazzys, who were unsuccessful in their own pursuit of the pier lease, also are questioning which commercial uses are allowed on and near the pier according to the state-issued submerged land lease.

Last week’s public discussion brought to light private conversations the Bazzys previously had with Mayor Bill Shearon, and Al Bazzy’s spirited presentation raised as many questions as it answered.

Bazzy cited the need to provide pump out services for the disposal of sewage created by the liveaboard boaters. He believes a managed mooring field would also allow for greater enforcement of boating laws and safety regulations, and he called for the public showers to be reopened.

He did not say how many vessels the proposed mooring field would accommodate, but he estimated it would cost $1 million to build. He said he would cover those costs because he would make more money subleasing a city-owned mooring field than he makes with his current business. He also claimed the city would earn $50,000 to $100,000 in the first year of operation.

“The tourism will totally pay for it,” Bazzy said, while providing no specifics on this anticipated revenue stream.

Bazzy claimed the current pier-based business operations do not benefit the public, but he failed to mention that Horne and his partners currently pay the city $32,000 a year in initial monthly lease payments. The rent increases to $42,000 per year for years two through five and is then subject to 3 percent annual increases for the remainder of the long-term lease. The city also receives two percent of the restaurant’s monthly gross revenues.

The city’s submerged land lease only covers the land directly under and adjacent to the pier and does not cover the area currently populated by liveaboards. Bazzy said it could take 18 months to four years to acquire a new or amended submerged land lease. The state could also deny such a request.

A public-private mooring field would require the city to issue a request for proposals that would allow all interested parties to bid on the mooring field opportunity, and the winning bidder would be selected by the city commission.

The city would also need state authorization to construct a mooring field, and that is granted sparingly. In 2009, the state legislature authorized the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to conduct a pilot program that resulted in mooring fields being built in five Florida locations, including St. Petersburg and Sarasota, where submerged land leases were already in place.

In 2013, FWC issued a 220-page follow-up report that said the six mooring fields were somewhat effective in terms of reducing the number of derelict vessels, but less effective in regard to providing public access, increased public safety and addressing environmental concerns. The report also noted that managed mooring fields are the cruising community’s least preferred water-based lodging option.

The 35-unit Sarasota Bay Mooring Field managed by Marina Jack charges $25 per day and $250 to $345 a month, depending on vessel size. Occupants receive access to showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, pump-out services, mail service, dinghy dockage, a fuel dock, a ship store, trash and recycling service, potable water and a temporary slip for loading and repairs. Occupancy requires proof of vessel registration and proof of liability insurance that ranges from $300,000 to $1 million in required coverage depending on vessel size.

When the mooring field was built, the majority of liveaboard residents simply moved their vessels outside the mooring field boundaries in order to maintain their rent-free lifestyles, and the project incurred significant cost overages and lengthy construction delays.

FWC’s pilot program is scheduled to sunset in 2017, and the availability of future mooring field approval remains unclear.

Future of pier is topic of Thursday meeting
Carol Whitmore

joe hendricks | sun

The historic Anna Maria City Pier needs some serious repairs.

 

ANNA MARIA – The mayor and city commissioners have met individually with the engineering firm that conducted the recent survey of the Anna Maria City Pier, and they are now ready for their first public discussion on whether to repair the existing pier or build a new one.

The 50-page pier survey report Bridge Design Associates presented to the city earlier this month revealed structural deficiencies and other safety concerns.

The engineering firm estimated it would cost $1.4 to $1.7 million to rehabilitate the existing pier or $2.3 to $2.8 million to tear it down and build a new one to modern design standards.

Accompanied by Mayor Dan Murphy, each commissioner was given the opportunity to meet with four members of the design team on Friday, Feb. 12. Some of the commissioners were also joined by Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department Director Charlie Hunsicker.

Based on these meetings, and what they learned from reading the report, the commission will now decide how to move forward. The commission’s first public discussion on this matter will take place Thursday, Feb. 25, at city hall. The commission meeting will begin at 6 p.m., and public comment on the pier will be allowed.

“We will present three options to the commission,” Murphy said. “Option one is to do nothing, option two is to rehabilitate and option three is to tear it down and start over.”

Murphy said he is going to recommend the existing pier be refurbished.

Murphy said it was still too early to comment on how these efforts would be funded.

Mario Schoenfelder has been the city’s pier lease holder since 2000, and he operates the City Pier Restaurant and the bait shop located at the pier’s T-end. His current lease was renewed in 2010 and is scheduled to expire in 2020.

The lease says the city is only obligated to repair or restore the lease premises following a “casualty loss to its condition.”

The lease says the tenant shall be solely responsible for repairing or restoring any alterations made to the lease premises.

It is not yet known to what degree Schoenfelder will be asked to contribute financially. Nor has it been determined whether the city will approach Manatee County officials to inquire about matching county commission-controlled Tourist Development Council funds, similar to what occurred with the restoration of the fishing pier in Bradenton Beach.

When asked about his meeting with the engineers, Commission Chair Doug Copeland said, “Having the opportunity to ask direct questions cleared up some things. Basically we have three options. I’m going to be in favor of rehabbing it.”

Commissioner Nancy Yetter said, “I was pretty well aware of what they we’re going to talk about and I felt confident that they were knowledgeable of what they were doing. This could be a good thing.”

Commissioner Dale Woodland said, “I was impressed with their presentation. I was impressed with the study too, and the options presented. I feel confident that we’ll get where we need to go, and it’ll be done in a manner that minimizes the effect it will have on our visitors and the pier employees.”

Commenting on pier’s current condition, Commissioner Carol Carter said, “We’ve got a real safety issue that we have to solve rather quickly.”

Carter said she learned from her meeting with the engineers that building a totally new pier would not allow for a restaurant and bait shop to be built again at the pier’s end.

Day dock uses questioned

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

joe hendricks | sun

Docking commercial vessels like this floating bait barge
at the city day dock may soon be a thing of the past.

BRADENTON BEACH – The use of the public day dock and the upland structures associated with the Historic Bridge Street Pier are the subjects of an increasing number of lease-related disputes and debates.

Questions have surfaced as to whether commercial activities taking place on the day dock conflict with the city’s submerged land lease with the state. Questions also continue to be raised regarding the use of the upland buildings addressed in a separate lease and concessionaire agreement between the city and John Horne’s We’re Back Inc., the ownership group that runs the pier-based AMOB restaurant and subleases two additional spaces to other tenants.

During the Feb. 18 City Commission meeting, Police Chief Sam Speciale sought a commission decision on whether John Maguire would be allowed to continue selling bait from two floating vessels tied to the day dock.

Horne’s lease includes a non-compete clause that extends to his subtenants, and Baldwin intends to sell live bait at the space he subleases. A new bait well was delivered last week and arrangements have been made for Annie’s Bait & Tackle to supply the bait.

As the chair of the Pier Team advisory board, Speciale has repeatedly said the non-compete clause means Maguire must stop selling bait when Baldwin starts selling it. The city receives no revenue from Maguire’s endeavor, but he was allowed to continue as a temporary public service after the previous bait shop failed to reopen when the renovated fishing pier reopened last spring.

Speciale’s request for direction took an unexpected turn when Mayor Bill Shearon shared a legal opinion presented to him verbally by attorney Fred Moore. Moore represents the city in a pier-related lawsuit filed by Bradenton Beach Marina owners Al and Mike Bazzy. The Bazzys claim a tour boat operation and two neighboring retail businesses do not serve the public interest in terms of providing recreational uses for the public pier. They are also now claiming commercial tour boat operations violate the state lease.

Shearon said, “It’s Mr. Moore’s opinion, which has been stated before, that the city had the right to lease those buildings to Mr. Horne. Our position’s the same as it’s always been: they can be whatever Mr. Horne chooses.”

What Shearon said next surprised many in the room, including Baldwin, who began using the day dock as a point of arrival and departure for his tour boat passengers long before he leased space from Horne.

“This is kind of against my belief or thoughts, but what attorney Moore shared “This is kind of against my belief or thoughts, but what attorney Moore shared with me is the day dock was put in with a grant for pleasure vessels’ usage and the commercial use of a water taxi. Any use that would impede the use of the day dock is not allowed. So in other words, loading and unloading of vessels for commercial purposes isn’t allowed. Having a bait barge isn’t allowed,” Shearon said.

The submerged land lease was renewed last May. It authorizes the city to operate a seven-slip docking facility and boardwalk to be used exclusively for the temporary mooring of recreational vessels and water taxis.

When Commissioner Ralph Cole asked what the difference is between a water taxi and a tour boat, Shearon said a water taxi travels from a specific point to other specific points, whereas a tour boat excursion does not.

At the suggestion of Commissioner Jake Spooner, the commission directed Shearon to find out whether the submerged land lease could be amended to allow for commercial use. Spooner said this could be done for an additional $2,100 a year. He suggested Baldwin might be willing to pay this fee, and Baldwin told the commission he would.

Spooner said he would rather amend the existing state lease than pursue a state authorized managed mooring field at this time.

Instead of suspending Baldwin and Maguire’s day dock operations, the commission agreed to schedule a workshop so they could discuss the matter further. Vice Mayor Ed Straight asked Moore provide the commission with a written legal interpretation before then; and Speciale wants written definitions of a water taxi and a tour boat.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh suggested a non-public shade meeting with Moore might also be needed to bring the commission up to speed on the private discussions that have taken place between Shearon, Moore, the Bazzys and their attorney.

Maguire said if he is forced to leave the day dock he will move his floating bait business to Cortez, in front of Annie’s.

Baldwin suggested Moore’s interpretation of commercial activities might restrict similar uses at other public boat ramps and docks. After the meeting, Baldwin said he already has plans to launch a water taxi service that travels to four or five nearby restaurants.

Historical luncheon features tour brochure

Pat Copeland | Sun

Kathryn Rohlwing speaks at the AMI Historical Society annual luncheon.

ANNA MARIA – University of Florida intern Kathryn Rohlwing fascinated members of the AMI Historical Society at their annual luncheon when she told how she developed the walking and biking tour for the city of Anna Maria.

Nancy Deal, of the Society’s board of directors, introduced Rohlwing, who is working on her master of arts in museum studies with a specialization in historical preservation. Rohlwing developed the brochure while she interned at the Island Historical Museum last summer.

“Kathryn shares our hopes and vision,” Deal said, “She studies and honors the past with an eye for the future. Without her patience, creativity and persistence we would not have this gorgeous brochure. She is the future.”

Rohlwing said she applied to the Island museum for an internship because her mother grew up in Bradenton and the family has reunions on the Island.

“The Island is a wonderful and unique place,” she said. “There is nowhere else like it in Florida. I care about helping maintain the character and atmosphere that we all love.”

She said resources she used for her research included the AMIHS Centennial Site Tour, the Florida Master Site File, Carolyne Norwood’s Island history books, newspaper articles and oral histories. She worked with historical society officials to develop the brochure.

Choosing sites

“There were a lot of great sites and a lot of interesting stories, and we realized that we had to narrow our focus,” she explained. “We decided to do one city at a time.

‘We started with Anna Maria city because visitors to the museum ask if there are other historical sites they can visit while they are on Pine Avenue.”

She said the idea of a brochure came from President Maureen McCormick because it would be easier than unfolding a map and that Deb Bell, of Bell Graphics, designed the layouts and front cover.

“To choose the sites, we used three criteria. The first was location, including parking, easy access to water and public restrooms,” she explained.

“The route is about 1 ½ miles, and people can park at Bayfront Park. The museum falls right in the middle of the route.”

The second was the date of the buildings, and they agreed to focus on telling the story of the first homesteader, George Emerson Bean, and the story of the Anna Maria Beach Company, founded by George Wilhelm Bean.

The third was reliable sources and she pointed out, “People trust museums, and we had to be sure our information could be backed up with information found in the museum's archives.”

Preserving the past

The brochure was released in October 2015 to coincide with the reopening of the renovated museum. The tour features 14 main sites in the city of Anna Maria.

“My hope for this tour is when people know the stories behind the buildings and the homes they see, they’ll be more likely to support preserving them,” she concluded. “If these building are not preserved, we lose a valuable learning tool.

“They are a tangible be way to connect to our past. They make history real to us. The more buildings that are knocked down, the more the Island loses the character that we love.”

Acting President Lynn Brennan invited everyone to visit the newly renovated museum. She introduced and thanked the board members and bakers, and Second Vice President Jon Crane introduced and thanked the docents, all for their service during the past year.

Enjoy history, crafts and music at Heritage Day

Pat Copeland | Sun

Museum collectibles, including antique hats and shoes,
a typewriter, milk bottles and maps, will be for sale in
the Historical Society’s booth.

ANNA MARIA – Visitors can find it all – history, music, arts and crafts, a settler’s market and collectibles from the museum at the annual Heritage Day on Saturday, March 5, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Island Historical Museum complex, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria.

A special event this year involves the AMI Privateers, who will stage a daring a jailbreak from the Old City Jail. Privateers will be incarcerated in the jail, and their fellow pirates will arrive at noon to free them.

Throughout the grounds of the museum and Historical Park, artisans will be demonstrating arts and crafts as practiced by early Island settlers including beekeeping, native gardening, wool spinning, pine needle basket weaving, bead making, bonnet making, quilting, weaving and salt making.

One lucky raffle ticket holder will win a basket of goodies donated by the participating artisans and crafts persons.

In addition, there will be a Settlers Market with organic local produce and herbs, Settler’s Bread and baked goods; tours of Belle Haven Cottage and the surrounding native plant garden; and new this year, a collectible booth with antiques from the museum’s attic for sale.

The Three Howies will play bluegrass music all day for listening and dancing pleasure, children can participate in old fashioned games, and KCB will offer barbecue delights.

An author’s corner will feature Carolyne Norwood with her two Island history books, “The Early Days” and “Tales of Three Cities” between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Avenue C woes continue

pat copeland | SUN

Barricades and flooding remain in front of the homes
of Edna Ervin and George Reuss.

 

HOLMES BEACH – Residents on Avenue C still face flooding, muck and a torn up road, but reported that paving began this week with equipment arriving on the street Monday.

In the past several months, the street has been plagued by a sewer project, major remodeling projects with swimming pools and a roofing job at the same time. The sewer project is done, and all that remains is the repaving, but a pool installation recently flooded the street until police stopped work.

According to the police report, an officer responded to a complaint that the pool company was pumping water, which was flowing into the street on President’s Day. Work was stopped because construction work is not permitted on city holidays.

Although the pool company has halted work temporarily at the request of Code Enforcement Officer James Thomas, subsequent rainfall flooded the street once again.

However, resident Edna Erven is still trying to learn if persistent flooding in front of her house is the result of the rain or a leak in the water pipes, which were damaged and repaired during sewer construction.

“Someone from the city checked it and said there was no leak, but no one from the county ever came,” Erven said.

When Erven complained to Thomas, he called the county utilities department and asked for someone to check the leak.

66th Street pools

A resident on 66th Street wrote the city complaining about constant flooding due to pool construction.

“I live on the 300 block of 66th Street and over the last few years, I have witnessed and lived through the watery mess and muck cause and created by these pool companies when installing their pools,” Barbara Marcheck wrote. “Right now, I believe there are eight swimming pools on this one city block of 12 residential lots, and three of those eight pools have gone in over this past year.

“Every time a new pool is installed, the pool company pumps all the ground water from their excavation out onto our street, causing excessive amounts of dirty ground water to collect and pool all along our street, flooding the sidewalks and the entrances to our driveways and our mailboxes.”

She said this occurs for several weeks until the pool is done, and the constant flooding causes the neighborhood to look like “a slum.”

Commissioner Carol Soustek directed Marcheck’s complaint to Thomas and said in the future, it will indicate on the permit that the pool company must flow the water through a bale of hay and into the nearest drain system.

Some residents have questioned the practice of allowing multiple projects on one street at the same time, and Mayor Bob Johnson stressed, “We need to be more sensitive to that.

“I’m not planning on setting any rules on staggering permits, but we’ll have better visibility as our automated management system come on line. Our inspectors, code enforcement and police will continue to monitor projects.”

Center to focus on quality

pat copeland | sun

A lemon, lime and orange adorn the wall
leading to the Cafe.

ANNA MARIA – As they move into the new year, officials at The Center are reevaluating their plans for programs and services.

“We are looking at what programs are most popular and putting our energy there,” Executive Director Kristen Lessig explained. “We want to focus on quality instead of quantity.

“We wanted to respond to the community feedback that we heard during town hall meetings, so we added classes that people asked for, and nobody came. We had to cancel a lot of classes.”

One new idea is to encourage individual artists to take advantage of studio time in the art room. Artist Janet Kingan, who offers art projects for children in the after school program, as well as art projects for adults, uses the room.

“Most of the day, the room is open and empty,” Lessig said. “We ordered special lights, and we hope artists will drop in and work on their own projects.”

Use of the room is free for members while others pay a nominal fee. Space can be reserved at the front desk.

“We are looking at more partnerships like we’re doing with Painting with a Twist,” she continued. “It’s a well know program, and they bring everything they need for the class. All we do is supply the room.”

She encouraged parents to take classes while their children are playing sports or take advantage of the drop-in day care, which is free for members.

Coming events

In addition to a number of performances, such as the Neil Diamond dinner show, the blues band and the Murder Mystery and the annual Tour of Homes slated for the coming weeks, officials at the Center are preparing for this year’s Affaire to Remember.

“It will be called the Grand Affaire, A Culinary Experience, and will feature culinary parings with wine by the Chiles Group,” Lessig explained. “Howl 2-Go, a dueling piano show, will be the entertainment, and there will be silent and live auctions.”

Save the Date cards will be mailed this week for the April 16 Affaire, tickets are $175 and sponsorships are available.
Lessing also said the new fitness and healthy eating component, which involves connecting the fitness center and the café, will launch March 1

“We need everybody to come to our events and participate in our programs,” she said. ‘We want you here, and we want our events to be successful. We still want more annual members to take advantage of our programs and services.”

Anglers and crabbers reach an accord

joe hendricks | sun

Last week’s discussion on shark angler and stoner crabber
interactions will be followed by another next fall

ANNA MARIA – Commercial stone crabbers and recreational shark anglers agree on one thing – they don’t want new regulations that further govern their activities.

This was the conclusion reached less than 10 minutes into the second of two informal meetings hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) and moderated by Southwest Region Regional Director Tom Graef.

“Tell me if I’m hearing this right. We don’t need to take any action on this? You’re asking for more law enforcement and leave everything like it is?” Graef said, during the Wednesday, Feb. 17, discussion at city hall.

It was agreed that another meeting would take in place in September, prior to the start of the next stone crab season that begins in mid-October and tapers off locally in January or February.

“We’ll get together and re-inform the public about what we expect and, hopefully, next season this problem will be resolved. If not, we’ll get back together and try to figure out some way to resolve it,” said City Commissioner Doug Copeland.

One solution previously discussed was the creation of voluntary zones where shark anglers and stone crabbers would agree to leave certain areas free for the other groups to use.

Because trap molestations are often the work of anglers who cut trap lines while using kayaks to drop their bait in deeper water, a local ban on after-dark kayak launching during the peak of stone crab season was also proposed.

In regard to enforcement, Sgt. Paul Davis, from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said, “I need everybody’s help. I need to know who’s doing this, when are they doing it and who am I looking for? The more information I have, the faster this ends.”

There is a notice posted at the city Website that says, "If you find a crab trap or your hook gets entangled with a trap, immediately call the 24 hour hotline: 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) and press 7 to speak to a dispatcher." It also says you can contact the Sheriff’s Office at 941-708-8899.

Anonymous tips can also be left at the Crime Stoppers tip line, 866-634-TIPS.

Many who spoke reiterated that there are only a small fraction of anglers who go the extremes that create conflicts with commercial crabbers trying to make a living. One person who spoke last week said the problems are caused by a small group of aggressive, well-equipped shark fishermen he referred to as “professionals.” Another said he knew the identities of some of the culprits.

Holding up his cell phone, Graef said, “You’ve got real-time ability to call if you’re out there. Our dispatch runs 24 hours a day, and these guys (the local deputies) are out there too.”

Longtime resident Margaret Jenkins questioned the need to fish for sharks in waters heavily populated by swimmers and beach-goers. Graef said contrary to public perception, recreational anglers rarely chum for sharks because the chum just drifts away in the current.

FWC Biological Scientist Nancy Sheridan gave a presentation that illustrated there have only been three or four reported shark attacks in Manatee County in more than 100 years. She also said there is no scientific evidence to support the notion that shark fishing leads to more attacks on humans.

After the meeting, angler Briana Gagnier said, “This was exactly what needed to be done. Getting this in the public eye helped.”

Davis said, “I think whoever is out there causing these problems will be brought forward by their peers.”

Commissioner Carol Carter said, “I’m glad we don’t have to legislate this situation and that law enforcement and FWC are willing to step forward.”

Lt. Grant Burton, from FWC’s Southwest-Tampa Division of Law Enforcement, said, “I think communication is the biggest point, letting us know the time frames and who’s doing it. I didn’t know how big shark fishing was and the problems they were having. It’s going to help next season because a lot of people now have our numbers.”

Stone crabber Anthony Manali said. “The word is out. Now law enforcement is fully aware of this. I think that’s going to be a big deterrent and hopefully they won’t mess with the traps.”