The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 38 - July 20, 2016


Catching them all

Carol Whitmore


James Roberts displays the new Pokémon Punch
cocktail being served at The Bridge Tender Inn
& Dockside Bar.

BRADENTON BEACH – The Pokémon GO virtual gaming craze is a big hit on the Island.

Pokémon GO is the latest offshoot of the Nintendo Game Boy video game that became popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The newest incarnation also plays off the nostalgia many folks feel for the beloved Pokémon card game they played as kids.

A hike down Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach last Friday afternoon with cell phone in hand revealed virtual PokeStops at the Tingley Memorial Library, the post office, Oma's Pizza and the Moose Lodge, but the hottest spot was near the Bridge Tender Inn.

Using GPS mapping, the game developers determine where PokéStops and other elements are located. These often coincide with historical sites, points of public interest and areas that feature public art.

In addition to being populated by several members of the Pokémon species, the area between The Bridge Tender Inn's Dockside Bar and the nearby roundabout also boasted a virtual gym that allows players to engage in battle and hone their skills.

Luck and effort

According to server James Roberts, the heightened activity was a result of luck and some additional effort he put forth.

"We were lucky enough to have a PokéStop and a gym," he said, noting that the mural at the south end of the property was probably the impetus for the PokéStop.

Roberts capitalized on that luck by suggesting management purchase a four-hour lure for $10 that sends out a signal that attracts players.

"Some spots are luckier than others, and we are taking advantage of it. We've got a special drink called the Pokémon Punch that's made of rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and a dark rum floater, and we're probably going to host some parties," he said, noting that business had been brisk all afternoon.

"We are going to be running these lures as much as possible. This is a nice safe place for parents to bring their kids, and we have a lot of rare Pokémon," Roberts said.

Accompanied by her mother and a young friend, 14-year old Kristen Curtis was among those lured to the Bridge Tender property.

"I found a Goldeen, a Ponyta and a Magikarp," Curtis said. "It's really fun, and it's something to get you out of the house."

A walk on the Historic Bridge Street Pier resulted in the capture of a flying dragon-like creature known as a Scyther and a few other creatures.

Over at city hall, Deputy Clerk and Pokémon enthusiast Marie Montoya said she was wondering what the nearby lure was that she noticed during her lunch break. Montoya said she loves Pokémon and she has a Pokémon character tattooed on her left arm to prove it.

Her co-worker, Karen Aiken-Smoot said she plays with her young son.

"It's a fun way to be with him, and the whole thing is you have to be mobile," Smoot said.

At Island Time, bartender Delanie Herlihy was mixing up a Pokémon-themed Pikachu Punch.

"It's like an electric lemonade, which is perfect because he's an electric creature," she said.

Instead of a paid lure, Herlihy was attracting gamers with free virtual incense that attracts Pokémon creatures.

"We have three PokéStops near here, and we've had a ton of people at the bar playing today. It's been awesome. I probably rode my bike 25 miles in the past few days doing it. I was six or seven when it first came out, and I still have all my cards. I like that it gets me out of the house and takes me to places I wouldn't normally go. I went to Marina Jack's in Sarasota yesterday, and I wouldn't normally do that," she said.

The north end of the Island was less active, but PokéStops stops were found along Pine Avenue at the Roser Community Church, the School for Constructive Play and the post office, with gyms discovered near the Anna Maria Island Historical Society Museum and at the end of the city pier.

Beyond the Island

On Saturday, Montoya traveled to Busch Gardens in Tampa for a massive Pokémon event that was temporarily stymied by a world-wide crash of the Pokémon servers that a hacking group called PoodleGroup claimed responsibility for. When the servers came back online, Montoya's patience was rewarded with the capture of a massive Scyther worth more than 700 points.

The fun and games are not without concerns and criticism. Nationwide there have been incidents involving entranced players being struck by cars, and there have been reports of players being lured to locations that resulted in robberies. And some critics simply question the need for an activity that provides another reason for people to bury their faces in their phones.

Board hears Gloria Dei rezone and comp plan requests
Carol Whitmore


The red outline shows the portion that is subject to
the rezone request, and it is surrounded by two-family,
single family (SF) and vacation rental (VAC and SF/VR) uses.


HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners held an informal question and answer session on a request from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church at 6608 Marina Drive to rezone a portion of its property from PSP (public/semi public) to R-2 (two family residential).

"We're here to save the church," Gloria Dei attorney Scott Rudacille explained to the board. "It is an iconic building on the Island and an institution that has been around for decades. Frankly, they're not in a financial position to continue to operate they way they have been operating."

He said the congregation established a committee to explore options, and members determined that the only way to save the church was to sell off a portion of the property. He said the rezone application is consistent with the surrounding property.

City Planner Bill Brisson told the board, "More than likely the land would be developed as vacation rentals. Vacation rentals would not adversely affect the surrounding property because they're already there.

"At most there could be five duplex structures or 10 units, but more likely there would be four duplex structures or eight units. Medium density residential is the most appropriate designation and is compatible with the surrounding properties."

Brisson said there would have to be a roadway into the parcel that is landlocked, and the church would need to show that it meets the parking requirements if the change were made.

Rezone to R-1

"I am so sad this is happening," Commissioner Jean Peelen said, and asked if it could be rezoned to R-1 or single family residential.

"Or C-1 (commercial)," Chair Judy Titsworth added. 'I'd rather live next door to an accountant or architect's office than a vacation rental."

"The decision to rezone is quasi judicial," City Attorney Jim Dye explained. "If it meets the criteria, you are obligated to grant it. Keep an open mind until the evidence is presented. If the only reason you don't like it is because it would be a vacation rental, you can't do that."

Peelen said they would not be prohibiting vacation rentals, but making a choice between 30 day or weekly rentals.

Dye said an attorney general's opinion said that "you can't use a rezone decision to reject a rezone."

Commissioner Marvin Grossman asked if the church sells the property and then later runs out of money, could the rest of the property become R-2.

Rudacille said the church is maintaining the PSP designation on the parcel it is keeping "to show good faith," and that the church can maintain its parking.

The church's requests will be considered by the planning commission to determine if they are compatible with the comprehensive plan on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.

Following that, the city commission will consider the planning commission's recommendation and hold a public hearing on the requests.

Anna Maria enacts franchise moratorium

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

joe hendricks | sun

City Attorney Becky Vose presents the franchise moratorium ordinance.

ANNA MARIA – Inspired by similar concerns recently raised in Holmes Beach, city officials in Anna Maria have enacted a temporary moratorium on franchises.

Now in effect after being adopted at the Thursday, July 14, City Commission meeting, Ordinance 16-818 establishes a temporary moratorium on the acceptance, processing and issuance of new demolition and building permits and applications that would allow formula retail establishments, aka franchises, to be built within the city limits.

"The city commission finds that the city is particularly attractive due in part to having a non-commercialized 'Old Florida' atmosphere where there are virtually no national chain type establishments. This trait is an important part of Anna Maria's positive image and desirability to residents and visitors alike," one of the ordinance's whereas clauses states.

The move supports the commission's belief that current ordinances and land development regulations do not adequately regulate franchises, which they believe poses a threat to the city's established character and its commercial and residential districts.

"The balancing of all competing interests, including the rights of the commercial property owners, will take time to study and make important decisions. The moratorium creates the time needed to receive information, weigh all factors and craft appropriate policies and regulations," the ordinance states.

The ordinance says the comprehensive review of existing ordinances and land use regulations will include the mayor and commission, city staff, the Planning and Zoning Board and input from citizens and business owners.

"I think it's really important to have those people that are going to being impacted by this involved from the get-go. If we get these people involved from the very beginning I think that will make the whole process better," Commissioner Dale Woodland said.

Mayor Dan Murphy referenced Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson and said, "They've already got an ordinance similar to this in place and he and I have had discussions on how do we wrestle with this."

For the sake of regulatory uniformity, Murphy said it would be beneficial in some cases for the three Island cities to structure ordinances in a similar fashion.

Echoing Woodland's statements, Murphy said, "I'll make a point to make sure we're inclusive as possible."

The ordinance presented last week originally defined formula retail and service establishments as those that have 11 or more locations in operation or are permitted for construction worldwide.

Businesses are further defined as formula retail establishments if they maintain two or more of the following features: standardized merchandise, facades, décor, color scheme, uniforms, signs and trademarks.

"Is that 11 a magic number of some sort?" Commissioner Carol Carter asked.

City Attorney Becky Vose said that number was taken from the Holmes Beach ordinance.

"I think 11 is too high," Commissioner Nancy Yetter said.

When Commission Chair Doug Copeland asked Yetter what number she would be comfortable with, she said, "In a city this size, I think it would be a mistake to go anything over three. It loses the mom and pop feel that we currently have and I think the competition would be unfair to our current business owners."

Copeland noted that Poppo's Taqueria started in Anna Maria but now has three more locations in Bradenton. He also said the Donut Experiment plans to franchise additional locations.

"I don't think we want to discourage people from coming in with a new idea and then spreading it," he said.

Yetter agreed and said, "They can start here and germinate out."

City Clerk Diane Percycoe pointed out that J. Burns' Pizza Shop also has multiple locations and did not originate in Anna Maria.

Carter suggested the number be lowered to no more than five and the commission reached consensus that it would be three.

The commission intends to re-adopt a modified ordinance within 60 days.

Judge dismisses three counts in federal lawsuit

ANNA MARIA – A federal judge has dismissed three of the four counts contained in a federal lawsuit filed against the city of Anna Maria by Shawn Kaleta and his Beach to Bay construction company.

In response to a motion to dismiss filed by City Attorney Becky Vose, United States District Judge James D. Whittemore, from the Middle District of Florida in Tampa, filed his order on Tuesday, July 12.

The order states that counts I, III and IV of the federal lawsuit have been dismissed without prejudice, and city's motion to dismiss count II has been denied.

Count I sought relief and damages under the Federal Constitution for the violation of equal protection of law as provided for by the 14th Amendment. The original complaint attorney Randolph Smith filed in February claimed the city arbitrarily treated Kaleta and Beach to Bay differently that it treated other developers.

Whittemore's order cites a lack of supporting evidence and states, "Bare allegations that other applicants were treated differently do not state an equal protection claim."

Count III sought relief and damages under the Federal Constitution for violation of due process of law, which Smith claimed included banning Kaleta from obtaining building permits and injuring his goodwill and business operations.

"Count III asserts procedural and substantive due process claims. The city contends that both must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The court agrees," the order states.

Count IV sought relief and damages under the protection of the Florida Constitution. This count alleges the city imposed erroneous building restrictions, withheld permits, shut off power to one of Kaleta's properties and made false and misleading statements to the press and public regarding his building practices. This count also mentions a complaint the city filed with the Florida Department of Business and Professional regulations.

Citing case law, Whittemore wrote, "To state a claim based on denial of procedural due process requires proof of three elements: a deprivation on a constitutionally-protected liberty or property interest, state action and constitutionally inadequate process."

The order says the plaintiffs failed to state a plausible procedural due process claim and also failed to seek review under the Florida Administrative Procedure Act or by city's review board.

In regard to the Count II claim regarding free speech, the judge disagreed with Vose's motion to dismiss based on her contention that the plaintiffs did not properly plea the adverse conduct requirements.

Whittemore's order states: "They allege the city shut off power and water, charged them for remediation they had already conducted and filed a complaint against them with the state. Accepted as true for the purposes of the city's motion, these are sufficient to deter a person of ordinary firmness from the exercise of First Amendment rights."

When asked about the ruling, Vose said, "I thought it was a really good order and it didn't surprise me."

In regard to the second count not being dismissed, she said, "That didn't surprise me because that was one that is very factually sensitive, and on a motion to dismiss the judge is not looking at weighing the facts. I believe we will be successful once the court can weigh the facts."

She also said, "They are saying the reason the city took these actions was because of things that Mr. Kaleta said in his exercise of free speech. I've talked to a lot of people and no one remembers when Mr. Kaleta said anything. He hasn't come to the city commission and complained. The actions were taken because it was the right thing to do under the circumstances and it did not relate at all to anything Mr. Kaleta said or didn't say. But that's a factual matter that cannot be addressed in this stage of the proceedings."

As for what happens next, Vose said, "We'll probably go in for a motion for summary judgment which gets the actual matters in front of the federal court in Tampa."

Boater rescued off Egmont Key

A boater who launched from Palma Sola Causeway Thursday is safe today thanks to a Good Samaritan and a good float plan.

The unidentified boater's wife called 911 at 8:19 p.m. Friday concerned that her husband had not returned as planned, and personnel from the St. Petersburg Coast Guard Sector responded. The wife said he departed Palma Sola on Thursday to fish offshore and planned to return at 5 p.m. Friday.

Using the details of her husband's float plan, a helicopter crew from Air Station Clearwater and a crew aboard a 45-foot response boat from Coast Guard Station Cortez launched a search. While search crews responded, a boater called via marine radio channel 16 saying he had found the missing man, whose 23-foot boat was disabled 23 miles off Bean Point.

Both Coast Guard rescue crews were on scene with the disable boater at 10:07 p.m. While the aircrew flew overhead, the boat crew secured a tow line to the boat and began the tow. The tow was transferred to TowBoatUS at 12:28 a.m. Saturday where it was taken back to Palma Sola boat ramp.

"This is a testament to how important it is to have a float plan before you get underway," said Petty Officer 1st Class Donna Petty, a watchstander at Sector St. Petersburg's command center. "We were able to get on scene quickly to rescue him because he told his wife where he was going and when he'd be back."

Mayors meet with Center officials

ANNA MARIA – The Island mayors met with officials from The Center to review the past year and their plans for the future and discuss the 2016-17 budget

"We started a year ago with rebranding and the mission was to serve as a gathering place for the Island community," Executive Director Kristen Lessig explained. "We then identified our strategies of how we were going to set a new course of action as we were turning around the Center."

These strategies included developing a consistent branding message, going beyond the walls with programs and activities, re-evaluating programs, developing partnerships with local businesses, improving communications with citizens and developing a sustainable financial model for the future.

She said The Center's major services to the community are before and after school care, summer camp, drop in child care, rental facilities, as a site for organizations to gather and programs for seniors, family health and fitness, arts and culture and sports.

Bradenton Breach Mayor Bill Shearon asked about The Center's joint program with the Annie Silver Community Center. Lessig said there are 15 to 20 seniors that meet three Fridays a month from September to May, and The Center provides transportation, staffing and negotiates discounts on entry fees for attractions.

Lessig said they plan to expand the programs and also offer support for programs offered by the center and help with maintenance.

Senior day care

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy asked if they have considered offering senior day care and said, "It would be a great service you could offer."

Lessig said they have discussed that, as well as a family support program, but "we don't have the staffing or skill sets to provide them. We are in talks with Tidewell Hospice about how we can utilize their knowledge and experience to help us provide some of that programing."

She said The Center no longer has a social worker and is partnering with Centerstone and its staffers will work with youths and teens once a week on life and social skills and refer them for further intervention if there is a need.

"There's a great need for adult day care on the Island," Murphy pointed out. "People want to feel good and comfortable about their spouses."

Treasurer Jim Froeschle said The Center could possibly be a satellite location for a program, and Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson said they could work with other organizations to provide the service.

"There's lots of positive potential in providing services that are meaningful as opposed to just providing a facility for entertainment," Johnson said.

Future financial plan

Froeschle said The Center has made progress in "turning the financials around" by developing a tracking system, streamlining the staff and building a financial management system.

"Now we're building on a solid foundation, not quicksand," he said. "Not only was the building full of 'termites,' but a lot of people weren't particularly happy with us. We had a community

Fitness center owner makes another plea

HOLMES BEACH – Jen Crady, owner of AMI Health and Fitness, told the City Commission that The Center's guest pass program for renters is hurting her business and urged commissioners to withhold funding for The Center.

According to The Center's agreement with AMI Accommodations, approximately 200 renters will have access to the fitness space, and The Center will receive $10 per check-in, paid by the rental company.

"I came to make sure you really understand what a big deal this vacation rental is," Crady explained. "This week we had a family of eight adults from Kentucky who come every year. This year they called and said there was a sign in their rental that they could go to the community center (fitness center) for free.

"With the increase of their rates this year, they said they'd rather work out at my gym, but 'unless you can give us a free membership as well we have to go to the community center.' So $250 just walked out the door."

She said if she loses one rental of eight to 10 people every week of the year, it would be a loss of $10,000 to $20,000 for her business.

"I'm sure it will be more than one house per week," Crady continued. "I want to make sure you understand what a huge financial thing this is.

"We're not throwing a tantrum because woe is me and you're going to take some business. This is a substantial loss. We're talking 80 percent of our income."

Crady also referenced an article that appeared in The Sun on June 29 in which a parent said parents like The Center's fitness center because they can work out while their children are in daycare or classes.

"She was totally spot on and absolutely correct," Crady stressed. "Having the fitness center in the community center is wonderful if people in the community are going to use it.

"The problem is targeting those tourists, that extra of revenue. That's what's hurting me. Our annual residents are less than 20 percent of our yearly income. This is not an attack on the community center. This is fighting for our business for the income we're losing from vacation rentals."

She said the community should support The Center and "focus on healing the relationships with the community center so they get their funding back and don't have to tap into this revenue stream."

She asked commissioners to withhold funding from The Center until they can find some alternatives such as putting stipulations on it or developing a grant program for small businesses. Commissioners did not comment.

Tree house saga continues

HOLMES BEACH – After hearing from attorneys on both sides Friday, Circuit Court Judge Don T. Hall said he would take their arguments under advisement and asked each attorney to write a proposed order.

The issue is whether the initiative petition filed in 2013 by Richard Hazen and Lynn Tran, owners of the tree house on the beach in front of Angelino's Sea Lodge at 103 29th St., should be allowed to go forward. If so, it would allow the city to put an ordinance on the ballot for voters to decide if the tree house is legal.

The city alleges that an election would be invalid under state law because the process is prohibited with regard to development orders, and the city attorney requested a declaratory judgment.

City Attorney Jim Dye maintained that while Florida Statute does not define development order it defines development permit, which is any order that permits the development of land.

"In my view a development order and a development permit are the same," Dye said and added that it is not the "intent of the legislature to allow a person with an illegal structure to get a popular vote overriding all safeguards."

Tree house attorney David Levin maintained that the prohibition in state law applies to a development order and that the tree house is an accessory structure.

"The initiative process is the last vestige of democracy at the local level," Levin pointed out. "This case is about a small property owner wanting to to use their property.

"There is an exception from development order for accessory structures. The building official testified that the tree house is accessory to other uses on the property."

In other action on the tree house, a special magistrate ruled in a May hearing that Hazen and Tran did not bring the property into compliance with a code enforcement board order to remove the violations or demolishing the structure.

The magistrate ordered a fine of $50 per day starting from July 22, 2015, but following the ruling, Levin filed a notice of appeal to the circuit court.

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