The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 16 No. 46 - September 14, 2016


Pins fall as money is raised

Carol Whitmore

monica simpson | SUbmitted

Members of the Salon Salon team had a "ball" bowling
in the LaPensee Challenge Saturday. More on Page 16.

Organizers of the LaPensee Plumbing Bowling Challenge had a good problem before the event - they hadn't reserved enough alleys for the bowlers. In fact, they ended up with a total of 40 lanes and approximately 150 bowlers competing for high game, high series or low game, low series trophies, as they made money for The Center.

There were raffles too – a 50/50 drawing; a Chinese drawing where ticket holders put tickets next to the prize baskets they wanted; and a separate drawing for a Yeti bag loaded with liquid refreshments that only a person 21 years or older would be allowed to enjoy.

AMF Lanes provided a buffet spread that features pizzas and crispy wings with a choice of dips.

Organizer Lindsay Saul brought her daughter, Livia, who helped sign in the entries.

Sponsors Karen and Mike LaPensee were pleased to see the turnout and the spirit shown by the bowlers.

Center Director Kristen Lessig expressed thanks to the sponsors and the bowlers for their generosity.

Commission divided on settlement offers

ANNA MARIA – City Attorney Becky Vose presented the Anna Maria Commission with 28 additional proposed Bert Harris claim settlements during the Thursday, Sept. 8, meeting.

This was the third time Vose sought approval for proposed settlement offers, but the first time the offers included a proposed purchase price to offer vacation rental owners who want greater occupancy limits than the two persons per bedroom plus two additional guests the city is offering.

"I'm suggesting we offer them an alternative settlement. They could take the occupancy we offer or the city would offer to purchase the house" Vose told the commission.

All but one of the 29 previously approved settlement offers proposed the two-plus-two occupancy allowances sought by the property owners. Of the 28 settlements proposed last week, 20 are seeking occupancy levels in excess of two-plus-two, with some seeking as many as four more guests than the two-plus-two provision would allow. The highest requested occupancy is 16 and the city's highest offer is 14.

The combined purchase offers presented last week exceed $20 million. The city has a projected 2016-17 budget of $4.73 million. If settlements cannot be reached, an owner's next option is to take the city to court.

Vose has warned the commission that the failure to present a settlement offer results in an automatic win for the property owner.

"We have to make an offer that makes the person whole as far as their financial expectations. If we do not make them whole, then as a matter of law we will lose," Vose said.
As for the city taking its chances in court, she said, "We're talking about spending an incredible amount of money for which we get no benefit. They have a little lower occupancy and that's all."

Split decisions

The commission voted 3-2 in favor of approving the latest settlement offers. As they did in July and August, commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter again voted in opposition.

Before the commission voted, Commissioner Dale Woodland addressed the severity of the situation and questioned why the pervious votes were not unanimous.

"This is the biggest issue I've ever seen hit the city of Anna Maria. I'm perplexed on why we're not having votes that are 5-0 instead of 3-2," Woodland said.

In response, Yetter said, "The first group of settlements was not a compromise, it was a give-in. We gave them exactly what they wanted. I don't want the city to go bankrupt, but at the same time I'm so sick of us sitting up here making these grandiose statements and at the first chance we put our tails between our legs and we run. We have to start being stronger. I gave my word to a lot of residents. I will stick by this rental agreement, so don't look to me to turn my back on those people now."

Webb did not elaborate, but during the first settlement discussion in July he said settling did not sit well with him, in part because he pushed previous administrations to enact rental regulations and got very little support.

"What is the other option?" Commission Chair Doug Copeland said.

"I'm scared for the future of the city. If we go to bankruptcy, the first thing we have to do is sell off city assets. The city would be turned over to the county. The last thing any of us as residents want is the county operating it because we all know the only thing they care about is the vacation rental income the county promotes more of," he said.

Special assessment proposed

In response to increased occupancy demands, Mayor Dan Murphy has directed staff to research an annual special assessment fee that would be levied on short-term rentals according to occupancy.

"If you wanted 20 people in your home like some of these Bert Harris claims, you can put 20 people in there, but you're going to pay per person a special assessment fee. It's legal. It can be implemented," he told the commission.

The fee would help offset the infrastructure strain large vacation rentals are placing on city services. Murphy acknowledged that vacation rental owners generally pay higher property taxes, but he said it's not enough to offset the impact of having 10 or more occupants than the average permanent residence.

"There's benefits that people receive from living in the city such as public works, parks and recreation, beach renourishment, sidewalks, drainage and streets being paved. Everybody gets the same benefits, but these houses are getting a whole bunch more benefit and not really paying for it," he said.

Murphy said he expects to make a formal request for the special assessment by year's end and the commission expressed its unanimous preliminary support.

Gloria Dei rezone recommended

HOLMES BEACH – The Planning Commission last week recommended approval of 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).

City Planner Bill Brisson told the board, "While we would prefer not to extend vacation rental use throughout the city, the medium density land use category is the most consistent use to the adjoining properties. It is the most common use next to PSP."

He said there could be as many as five duplexes allowed on the property, but most likely there would be four. He said the demand for water and sewer would not cause a capacity problem and that traffic would be minimal and not overwhelm local roads.

"I am unable to find a consistent basis to find it inconsistent with the comprehensive plan," he concluded.

Board questions

Member Barbara Hines asked if it could be R-1 (single family) since that is what is across the street, and Brisson pointed out that the property is surrounded by vacation rentals.

Alternate member Scott Boyd asked if the board could attach a condition that if the church ever sold the building the property would remain PSP.

"I'd be very cautious attaching a condition like that," City Attorney Jim Dye responded. "It almost sounds like a restrictive covenant and would have a significant impact on the value of the property and create a Bert Harris issue."

Chair Gary Hickerson expressed concerns about traffic during season being backed up to the church, and Brisson said, "Traffic generated by this project won't have a significant impact on the level of service."

Hickerson also asked about drainage and said a large portion of permeable property will be lost.
"That's the case with every vacant lot," Brisson responded. "It's a site plan issue, and they will have to accommodate their drainage."

Member Chuck Stealey asked if they would be setting a precedent for the remainder of the property, and Dye said it would have to go through the same process.

Applicant's presentation

Attorney Scott Rudacille represented the church and said, "The church has existed in the city for more than 50 years, and it is an iconic architectural feature. The request applies only to the one acre portion, and the church has every intention of continuing to operate."

He said due to changes in the city, the church has major financial issues. It established a committee to explore options, and members determined that the only way to save it was to rezone a portion of the property and sell it off.

"The strategy moving forward is to come up an investment approach that would yield enough of a return to supplement the church," he explained. "If the application is not successful, the synod will liquidate the property."

Public comment

Jim Kihm asked the board to limit the change to single family and said, "People in the community are concerned about the loss of full time residents in the city. You have an opportunity to limit the continued proliferation of multi-tenanted rental homes in the city."

In a letter, Roy Griscom said, "It is our opinion that the rezone and sale of some of the church property would only be a short-term windfall and not a solution to their problem" and add to the density and drainage problems in the neighborhood.

John and Joanne Ellington objected to the rezone in an e-mail and said they have "seen a lamentable deterioration of properties all around us as money grubbing developers have thrown up substandard, multi-family rental units.

"And now to see more of the same taking place for the convenience of a church that is unable to support itself in the normal fashion of such non-profit organizations is regrettable indeed."

Boyd Grayson said there are metal pipes from church property to Spring Lake and asked if there is an easement to protect them.

"I strongly recommend the establishment of that location of those pipes to ensure that the pipes, which perform of a vital tidal recharge to Spring Lake, are protected," Building Official Jim McGuinness said.

Hines made a motion to continue the meeting until the board could see a map showing the location of the pipes, and member Allan Wurzbach seconded it.

Rudacille said there is an easement, and he could provide a survey. Hines asked for a recess so the board could see it. After the board viewed the survey, Hines withdrew her motion and Wurzbach withdrew his second.

Board discussion

Stealey said while he is disturbed that rentals could add to the traffic, he did not see anything that shows it's in conflict with the comprehensive plan.

"I would prefer to see it stay the way it is," Hines said. "The whole other side of the street is R-1. I don't believe it's compatible. Basically, you're taking something that was a church and turning it into something that is totally different."

Boyd said from a planning and zoning perspective R-2 makes more sense than R-1, and Wurzbach said R-2 is more appropriate.

Brisson pointed out, "It is surrounded on two sides by medium density. If it were the whole church parcel, R-1 would make sense."

Hickerson asked if R-1 would meet the church's investment needs, and Rudacille said no because it would be "significantly less valuable."

"I feel we are between a rock and a hard place," Hickerson said. "I feel we are suffering the death of a thousand cuts, but we also need to try and save the church."

Both motions to recommend approval of the rezone and comprehensive plan change were approved with Hines dissenting. The recommendations will go to the city commission, which will make the final decision.

Commission concerned about flooding


MAGGIE field | SUN

Scenes like this are common when the Island gets
a heavy rain, and many residents suffer damage to
their homes and possessions from the water, especially when
sightseers drive by leaving a wake.



ANNA MARIA – In response to the flooding that occurred during Tropical Storm Hermine, the mayor and city commissioners have requested a work session be scheduled to discuss flooding, drainage and stormwater issues.

"Something's seriously out of whack. I don't think our stormwater plan's working," Commissioner Chuck Webb said during the Thursday, Sept. 8 commission meeting.

The impromptu conversation on flooding and drainage ensued during a planned discussion on potential revisions to the city's street-side parking allowances. The commission agreed that flooding and drainage concerns would take precedence over the parking concerns expressed by Commissioner Dale Woodland as part of his ongoing efforts to provide relief to residents in the 100 blocks, near the beach access points.

Webb questioned whether vehicles parked on the stone-covered infiltration trenches are compacting the stones and reducing the ability for water to drain downward into the horizontal trenches that are supposed to move the water along. He wondered aloud if the commission needed to consider prohibiting street-side parking atop stormwater elements in order to prevent further reductions in drainage capabilities.

Webb said the drainage was good on Spring Avenue, but was not good along Magnolia Avenue.

"That's newer and it hasn't been parked on and hasn't been compacted," Webb said.

Commission Chair Doug Copeland said a broken pipe along North Shore Drive might be contributing to the drainage issues in the vicinity of Magnolia.

"I think everybody in this city is well aware of our drainage issues after this week," Copeland said.

He then suggested the commission's next work session be dedicated to stormwater and drainage. He said it would be beneficial to have City Engineer Lynn Burnett on hand to provide her insight as to why the drainage elements are working well in some areas and not well in other areas.

Commissioner Carol Carter said the flooding has become much worse along the 200 block of Willow Avenue in recent years and she offered a theory as to why.

"Good drainage or bad drainage, the problem is lot coverage. We know how many vacant lots are now covered with a huge house, and we know how many formerly small houses have been transformed into huge houses," she said.

Mayor Dan Murphy said he spent the better part of the week visiting with citizens who contacted him about flooding issues.

"They showed me where the water came in for the first time ever and it never came in before in all the years they've lived here. They all attribute it to construction," Murphy said.

In regard to the city's stormwater system, Murphy said, "Our master plan doesn't work. In half the cases, vertical infiltration was just put in and the city remained underwater until we pumped it. It works in some places; I think it needs improvement in other places. I don't know what the cause is. We need to have a serious conversation on what we're going to do."

Burnett also serves as the city engineer for the cities of Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

"Is Holmes Beach's drainage system the same as ours?" Commissioner Nancy Yetter asked.

When she was told the systems are similar, Yetter said, "Boy that didn't work."


Non-profits bank on Giving Challenge

Local non-profits will be anxiously awaiting the results of the 2016 Giving Challenge, Sept 20 and 21 from noon to noon.

The Giving Challenge is supported by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Manatee Community Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knght Foundation and the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation. During the 24-hour giving event, people go online to make donations to participating organizations and the foundations match donations that meet certain criteria.

The challenge, in its fifth year, has raised more than $15 million for charities in the four county area, according to Murray Devine, communications project manager of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, which was the originating organization. Last year's effort brought in $7 million of that.

Local non-profits include the Center of Anna Maria Island, the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra, the Artists Guild of Anna Maria Island, the Friends of the Florida Maritime Museum and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

"The Giving Challenge makes sure the non-profits are transparent because it requires them to make profiles of their leadership, their goals, their financial history and their results," Devine said. "It is also an opportunity to make any donor, no matter how big or small, part of the effort."

Devine said the idea has caught on in other areas of the country, making it nationwide.

For more information on the Giving Challenge, log onto

This dog is one man's best friend


Eddie Shorter with his dog, Bay.

CORTEZ – Eddie Shorter, dock master at the Seafood Shack docks, is happy to be alive after nearly drowning Aug. 23, and he thanks his dog, Bay, for alerting restaurant employee Harley Wise and Wise's girlfriend, Debbie Akins, after he slipped and fell into the water.

"I was walking Bay that night when I slipped and the next thing I knew, I was in a hospital bed," he said. "They say after I fell in, Bay barked for 20 minutes before Debbie suspected something was wrong."

"I came out and looked, and we saw something floating in the water and I thought it might be a manatee," Wise said. "I had Debbie hit the lights and I said, 'Hey, that's Eddie!'"

He said Capt. Max Hayman from the Barnacle helped bring Shorter out of the water. That's when Wise, an Army veteran, and Akins gave him CPR before EMS took over and revived Shorter.

"They were amazed I was able to come back after not breathing for so long," Shorter said. "They thought I might have brain damage."

Instead, Shorter had a sore chest, the result of the CPR. He spent the next day in the hospital, and then he came back to work.

"They told me to take some time off," he said, "but I said, 'I can't just sit around, I need to get back to work.'"

There was a gathering of first responders who tended to Shorter last week to celebrate his rescue and fast recovery.

Shorter said while he was essentially dead, he did not experience a light at the end of a tunnel or anything like that.

"It was like I was floating in space without the stars," he said. "Then I woke up."

He said the experience changed his outlook on life.

"I appreciate things more," he said. "I tell people to believe in miracles; they happen."

Mayor proposes parking garage

joe hendricks | SUN

Last week, Mayor Bill Shearon proposed building a parking
garage near the cell tower and public works department building.



BRADENTON BEACH – Mayor Bill Shearon's latest attempt to drum up support for a managed mooring field was presented as part of a larger-reaching concept that also included a parking garage, a new city hall building and the pursuit of Tourist Development Council (TDC) funds.

As an alternative to a mooring field, the committee expressed support for an interlocal agreement suggested by Commissioner Ralph Cole that would allow Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) funds to be used for increased policing of the anchorage near the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The committee also unanimously supported City Attorney Ricinda Perry's plan for moving forward with updating the city's outdated CRA plan at an estimated cost of $18,000. This process will include multiple opportunities for the public and the business community to provide input on what projects they would like to see included in the CRA district that currently stretches from Cortez Road to Fifth Street South and may soon include the off-shore anchorage as well.

Dock funds

Shearon presented his latest proposal during the Wednesday, Sept. 7, CRA meeting.

Based on recent discussions with county officials regarding funding for waterfront projects, Shearon said the county would cover the entire cost of installing new public day docks alongside the pier if the city agreed to build and maintain a managed mooring field at its own expense.

The commission has already approved spending $250,000 in CRA funds to replace and expand the public day dock on the south side of the pier. The commission majority, minus Shearon, also recently authorized $15,000 for an ecological consultant to research the viability and legality of installing commercial wet slips on the north side of the pier.

Shearon said county officials might balk at funding any dock improvements that include commercial wet slips.

Participating via Skype while on vacation, Commissioner Jake Spooner questioned Shearon's assertion that the TDC might oppose a project that would provide tourists with more access to tour boats, parasailing, charter fishing.

Spooner also questioned the need to incur the cost of a mooring field in order to get TDC funds to pay for a public day dock that's already approved using CRA funds.

"You're spending $20 to get $5," Spooner said of Shearon's proposal.

Acting as the CRA Committee, the four city commissioners offered no support for a managed mooring field. They did however agree to invite county officials to appear at a future commission workshop in order to hear from them directly.

Parking Garage?

Shearon's proposal to build a multi-level parking garage in the unpaved parking lot at the north end of Highland and Church avenues was met curiosity and questions about cost and practicality.

That location currently serves as an unpaved parking lot that provides approximately 30 parking spaces. Spooner said he doubted there was enough space there for a parking garage and the entrance and exit points that would be needed.

"If it was closer to the Bridge Street area it would be more convenient and people would use it more," he added.

Shearon said it was possible the public works building might have to be torn down to make room for a parking garage. He also suggested the structure might also include enough space for a new city hall, which he acknowledged would cost millions of dollars and require a voter-approved bond.

"It's big wish list needless to say, and when you get to the point of a city hall that's obviously a long range plan," Vosburgh said.

She expressed some support for a parking garage but the idea garnered no significant traction from the committee as a whole.

Anchorage policing

As a separate agenda item, the committee unanimously supported a proposed interlocal agreement that once adopted by the city commission would allow the city to use CRA funds to fund police patrols of the anchorage. The committee majority felt this would be more cost-effective than a mooring field at a time when a new state law makes it easier for local law enforcement to deal with at-risk and non-compliant vessels.

"I think that would solve three-quarters of the problem," Vosburgh said.

Cole suggested future expenditures might include jet skis and other equipment that would further enhance the enforcement efforts.

"My goal is to make it happen as soon as possible," he said.

Rental regulations crystalizing

BRADENTON BEACH – It started slow, but the Planning and Zoning Board has now hit its stride in regard to developing vacation rental regulations to recommend to the City Commission.

During the board's Sept. 7 meeting, the five attending members reached consensus on several potential means of regulating short-term vacation rentals, and they still have more to discuss at their next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 9 a.m.

Using a three-page document created by City Planner Alan Garrett that contained board member suggestions given at previous meetings, the board was able to lay out a significant portion of the regulatory framework that will be presented to the city commission when the board feels this stage of its work has been completed.

The local licensing of transient public lodging establishments (TPLEs) will adhere to the state definition that defines a short-term rental as one that is rented more than three times a year for a period of less than 30 days or one calendar month, whichever is less.

The board reached consensus on the following recommendations:

• The city will have the right to inspect the rental dwelling and property.

• Maximum occupancy will be two persons per bedroom, plus two additional guests for existing rental units, and there was also talk of a maximum of eight occupants for new rental units built in the R-1 and R-2 residential zones after any proposed regulations are enacted.

• Vacation rentals will be required to utilize side yard trash pickup, with owner occupied units exempt from this regulation unless a complaint is received.

• TPLEs will be required to present to the city a copy of a public lodging license issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations, and the possession of such license will trigger the mandate that the rental unit be registered with the city and subject to its vacation rental regulations.

• The owner's name, address and phone number will be provided to the city.

• If applicable, the rental agent's name, address and a 24-hour contact number will be provided to the city.

The board majority supports Police Chief Sam Speciale's request for outside signs that provide a contact name and number, accompanied by an interior placard that contains additional information pertaining to occupancy limits, parking spaces and other details that may be of use to an officer who responds to a complaint.

Two board members prefer an electronic data base to public signage and the final decision will be left up to the commission.

The board agreed to adopt a false advertising ordinance similar to the ordinance adopted in Anna Maria that requires the advertised occupancy to consistent with the occupancy limit established by the city.

The board majority has recommended amending the existing noise ordinance in a manner that would reduce the allowed decibel levels in the R-1 and R-2 districts from 55 decibels to 45 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Speciale said later that he did not think he and his officers could enforce noise levels that low.

The board agreed that it would be up to the commission to adopt a resolution that established application and registration fees sufficient enough to reimburse the city for the time and expense of implementing and enforcing the rental regulations.

The board discussed limiting the number of day guests allowed, but couldn't come up with an exact idea as to what that number should be or how it would be enforced.

"I want to thank you guys for allowing me to be involved with this process and I appreciate it," Speciale told the board as the meeting came to an end.

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