Vol 6 No. 5 - October 26, 2005


Development law stirs controversy

Real estate sales still on the rise

Beach Bistro: 20 years of excellence

LBK hosts old-time fish fry at Mar Vista

Emergency chief advises cities on hurricane preparation

Costume contests kick off Halloween

Cortez hears about Hunter�s Hill




Development law stirs controversy

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The land behind the houses that front North Shore Drive on the northern tip of the Island may never be developed.

An ordinance prohibiting development of those properties on Bean Point that don't have any frontage on a platted road is in the works, and there's a first reading of that ordinance set for the regular commission meeting Oct. 27.

Attorneys for several property owners have already come forward warning of lawsuits to come should the ordinance be passed.

Ricinda Perry, an attorney representing Lockwood Holdings, Inc., spoke up at several meetings protesting that the proposed ordinance would deny her clients their property rights.

The drive to prohibit development on the landlocked parcel was led by North Shore property owners Stacy Frank and Jack Egan.

Maria Kohlman, another property owner, sent an e-mail to Mayor SueLynn protesting the ordinance.

"I have concerns about Mr. Egan and Ms Stacey desiring that land locked parcels can never be developed," Kohlman wrote in her e-mail. "I believe their interests are self-serving for them individually. Second, I share approximately 400 feet of a common border with the Lockwoods and feel they deserve to have property rights and if and when they desire, they should be able to present plans the same as anyone else on the Island."

City Planner Allen Garrett is working on a plan that would create an overlay district to prevent development in the area in question.

He pointed out to commissioners at their Oct. 13 work session that FEMA regulations discourage development seaward of the coastal construction control line, and the landlocked parcels are in that category. Commissioners gave Garrett approval to proceed with creating the overlay district, and they instructed City Attorney Jim Dye to come up with an ordinance to enforce it. The ordinance then will have a first reading at the Oct. 27 meeting.

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Real estate sales still on the rise

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

News stories about a national slowdown in the real estate market have yet to reach Anna Maria Island.

According to the latest monthly Property Sales Report from Barry and Dantia Gould, of Island Vacation Properties, inventory of active listings is way up over last year at this time with 328 properties currently on the market on Anna Maria Island versus 200 a year ago.

While September 2004 sales on the Island were down in all categories, a victim of hurricanes Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, sales were up in all categories this September.

The average price for the 14 single-family residences sold this September was $791,059., versus $539,752. in September 2004. Total dollar value of homes sold this September was $11.5 million, more than double the $5.4 million in sales last September and way above the $7.1 million sales figure for September 2003.

The average sales price for the nine condos sold this year was $562,400 compared to $343,000 in September 2004. The total value of condominium sales in September 2005 was $4.9 million, more than double the $2.3 million in condo sales reported in September 2004.

The average sale price for the three duplexes sold this September was $665,667 versus an average of $591,000 for the six duplexes sold in September of last year.

There were no commercial sales in September '05 or in September '04.

Third Quarter '05 Sales Up
The average price of the 51 single family residences sold on Anna Maria Island in third quarter 2005 was $810,993 compared to $627,983 for the 58 single family residences sold in third quarter 2004.

The average price of the 45 condominiums sold in third quarter 2005 was $696,672. versus $385,639 for the 28 condos sold in third quarter 2004.

The average price of the 18 duplexes sold in third quarter 2005 of $680,161 was not as large an increase as single-family residences and condos. The 2004 third-quarter average price for a duplex was $632,273.

One lot was sold in third quarter 2005 for $429,900. In the year earlier third quarter, three lots changed hands with the average sale price $390,000.

Both third quarter '05 and third quarter '04 saw three commercial sales, with the average price this year at $1,661,667 compared with an average of $746,667 last year. This year's average was much higher because it included the sale of the Siam Garden Resort, 512 Spring Ave., Anna Maria, for $4,120,000.

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Beach Bistro: 20 years of excellence

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — It was a dark and stormy night.

Hurricane Juan was pounding the Island with wind and rain. It was Oct. 31, 1985, and Sean Murphy and his wife, Susan Timmins, planned to open the Beach Bistro on Nov. 1.

"We had borrowed all the money we could and spent it to get the restaurant open," Murphy recalled. "Then we got hammered by Hurricane Juan. Waves were beating against the windows. We had a wet vac to suck up the water as it came in through the cracks. We did that for 48 hours, and at 2 a.m., it stopped.

Murphy said the roads were so flooded that they couldn’t get home and stayed the night with Dr. Steve and Sheleigh Pelham, who had helped them battle the storm.

"Everyone said to wait another day to open, but we had to open because we were $800 overdrawn," Murphy explained. "We served 42 people and brought in $848."

Now, it’s 20 years later and circumstances have changed a bit. The Beach Bistro is one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Florida and the recipient of eight Golden Spoon awards. It has won national recognition through the esteemed Zagat Guide.

"The first 10 years were pretty tough," Murphy acknowledged. "Then Sally Fine did a review in the Sarasota Herald Tribune and called us a ‘culinary wonderland,’ and business picked up."

Another great review in the St. Petersburg Times brought regional recognition. Then came the first Golden Spoon award, which brought state recognition.

"In 1996, Zagat put us in their book and said we had the best food on the Gulf Coast and that it was ‘as good as any restaurant in New York or Paris,’" Murphy said.

National recognition followed, as did articles in Southern Living, Coastal Living, the New York Times and a newspaper in London, England. The Boston Herald has scheduled an interview, as has Sante, which Murphy described as a serious food and beverage magazine.

The menu has evolved through the years and Murphy noted, "The dishes have become more original, complex and sophisticated. We’ve gone from pretty damn good to as good as it gets."

Murphy praised his staff including Annette Walden, who "has been on the floor for most of the last 20 years," chefs Pete Arpke, 15 years, and Mac deCarle, eight years, and Bobby Valentine, who "has been covering wine for eight years."

Future plans include renovating the small bar and introducing a new menu.

"We want to bring the small bar experience back to the Island," he said, "and we’re introducing a new menu format for Nov. 1. It will focus on smaller plates and smaller portions. We also will keep the classics from the current menu."

Other plans include operating a banquet house with Allen Zirkelback at the Riverhouse, formerly TKO O’Shay’s, in Palmetto.

Through the years, Murphy has lent his hand to numerous charities, on and off the Island.

"We did a fundraiser for All Children’s Hospital for many years, but it became too much for us and we had to lighten up. Now, the Manatee Wine Fest for the United Way is our big one. It will be held Nov. 12 at the Riverhouse."

Murphy also provides spaghetti dinners each year for the Little League, soccer and basketball teams at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.

However, it is not the restaurant that Murphy is most proud of — it is his children, Alexandra, 18, and Ben, 14. Alex is a freshman studying liberal arts at Emory ‘s Oxford campus outside of Atlanta, and Ben is a freshman at Manatee High School and an avid hockey player. In September, his team won the Eastern U. S. Silver Sticks Championship.


LBK hosts old-time fish fry at Mar Vista

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

LONGBOAT KEY – Even a hurricane didn’t deter the oldtimers invited to the Longboat Key Historical Society’s Old Time Fish Fry on Friday night.

The gathering in recognition of the town of Longboat Key’s 50th anniversary drew a crowd at the Mar Vista Pub with one thing in common – island roots dating back to the the 1950s and earlier.

Memories rushed back as old friends recognized each other.

Allis Ferguson Edelman, of Sarasota, recalled having to pull down blackout shades at dusk every night – not for sea turtles, but in case German submarines were watching the island during World War II.

There were so few people on the island at the time that fighter pilots from the Sarasota Army Air Base, now Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, used the island for target practice, she said.

Sometimes kids would find live shells at the target range — where the Holiday Inn later stood — and keep them as souvenirs, said Sarasota resident Nancye Williams Snyder, whose father, David Williams, ran the Longboat Key post office in the village.

Despite the dangers of the war, it was an idyllic place to grow up, she said, adding, "I wish every child could have been brought up on Longboat Key."

Living on the island in the 1950s gave Donna Carr Davis, of Inverness and Rome, N.Y., a "penchant for contemplation," she said, because there were so few homes there at the time. She brought a photograph showing her as a child on the beach, then lined with Australian pines that have since been replaced by condominiums. Her father, Donald Carr, used to trim the Australian pines in the shapes of animals including herons and whales, and sometimes the initials of his family members, she recalled.

Another photo shows a friend who once came home from a fishing trip proud of catching a sea turtle, she said, remarking on how much times have changed.

Davis remembers being torn away from her friends in ninth grade when the north part of the island became part of Manatee County and she had to change schools. Edelman recalls attending Longbeach Elementary School on the island, which no longer exists, then being bused to a school in Sarasota. Rae Reasoner remembers taking two hour lunches at Longbeach Elementary, enough time to walk home, take a swim, eat lunch and walk back to school.

The fish fry was the first of what the historical society intends to make an annual event, reviving a tradition that died out in 1956.

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Emergency chief advises cities on hurricane preparation

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Photo after photo of piles of sticks that were once buildings flashed on the screen as Manatee County Emergency Management Chief Laurie Fegans told Island officials about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Waveland, Miss.

"There was a 25-foot storm surge and 10-foot wave action on top of that," Fegans recounted. "The surge traveled 12 miles inland, and destroyed roadways, buildings and bridges. All the trees in the surge zone were dying. Waveland was in ruins and the muck on the road smelled so bad that it was stomach-turning."

Fegans traveled to Waveland as part of a Manatee County delegation of emergency officials to help the town recover from the hurricane. The lessons they learned can help Island officials better prepare for an emergency. She said things Island officials should consider are:

• Talking to your bank officials about their plans after the storm, so the city can access its funds;

• Deciding what size building and generator the city needs to set up a temporary government and how many functions it needs to provide;

• Making plans with a contractor to remove debris;

• Setting up points of distribution for ice, water and food. These should be places that residents can drive through without getting out of their vehicles;

• Deciding where they will go when they evacuate and how they will communicate with each other.

She said Island officials also must make plans to take care of their employees because employees won’t be able to focus if they are worried about their families. She said county officials are considering designating a family shelter for employees’ families.

"You must take care of your government before you can take care of your citizens," she stressed. "The county expects you to be self sufficient first, then ask us for help second. Then the county will ask the state and the state will ask FEMA.

Fegans advised each city to have at least one satellite phone for communication because cell phones are unreliable in the aftermath of a hurricane.

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Costume contests kick off Halloween

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Kids will be in fine form this Halloween as they have two opportunities to compete for the best dressed spooks and goblins.

Anna Maria Elementary School students will be parading down Gulf Drive Saturday, Oct. 29, beginning at 10 a.m. in front of Wachovia Bank in Holmes Beach to kick off the event, which is one of two fund-raising festivals put on by the PTO.

When the students arrive at St. Bernard Catholic Church, judges will decide the best dressed boy and girl from each class. After that, the PTO's Fall Festival begins.

There will be games for the kids, food and refreshment for all and live entertainment with Koko Ray. Each class will have its own tent with a game, and winners will get tickets that they can spend in the prize room inside the church.

The public is invited to watch the parade and join the crowd at the church. The festival continues until 3 p.m.

On Monday, Oct. 31, kids can show off their costumes at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce beginning at 3:30 p.m., prior to the Trail of Treats. Judges will determine the best costumed entrants in the Chamber parking lot at 5313 Gulf Drive. The Chamber will pass out maps of businesses participating in the trail and children will be able to collect traditional Halloween treats from each business.

Businesses in the area around the Chamber that want to participate should call the Chamber at 778-1651. The Trail of Treats continues until 6 p.m.

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Cortez hears about Hunter’s Hill

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – It wasn’t your typical developer’s presentation, with promises to create a manatee preserve, plant mangroves and build fewer than half the homes allowed on the property.

But Peter Thurell isn’t your typical developer.

The Swedish native’s plan for the 13-acre Hunter’s Hill, across Cortez Road from the Cortez Village Historic District, calls for fewer houses and boats and more pedestrians and manatees.

Thurell plans to expand the canal system that nearly surrounds Hunter’s Hill, turning it into an island and creating a new manatee preserve that will be closed to boats. Existing canals will remain open to boats, he said, adding that each home will have either a dock or a boat lift.

Cortez residents listening to the plans Thursday night expressed concern about increased boat traffic in the canals and increased car traffic on Cortez Road.

Thurell said he will close his HH Marina on the eastern edge of the Hunter’s Hill property, which will reduce boat traffic. Cortez Road is now being widened, added Manatee County planner Aristotle Shinas.

The traffic that Thurell said he wants to increase is from manatees and pedestrians.

The preserve will create a safe habitat for manatees, and a continuous walkway along the mangrove-fringed canals will connect to sidewalks leading to homes, he said, adding that none of the homes will be directly on the water in order to preserve pedestrian access to the waterfront.

His plan for 31 two-story single family homes, four duplexes and a three-story commercial building with six shops topped with townhouses facing Cortez Road is subject to approval by the Manatee County Commission.

The Key West-style homes will be between 1,600 and 2,400 square feet on 6,700-square-foot lots. Whitehead Construction of Cortez is slated to build the project.

The houses will be basic, with no swimming pools or hot tubs, Thurell said, adding that it is too early to determine a price range.

"To mimic Cortez Village, we will do a variety of sizes and styles," he said. "We would like to see a variety not only of houses, but of people here."

Bounded by HH Marina to the east, Cortez Road to the south and the canal that runs under the bridge leading to the Seafood Shack restaurant on the west and north, the project will be heavy on landscaping, said Thurell, who has split his time between Sweden and Cortez with his wife, Eva, since 1980.

Thurell also hopes to save Paul’s Automotive Services at 12500 Cortez Road in front of the Hunter’s Hill property as a historic building, while demolishing a dilapidated structure to its rear and preserving a large pine tree.

Cottage-style homes were originally planned for Hunter’s Hill, a name that Thurell invented based on the original name of Cortez – Hunter’s Point, a name he took for his own home in the fishing village. But permitting problems caused him to change his mind, he said, adding that one of two cottages currently on the Hunter’s Hill property will be moved to the village of Cortez near Star Fish Co., but the other is too deteriorated to save.

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