Vol 6 No. 9 - November 23, 2005


Building moratorium approved

Formula to kill red tide awaits patent

Tax relief proposal debated

Boat ramp plan draws opposition

Commissioner Maloney bids farewell

County gets glowing report on Island trolley system

Commission approves vacation for AmSouth Bank




Building moratorium approved

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The second reading and passage of a moratorium on replatting or subdividing lots along the coastline in the city is a done deal.

The moratorium will give City Planner Alan Garrett time to work on an ordinance that will create an overlay in the coastal wind velocity zone where building regulations will be more stringent than in the rest of the city.

"The area stretches from the shore to several hundred feet from the coastline," Garrett said. "It sweeps around the city from the city limits on the south, around Bean Point and then swings down to Galati Marine on the bay side."

Garrett stressed the fact that the overlay ordinance will only apply in certain cases.

"The main point about the ordinance is that it’s only applicable if you decide to replatt or redevelop your property," he noted. "A platted lot of record that is on the books today will not be affected. You can still build on it under the existing zoning regulations."

However, Garrett said if you replatt or if you buy two lots and want to combine them to build one large house – that wouldn’t be allowed.

Under the terms of the new ordinance, subdividing property in the coastal overlay district won’t be allowed. Greater setbacks to new homes will be mandated. Walls and fences won’t be allowed, though you can have a cage over a swimming pool.

Garrett said that property owners would have to plant native vegetation in the dune area.

There was some talk of limiting the height of structures in the coastal overlay district to 27 feet. This discussion took place at a commission meeting Nov. 15, but the board appears to be leaning toward allowing property owners in the COD the same height that other property owners in the city are allowed – 37 feet.

"This ordinance grows out of the comp plan," Garrett said. "It all goes back to the comp plan. That plan tries to limit the density in the coastal high hazard area for the safety of the city during storm events."

Garrett is at work on the new ordinance and plans to present it to the commission along with some examples of what would be allowed and what wouldn’t at the commission’s December meeting.

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Formula to kill red tide awaits patent

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

VENICE – Nokomis inventor Bob Rigby announced Thursday that his secret red tide formula is nearly ready for widespread use.

He expects to receive the patent on the machinery to distribute the formula as early as next month, to be followed soon by a patent on the formula itself. Rigby made the announcement at a red tide forum sponsored by the Venice Gondolier Sun.

Because the formula has a patent pending, Rigby has not revealed its composition to anyone other than to say it’s a chemical.

The self-described garage inventor has worked on the formula and the distribution machinery for the past 13 years, hoping to save fish, manatees, dolphins, sea turtles – and possibly even the tourism industry – from the neurotoxin produced by the plantlike organism, Karenia brevis.

He envisions spraying the formula 20-30 miles offshore, before the red tide is driven by the wind and waves to the beaches, where it causes respiratory irritation for beachgoers and coastal residents.

"As soon as a fisherman sees it, we could get it out there," he said.

Rigby is working with marine biology students at Venice High School, who have been testing the formula for more than a year under the supervision of science department chairperson Charles Powell. The research, funded with $4,000 provided by the school, the city of Venice and local businesses, shows that in the correct concentrations, the formula kills red tide without killing other marine life, Powell told about 100 people attending the Venice forum.

Scientists at the forum were skeptical, saying that while many substances kill red tide, they may also harm other marine life.

For example, in the 1950s, copper sulfate was used to kill red tide with negative consequences to the surrounding marine environment, said Bill Richardson with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. The copper killed the red tide all at once, causing the tiny plants to release their toxins simultaneously, worsening fish kills, he said.

"We have to be sure we’re not going to damage the environment," agreed Gary Kirkpatrick, a red tide research scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, adding that Rigby’s formula must be scientifically proven to be ecologically sound before it is used.

Even then, the formula would be useful only on small areas, he said, calling widespread use of the formula "logistically inconceivable" given the depth and breadth of some red tides.

Rigby said that the State of Florida or any other buyer could use as many of his distribution devices as they have funds for to blanket large areas of red tide.

"I believe my work will stand the test," he said.

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Tax relief proposal debated

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON — Island hotel and motel owners asked the Manatee County Commission for property tax relief last week, but the commission wants the state attorney general to weigh in on its legality first.

Don Schroder, a founder of the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation (CART), said he had hoped that the plan would be implemented by Thanksgiving, but is pleased that commissioners requested a legal opinion on it and agreed to investigate creating a tax overlay district for beach accommodations.

Members formed CART last year after experiencing sharply rising property taxes resulting from the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s re-evaluation of their property based on the "highest and best use" standard, usually defined as condominiums.

The proposal to provide grants to owners of 26 hotels and motels on Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key is unconstitutional because the county can’t use its taxing power to aid corporations or individuals, County Attorney Tedd Williams said, prompting the board to request an advisory opinion from the Florida Attorney General’s office.

"This would be very cutting edge," Williams said. "As a matter of fact, I think I’d prefer to call it going way out on a limb."

Commission Chairman Ron Getman called the plan unfair, questioning why accommodation businesses on the Islands were singled out while excluding other waterfront hotels and motels in the county, and other tourism-related businesses.

Schroder said the plan originally included restaurants and off-island businesses, but was confined to Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key accommodations based on the amount of property value increases, with Island hotels and motels averaging 45 percent increases compared to off-island accommodations averaging 3-4 percent increases.

Francisco Gomez, owner of AG Casa Marina in Bradenton Beach, said his $4,000 tax increase last year soared to a $20,000 increase this year. Between rising taxes, red tide and hurricanes, he said, "This year we are going to seriously lose money."

Sabine Musil-Buehler of Haley’s Motel in Anna Maria said she had a 27 percent property tax increase in 2003, a 63 percent increase in 2004, and a 55 percent increase this year.

"If you don’t do anything, Haley’s Motel is done by the end of next year," she told the commission.

If beach accommodations close, they will probably be replaced with rental condos that would be more expensive than hotel rooms, attracting fewer visitors, suggested Larry White, director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. With three-quarters of each tourist dollar spent on businesses other than accommodations, he added, that could mean a domino effect of business closures.

"I recognize that without hotels and motels, my business would not exist," said Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, who represents the Island and owns Surfing World in Cortez. "It’s so much bigger than just the Island community."

"Without hotels and motels, I basically have no business," added Jill Salazar of Unique Ceremonies, who plans beach weddings.

"Everybody’s business is better during tourist season, there’s no two ways about it," Commissioner Donna Hayes said.


Boat ramp plan draws opposition

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON – A group of Cortez residents asked the Manatee County Commission last week to consider their input before continuing negotiations to purchase the Seafood Shack restaurant property for a museum and public boat ramp.

"The traffic on Cortez Road in the Cortez area can be horrific, especially on weekends, especially during the season," said Lynn Henneman of the Concerned Citizens of Cortez Coalition (CCCC), which identified itself in a letter to commissioners as "a contingent of approximately 500 local residents, landowners and taxpayers."

Henneman presented the letter to commissioners citing traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, environmental impacts of boats and vehicles, other existing boat ramps nearby, cost to taxpayers and loss of tax revenue from existing businesses on the property as reasons to abandon negotiations.

"What do you think will happen if the county doesn’t buy it?" Commissioner Amy Stein asked, suggesting it would probably be high-rise condominiums. "I think you need to know what all the potentials are out there…before you take a hard and fast position of ‘go away county.’ "

The CCCC also objected that locating the Gulf Coast Maritime Museum at Cortez on the Seafood Shack property appears to be contrary to the charter of the 700-member Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH), since the property is not within the Cortez Historic District.

"The FISH charter doesn’t say anything like that," museum coordinator Roger Allen said. While the FISH website lists as one of the group’s missions "to acquire an appropriate museum site within the historic village of Cortez," he said the Seafood Shack property previously was used as commercial fishing docks and historically was an integral part of the fishing village.

The waterfront property would provide a launching site for the museum’s traditional wooden boatbuilding program and races, unlike its planned landlocked site.

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Commissioner Maloney bids farewell

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — In his characteristic style and with his characteristic humor, Commissioner Don Maloney concluded his last meeting last week with a few remarks.

"First off, I’ll certainly miss working with all of you up here, but I look forward to the opportunity for the first time in years to talk to each of you to tell you what I really think without a chance of breaking Florida’s Sunshine Law."

He asked commissioners to try and get more citizens interested in their government, a plan he said he would have carried out had he been reelected. He pointed out that 25 percent of the voters are making decisions for "the other 75 percent who apparently don’t give a damn."

Maloney promised not to "bug" commissioners, but noted that he is "considering instead to apply to the city of Anna Maria for permission to allow me to open either a McDonald’s or a Burger King or both up there on Pine Avenue, with only drive-ins, so parking won’t be a problem.

"After all, Anna Maria, with their current financial situation I read about, will need increased commercial tax income to help pay their share our mayor wants from them because they use our Holmes Beach roads to travel back and forth from home every day."

He said now that the citizens have voted that they would like the city to study the consolidation issue, one that is dear to his heart, he hoped the commission would hire an outside consultant to do the study.

He concluded with, "I look forward to reading about you!"

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County gets glowing report on Island trolley system

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON — Calling it the most successful trolley system in the state, Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash praised Island officials for their enthusiasm for the project.

"One of the things that’s really exciting is the excitement of the Island officials," McClash said. ‘They’re building very Island-looking shelters to accommodate people that are waiting alongside the roadways.

"This really does retain our tourists. They love coming to Anna Maria Island and riding the free trolley."

Fred Loveland, of the county’s community services department, and Ralf Heseler, of the county’s transit department, gave a status report on the trolley system at last week’s county commission meeting.

"The state pays 50 percent, which pretty much covers our direct costs to run the trolleys," Loveland explained. "The price of gasoline and other costs are going up, but we’re still getting a heck of a deal from the state."

Heseler said the ridership figures for the trolley system are "phenomenal," with more than 2,000 people riding the trolley each day during the season and 500 people riding it each day during the summer. However, officials feel that it has almost reached its maximum because the Island is at capacity during the season.

Heseler said the Beach Express shuttle, which initially brought riders from a park and ride at 75th Street to the Island on the weekends, now goes to I75 and the ridership has increased dramatically.

"It shows that by having proper marketing, putting out the information and giving people the service they want and will use, it will show the benefits," Heseler pointed out.

Loveland said the county would spend $189,000 this year to make the system work and noted, "It’s been very successful and well received on the Island. People look forward to using it. It’s becoming an institution on the Island."

Heseler said the county has ordered four new trolleys. One will be delivered by the end of the year, one in January and two by the end of the first quarter.

Loveland said the trolley grant runs out in January, and officials plan to renegotiate a new rate with the state.

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Commission approves vacation for AmSouth Bank

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners gave final approval of an ordinance to vacate Fifth Avenue between Manatee Avenue and 39th Street so AmSouth can build a branch bank.

Scott Rudacille, the attorney representing the property owners of Loggerhead Junction, pointed out that the street is not constructed and is used only for cross access through the property.

The property is under a long-term lease with AmSouth Bank. The bank plans to demolish the current building and build a branch on the property, which is bordered by Manatee, Fifth and Sixth avenues and 39th Street.

"I’ve spoken to a number of neighbors in this area, and they all had the same three concerns," Rudacille told commissioners. "First, they want to make sure the streets in this area are never constructed. Second, they want some kind of buffer from the commercial properties on Manatee Avenue. Lastly, they want any commercial project here to be set back as far as possible from the rear lot line. Vacating this part of Fifth Avenue allows the city to accomplish all these things."

Rudacille said bank officials have proposed additional landscaping along 39th Street, where they also have agreed to install a pedestrian walkway. He said in response to Mayor Carol Whitmore’s request for a more Island look for the building, the outside of the building would be stucco instead of brick.

Rudacille said bank officials agreed to a stipulation proposed by Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger that if the bank is not built, the land reverts back to the city.

Two residents opposed the vacation.

"This is about 8,500 square feet of land," commissioner-elect David Zaccagnino said. "That’s a pretty big chunk. "They’re trying to go above and beyond what they knew they could do."

He said the land could be used for pocket parking.

Joan Perry said the vacated parcel is "large enough to build a house on."

This prompted Commissioner Roger Lutz to reply, "We’re have a right of way easement. We can build a road on it. We can’t build a house on it.

"David’s point is well made. I think it’s a good idea to turn some of these roads into parking lots, but I don’t know if a right of way easement gives us the right to put a parking lot there."

Commissioners approved the vacation with Commissioner Pat Morton dissenting.

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