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Vol 5 No. 18 - January 26, 2005

‘Quieter’ trolleys in pipeline

Second man arrested in dredging

Panel OK’s alley swap

Island property sales continue to boom

Tax group to seek tourism taxing district

County accepts Corps’ offer of free sand

County commissioners plead their case

Bradenton Beach youth dies in accident

Suzi's great adventure

Business group frustrated with city

Bradenton Beach murder trial starts

Commission to ease pier franchise terms

 

 

 

‘Quieter’ trolleys in pipeline

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – Manatee County Area Transit is working to order replacement trolleys to service the Island and if the county has its way, you'll be able to hear the clang, clang, clang of the bells over the roar of their engines.

MCAT Director Ralf Heseler said they have identified the new vehicles they want, and they are working to get the best price. He said the deal involves a contract between a transit authority on the other end of the country and a trolley manufacturing company in Florida.

"We're trying to piggyback onto a California contract because they have the type of trolley we've been trying to get," Heseler said. "We have already received permission from FDOT (Florida Department of Transportation)."

Heseler said the trolleys would have the same style with an open-air rear section of seats and they would be quieter and more reliable. The current fleet of five trolleys prompted complaints from residents because their engines are loud when they accelerate. They have also proven to be unreliable and suffer from rust and corrosion because of their exposure to salt air and water near the beaches.

Heseler said they would order as many as four vehicles at a cost $180,000 to $190,000. FDOT and Manatee County would pay for the new vehicles.

MCAT wants to piggyback on an order from the Mountain Area Regional Transit Authority (MARTA) in Great Bear Lake, California. MARTA General Manager Jerry Davis said they bought their first trolleys in July of last year to serve snow skiers and lake enthusiasts in the resort town.

"So far, they have been wonderful," said Davis. "They are operating great."

MARTA purchased the first vehicles from Trolley Enterprises, of Deerfield Lake, Florida, and will purchase additional ones this year under a contract that Manatee County wants to piggyback onto. Davis said that would ensure that Manatee County would get the new vehicles at a guaranteed price.

Heseler said the new trolleys would be added to the current fleet and the older vehicles would become backups. In response to requests from town leaders on Longboat Key, MCAT has been talking with Sarasota County Area Transit about extending the trolleys down Longboat to St. Armands Circle. Longboat residents have been asking for the service after seeing how well riders have responded to the trolleys on Anna Maria Island. Heseler said those talks are continuing and when they iron out details, such as who would own the trolleys and who would pay for their maintenance, the two governing boards of the systems would vote on the proposal.

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Second man arrested in dredging

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Carl Mora, 62, of Cortez was arrested last week on charges related to illegal dredging around Jewfish Key, an island off the north end of Longboat Key.

A boat that Mora owned was used in the dredging of two channels through mangroves and seagrasses, which are protected by law, according to a statement by the Longboat Key Police Department, which investigated the dredging with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Mora was charged with a third degree felony, unlawfully supplying a vessel registration decal, and two second degree misdemeanors, displaying unauthorized vessel numbers and failing to surrender a certificate of title. Additional charges are pending.

The Town of Longboat Key filed a civil forfeiture action in November against Mora’s boat.

Arrest warrants also were issued for Joan Mayers Bergstrom, 59, of Longboat Key, Raymond L. Guthrie Jr., 55, of Cortez and Raymond L. Guthrie III, 30, of Cortez, according to the Longboat Key Police Department.

Bergstrom, sister of Sarasota Realtor Michael Saunders, developed Jewfish Key in 1988, calling it La Lenaire Island. The development, accessible only by boat, has 13 homesites and a nature preserve.

Bergstrom told The Sun last summer that she was out of the country when the dredging occurred, and that she was disturbed over the environmental destruction of the island.

The younger Guthrie was first arrested in November in connection with the case and was charged with a third-degree felony, violating the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act.

Other warrants are expected to be issued for people who solicited and paid for the illegally dredged channel, according to the Longboat Key Police Department.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has completed an environmental damage assessment of Jewfish Key for the future remediation of the site.

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Panel OK’s alley swap

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — After a lengthy and argumentative meeting, the city’s Planning and Zoning Board voted to approve an alley swap with the Sandbar.

The vote was 4-2 to recommend to the city commission that the city trade an existing alleyway adjacent to the east side of the restaurant with a swath of land 62 feet further to the east.

Ed Chiles, who has owned the restaurant for more than 26 years is under a federal court order to bring his property into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The restaurant was one of a number of local establishments sued for violations of the ADA.

Chiles said he needs build out into the existing alley to provide ADA-complaint restrooms and handicapped parking. He worked out a plan with city Building Official Kevin Donohue, the mayor and several planners whereby the city would trade the alleyway for a parcel further to the east.

Chiles, in return, would landscape the new city right of way and turn it into a promenade for residents and visitors. His plan would connect the two beach accesses at either end of his property to the new walkway.

Additionally, Chiles plan provides for correcting some long-standing drainage problems in that area. The drainage work is to be done at Chiles' expense.

Several members of the board as well as the audience questioned whether the plan was the best fix for the ADA problem.

Donohue said that, in his opinion, it is.

Robin Wall, a nearby resident, said she's not so sure.

"People get nervous when you talk about giving away land," she said. "I'm not so sure this is necessary. Why can't the alley be closer to the building?"

Several members of the audience as well as the board expressed concern that Chiles would use the swap to expand the restaurant — something Chiles vehemently denied.

Board Chair Charley Canniff said he'd been approached by many people in the community who are concerned about the potential for expansion and the increase of intensity in that area.

"There's thousands of tornados swirling around town about this case," Canniff said.
But Chiles said he is simply trying to comply with the court order.

Board member Chuck Webb said the plan that the city and Chiles came up with is a good one.

"It's an elegant way to clean up a problem," Webb said.

Webb moved to recommend approval of the swap to the city commission. The city commission will vote to approve or deny the swap.

Doug Copeland seconded the motion. Webb, Copeland, Canniff and Jim Conoly voted yes. Margaret Jenkins and Chris Collins voted against.

The vote to swap the land is contingent upon approval of the site plan, which will be heard Feb. 7.

"That's going to be 10 times more complicated," Canniff said.

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Tax group to seek tourism taxing district

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Coalition Against Runaway Taxation has enlisted the help of Manatee County commissioners to provide tax relief for tourist-related businesses on Anna Maria Island.

Without tax relief, rising taxes may force businesses to close, said Nigel Brown, one of the group’s founders and the owner of Anna Maria Beach Cottages. His property taxes nearly tripled in the three years from 2001 to 2004.

Since it formed last summer, CART has considered several tax relief ideas, including a state constitutional amendment to cap business taxes, changing the basis of property valuation from fair market value to acquisition value and breaking away from Manatee County to form an Island county with its own taxing authority.

The newest idea is creating a special taxing district for tourist-related businesses to bring the taxes paid by Island business owners down to the level paid by business owners off the Island.

The group discussed possible criteria last week to identify which businesses would be eligible for inclusion in the district. Island antiques dealer Ginny Dutton suggested that anyone with a business license could qualify. County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann suggested that those who pay the county’s bed tax could be eligible. Another proposal would include any business owners whose taxes increased more than 30 percent last year.

Whatever criteria are used, tax relief should be expanded beyond Anna Maria Island to the Manatee County section of Longboat Key to be fair, said Don Schroder, president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and a founder of CART.

The group plans to put the taxing district issue on the Manatee County Commission agenda for public discussion next month.

Although CART has discussed expanding tax relief from business owners to people who own second homes on the Island that are used as rentals, von Hahmann said that would be a tough sell countywide.

"Just because you invest on Anna Maria Island in a second home should not give you a status above someone who invests in Meadowcroft in town," she said.

CART is looking for interested volunteers to brainstorm the issues and possible solutions. For more information, contact the Chamber at 778-1541.

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Island property sales continue to boom

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The latest Anna Maria Island Property Sales Report confirms what many already suspected — the Island real estate boom is still on.

According to sales figures in the report by Barry and Dantia Gould at Island Vacation Properties, LLC, the total dollar value of home sales on the Island rose 40 percent in 2004. The numbers went from $158.9 million in 2003 to $222.9 million last year. This figure dwarfs the totals earlier in this century when they started at $91 million in 2001, rose to $98.1 million in 2002 and jumped to $126.3 million in 2003.

Of course, inflation has accounted for a lot of this recent increase as demand for homes, especially near or on the water, has outstripped supply, but the number of units sold has also risen markedly.

The total number of properties sold – including residential, multifamily, empty lots and commercial sales – rose from 332 in 2003 to 401 last year. The average price of property sold in 2004 was $555,508, up from $478,488 in 2003.

Once property hit the market last year it didn't stay there long, according to the report. Nearly half of the 401 listings sold (189) within 60 days. The figures show that 126 were on the market 30 days or less, 63 were listed for 31 to 60 days, 55 sold between 61 to 90 days, 36 sold between 91 and 120 days and 121 were listed for more than 120 days.

Sales by usage
The total value of the 180 single-family homes sold in 2004 was $110.8 million, up from $82.5 million in 2003 on the sales of 156 homes. The average price rose from $529,052 to $615,601.

The number of condominium units sold was almost identical (130 in 2004 vs. 131 in 2003) but the total dollar value rose about 10 percent from $50.6 million to $56.6 million.

The duplex and triplex market doubled in sales volume last year. Sixty-two units sold for a total of $33.1 million compared with 31 units in 2003 for a total of just under $16 million.
Ten commercial properties sold last year for $13.2 million while 7 properties changed hands in 2003 for a total of $6.7 million. The average price went from $952,286 in 2003 to $1.3 million in 2004.

Fourth quarter results mixed
The fourth quarter of 2004 showed a drop in condominium sales from 2003's fourth quarter, from 35 units to 17. The dollar amount was about half, from $18.1 million to $9.6 million, but the average price per unit rose from $516,473 to $564,312.

Single-family homes sales dropped from 37 homes in 2003 to 33 last year. The total dollar amount of sales went from $21.1 million to $22.98 million.

The average price of duplexes and triplexes dropped in 2004 from $612,143 to $588,000. The seven triplexes and duplexes sold in 2003 brought in $4.3 million compared to 10 sales in 2004, which fetched $5.9 million.

Commercial property sales in the fourth quarter of 2004 were lower than that period in 2003. Two units were sold in each of the periods, but the total sales in 2003 were $4.5 million while last year's fourth quarter total was $2.2 million.

December sales a mixed bag
Twelve single-family homes sold for a total of $8,584,000 last month, compared with 14 homes at a total cost of $7.3 million a year earlier. The average price went from $523,829 in December 2003 to $697,269 last month. Condominium sales dropped from 18 units at $8.7 million in December 2003 to nine units at $4.4 million last month. Duplexes and triplexes brought in less money per sale with five listing yielding $3 million in sales last month compared with three units at $2.3 million in December 2003. The average sales price dropped from $776,333 to $605,400. The sales of commercial properties was the same as the fourth-quarter figures for both years as the units listed during that period all sold in December.

Active listings still on the rise
At the start of 2005, there were 245 properties listed on the Island. The list included 93 single-family homes at an average price of $985,407. There were 110 condominiums listed at an average price of $939,935, 31 duplexes listed an at average of $812,245, 11 commercial properties listed at an average of $1.3 and six active lot listings at an average of $498,816.

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County accepts Corps’ offer of free sand

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The dredge and its pipes will most likely be back in the water this fall after a vote by the Manatee County Commission Tuesday to accept an offer by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to renourish the Island's storm-ravaged beaches.

The Corps offered to pay for a beach renourishment last month using Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) funds after determining that the Island's beaches had lost enough sand to qualify for an emergency project. At the last minute, Manatee County Environmental Projects Administrator Charlie Hunsicker recommended that the county not take the offer because the Corps would determine the quality of the sand that would go on the beaches.

Following his recommendation, the county voted to turn down the offer, but the Corps asked again that the county take it, saying the Corps would do its best to assure quality sand. Following that offer, Hunsicker traveled to Jacksonville on Monday, Jan. 10, to seek assurances that the Corps would allow the county to monitor the project and the Corps agreed. Hunsicker returned to Bradenton and recommended the county accept the offer on Tuesday, Jan. 11, which the county commission did at its meeting that day.

"They gave their assurance that their best effort would be taken to identify the best sand sources in the Gulf where we first took sand in 2002 and draw up construction details that they would pass on to the contractor so there were be no miscommunication between the engineer and the builder," Hunsicker said. "Finally and most importantly, they gave their assurance that they would allow the engineer to watch the contractor and inspect the work on a daily basis as the beach is renourished."

Hunsicker said he expects Coastal Engineering, the firm that represented the county in the previous renourishments, to be the engineer in this project.. He said the federal government's massive attempt to rebuild storm ravaged beaches, which were hit at four-times the normal rate, is rare.

"It has only happened once before in the 40-year history of the Corps' beach building activities," he said. "That was following Hurricane Andrew (in 1992) in South Florida."

The Corps drew criticism when it managed the first renourishment on the Island in 1993. The quality of the sand was not up to par and beach-goers complained about the dark, shell-laden sand. The county controlled the quality of the 2002 project, which produced sand more like that on the beaches before the renourishment.

The new project will cost more than $3.5 million and will place 409,000 cubic yards of sand back on the beaches, about 30 percent of the 2002 project. Hunsicker said the sand would be placed evenly along the entire length of the original project. Hunsicker said this project would not affect the next renourishment expected around 2010.

"This will get us back into that timeline," he said.

Because the project is in response to an emergency project, there won’t be the amount of paperwork that was required for the previous two. Hunsicker said the timing of the storms played a part in getting the project started quickly.

"A lot of the permits from the last project are still valid," he said. "The permit to take the sand from that part of the Gulf applies for up to five years and it is still valid."

Hunsicker said he expects the project to begin in September or October.

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County commissioners plead their case

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Manatee County Commissioners Joe McClash and Jane von Hahmann crossed the bridge to Anna Maria Island last week to brave the storm created by a charter government plan for the county that would more tightly control development in the cities. As they left, they invited the elected officials to attend a workshop on the proposal on Jan 27.

The two county commissioners were aware of opposition to the idea from the city officials in the county, who feel it is a foot in the door toward losing their powers of self-determination.

McClash said he hoped the cities would see this as a chance to put consistency in the control of growth. McClash called growth and urban sprawl the greatest threat to the future of our way of life in Manatee County.

"I know Sarasota County has a charter government and Longboat Key likes it because they can be more stringent than the county in their development limits," said Holmes Beach City Commissioner Don Maloney.

"Joe, you know I don't like this even though the county does need a charter," Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said. "Manatee County has a growth problem."

Whitmore called the charter proposal a "starter charter" and pointed out that it is unnecessary for the Island.

"Right now, it's just for growth," she said. "It doesn't really effect us because we're built out."

McClash argued that a joint planning council made up of six people representing the county, one person per city and a representative from the School Board would make proposals to handle growth issues. City Commissioner Rich Bohnenberger took the planning council suggestion to task.

"The joint planning council members would always be at adversarial positions," he said. "Plus, there's no mandatory charter review in your proposal."

Von Hahmann spoke before the city officials and said she needs to hear from more of her constituents about the charter.

"The vast majority of people who address me are in favor of some form of county control over growth," she said

"Every citizen who comes to me in my city doesn't want it," said Whitmore, who invited Tax Collector Charles Hackney to the meeting to talk about where most of the growth in the county is occurring. He reported that the vast majority is in unincorporated Manatee County, which is already under the county commission's control. Whitmore said she does not want the charter to be effective in municipalities.

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Bradenton Beach youth dies in accident

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

An 11-year-old Bradenton Beach boy died Tuesday, Jan. 11, the result of an accident on Cortez Road West on Friday, Jan. 7.

Cecil Haynes was riding his bicycle on Cortez Road West near 119th Street, when he switched lanes in front of a van driven by Michael Cosgrove, 39, of New Port Richey. According to a Florida Highway Patrol news release, Cosgrove swerved to try to miss Haynes but hit him. No charges were filed against Cosgrove.

The boy was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg and transferred to All Children's Hospital. Doctors operated on him Saturday, according to a family friend, but he died Tuesday.

Haynes was a student at Sugg Middle School, and he graduated from Anna Maria Elementary School last year, according to school counselor Cindi Harrison. He attended the school in his kindergarten year, transferred to West Manatee School for the Arts and Sciences and returned to AME halfway through his fourth grade year. He was a student of Lynne McDonough his last year at AME.

Harrison said she saw Haynes recently and they talked and laughed about his years at AME. She said the accident was sad, but she was grateful she got to see him once more after he moved on to middle school.

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Suzi's great adventure

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Chief Suzi Fox will be leaving Fort Myers this week on the 70-foot pleasure trawler Vagabond.

Fox has signed on as a member of a four-person crew that will be joining Capt. William "Bert" Bertolet on a journey to Guatemala. From there, Vagabond will be taking jaunts to other ports in that part of the world over the next several months.

Fox, who will be back on Anna Maria in time to train the turtle volunteers in May, will be part of the journey. She couldn't be more excited.

"Hola," is the salutation from Fox in the latest e-mail transmission from Vagabonds home port of Fort Myers.

"We are still acquiring crew. My sailing friend, Ed, has a friend who wants to make the trip with us. That will be great. He's arriving today or tomorrow.

"That sets Vagabond up with a full crew. Simba 2 (a boat that will be travelling in convoy with Vagabond) is still trying to get both oars in the water, so to speak. They should have everything ready by tomorrow.

"We provision in the morning and move onto the boat by tomorrow night. Monday or Tuesday (Jan. 17 or 18) we set sail.

"My crew member is Randy. He's my new best friend. He's a Texan married to a Guatemalan woman named Evelyn. They have a baby girl named for our Captain. Captain Bert and Randy's families are very close.

"We ran around yesterday and hit all the second-hand stores and the guys’ favorite place, Northern Tools. For dessert, they checked out Harbor Freight.

"Randy is a martial arts instructor and high school English teacher — very sweet and funny — and I feel like I've known him all my life. He's teaching me wonderful things — how to flush the head and not look foolish and how to barter down at Goodwill. I'm teaching him how to surf the Internet and work the TV remote.

"Gotta go. Captain's cooking breakfast and it's ready.

"Love, Suzi"

The ship will be traveling from Fort Myers to the Dry Tortugas where weather will determine whether or not it makes a stop.

Fox is hoping it does. She said she's been in touch with the turtle people there in Fort Jefferson and would love to spend some time with them.

Then it's on to Isla Mujeres, which is a barrier island off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. From there, Vagabond will cruise south past Belize and on to Guatemala.

Fox plans to keep us posted on her adventures. And The Sun will be sharing those adventures with our readers.

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Business group frustrated with city

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — A group of business owners will be working together to try to improve relations with city government.

"When you control the people who are sitting on the commission, you affect the whole future," Don Schroder said.

At a meeting of the Anna Maria Village Merchant's Association on Jan. 12, several business people expressed frustration with the way the city responds to business needs.

"It's going from bad to worse," said one business owner. "Every week, there are more articles about this. The city is becoming quirky, arbitrary — it's a difficult place to do business."

There was reference to the property owned by Robert and Nicky Hunt at 303 Pine Ave. A circuit court judge will be hearing that case in the next few months.

The planning and zoning board recommended approval of a site plan for a three-story structure at that address, but the commission voted against the plan. The Hunts have taken the matter to court.

Many of the Pine Avenue property owners said they're watching that case closely. They feel that the city is taking away the full legal use of their properties by restricting them to two usable floors.

"They are taking our property values away," said Darcy Duncan, a Realtor on Pine Ave. "They're stripping our value away. I'm just looking at this from a real estate value."

Further, there was discussion of the city's failure to act quickly on a request from Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, to swap an alleyway adjacent to the restaurant with a similar swath of land a bit to the east.

Chiles has offered to landscape the new alleyway and make it into a walkway that residents and tourists could use and enjoy. Chiles is also proposing to use native plants and landscape the city-owned beach access points at the north and south of his property. The alleyway he's proposing to swap with the city and landscape would tie the two access points together in a promenade.

Chiles is also offering, at his own expense, to improve the drainage problems that storms bring to that area.

The Sandbar and Chiles' other restaurants are under a federal court order to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said he needs that alley swap for handicapped parking and for ADA-compliant restrooms.

Waterfront restaurant owner Jason Suzor said he's had a great deal of trouble dealing with the city in his efforts to rebuild the restaurant in the wake of a fire last March.

"It's been a long and treacherous process," Suzor said. "We ran into a lot of problems. We felt like there could have been more of an effort from the city to maybe get things moving sooner."

During the discussion of what to do about improving relations with the city, several ideas were tossed around. There was talk of getting inside the "political machine."

Chiles urged business owners to get involved in the political process instead of letting the few people who come to every commission meeting be the "tail that wags the dog."

"My experience with the city is a few people control things," Suzor commented. "It's a ‘not in my back yard’ thing."

Other proposals included putting an attorney on retainer from the AMVMA to handle legal issues with the city.

Another proposal was to establish a data base, so that "when we get an issue, we can push a button and get to them," suggested Chiles.

"When they (the city commissioners) hear from five or six people, it makes an impact."

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce President Don Schroder said the key is having control.

"If you don't control p&z," Schroder said, "and you don't control who gets elected to the commission — you need to get grass roots control. When you control the people who are sitting on the commission, you affect the whole future."

There was discussion about marketing, including the value of advertising and web sites.

After the meeting broke up, several business owners stayed behind to discuss the high tax on business property with Schroder. (See related story on Page 1 of this edition.)

Dave Russell at Rotten Ralph's hosted the meeting.

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Bradenton Beach murder trial starts

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

A former Cortez fisherman's second-degree murder trial began this week with jury selection.

Kim Bean, 47, of Bradenton Beach, is accused of hitting Carol Foreman in her home following a night of drinking and drugs that reportedly ended in an argument. Bean was arrested after Bradenton Beach Police officers questioned him the day after Foreman was found dead on the floor of her house, located about a block from the police station, by a former boyfriend, Clifford Stein.

Bean's trial is being held in the court of District Judge Peter A. Dubensky. Bean is being represented by public defender Peter Branum Belmont. Brian Iten is the prosecutor for the state.

If convicted, Bean could receive a life sentence. Bean was a stone crabber who worked out of Bell Fish House in Cortez. He was reportedly an acquaintance of the victim and spent the evening at her house drinking and taking drugs with two other men.

The case is rare for Bradenton Beach, which saw its last murder on Feb. 27, 1990. Police Detective Sgt. Len Diaz was credited by the city commission for his quick work in arresting a suspect in the case.

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Commission to ease pier franchise terms

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The city commission has decided to return the pier restaurant to its roots in its search for a new franchisee.

Faced with one response from its first request for bids, the commission lightened its terms for rent in an attempt to help a new franchisee set up shop and make a go of it.

At a special workshop Tuesday, Jan. 11, Vice Mayor Bill Shearon, the commission's liaison to the pier, said he called all the parties he could find who took out bid packets but did not bid why. Some of the more universal responses were:

• The numbers don't match at 12 percent of the gross or a minimum of $5,000 per month rent.

• There are nine restaurants, two ice cream parlors and two coffee shops in the immediate vicinity of the pier.

• It is hard to staff a restaurant from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

• Indecision on the commission over whether the franchisee would have to have a bait shop or sell souvenirs.

• The rundown condition of the facility and confusion over what the city will do to improve it and when.

• The difficulty of dealing with five elected officials.

• The request for bids asked too much personal information and bidders would have to spend money for attorneys before actual- ly receiving assurances they have a chance to get the bid.

• The cost of new equipment and fixtures could be around $100,000.

• There was no clear answer on when an oper ator would be able to occupy the restaurant.

• The agreement needs to spell out maintenance responsibilities of the city and the franchisee.

• Don't let an architect design the kitchen. It has to be flexible.

Shearon strongly suggested the city hire a restaurant consultant to advise the commission on fashioning a bid request and a lease agreement. He said resident Rick Bisio, who has served on a couple of city advisory boards, had volunteered to help as did Ed Chiles, owner of the BeachHouse restaurant. Shearon said Chiles said he did not plan on bidding on the franchise.

Shearon also warned against requiring too much rent from a fledgling business.

"One of the bidders said at 12 percent, we would be making an honest person into a criminal because he would have to lie about the profits in order to survive," said Shearon.

The commission decided to consider a graduated rent, one that would rise as the business settles in and grows. They also talked about getting away from the type of restaurant the pier always had.

"I asked one chef what he would do and he said he would serve the food on paper plates," said Shearon.

Public Works Director Dottie Poindexter said the city might get some help from Manatee County's procurement officer, who deals with the county beach franchise.

Shearon said he would talk with Bisio and the procurement officer and the commission decided to discuss the issue at a work session in the near future.

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