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Vol 5 No. 38 - June 8, 2005


90 days to renourish beaches

Debate heats up over rental limits

Beachfront price tag: $25 million

Turtle Watch helps with displaced turtles

Crabber Tomís to feature local seafood

Anna Maria hires a city planner

City to evaluate board of adjustment






90 days to renourish beaches

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Get ready for renourishment.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has chosen Goodloe Marine, Inc., of Apollo Beach, Fla., to renourish the beaches of Anna Maria Island and the price looks like a bargain, even though the job will take longer than originally planned.

According to Barry Vorse, of the Army Corps of Engineers, Goodloe was the low bidder at $4,587,500, which is $262,300 less than the $4,849,800 estimated by the Corps to put down approximately 409,000 cubic yards of sand.

The only downside if the time it will take, due to the capacity of the new contractor. The Corps had originally hoped to find someone who could put down around 40,000 cubic yards per day, making it a two week job at the most.

But with the smaller capacity Goodloe has, it will take around 90 days, according to Vorse.
"We are awarding a lot of jobs this summer, thanks to the hurricanes last year," said Vorse. "Because of that, the companies that do this are slammed and there are only six out there who are available."

The Corps asked the county to request the renourishment after winds from three of the four hurricanes that swept through Florida last summer accelerated the erosion of the beaches here. Manatee County managed the last renourishment in 2002, and the beaches were expected to last about 10 years, but not after the storms last summer. The Corps will manage this emergency renourishment, which made the county balk at asking for the emergency job because of fears that the project would bring in coarse, dark sand that would downgrade the beaches. The county paid for a survey to find out where the best sand is available and the Corps, in turn, has agreed to specify that sand and allow the county to exercise some control over the quality of the sand used.

The renourishment project is expected to be finished by the end of September, about 10 weeks from its beginning.

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Debate heats up over rental limits

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Planning commissioners were not happy when they learned that even if they recommend 30-day rentals, they may have to grandfather everyone who already has a rental license.

In recent discussions on revisions to the city’s land development code, planners agreed to recommend 30-day minimum rentals in the in the R-1 and R-2 districts. Those districts currently have a seven-day minimum rental period.

"If you don’t grandfather them, you’ll be up to your earlobes in lawsuits, at least until you win or lose the first one" City Planner Bill Brisson told them.

"It seems that at the last meeting we made a tough decision and said it would upset a number of people but that’s what we want," planning commissioner John Monetti pointed out. "Now you say it doesn’t matter what we want."

"They are legally allowed right now, so they would be legally non-conforming (if the rental period is changed). Almost every time you change a code and make something non-conforming, they’re allowed to continue (by being grandfathered)."

"I have a concern because what is the evidence that they’ve been renting them out for 30 days? Chairman Sue Normand asked.

Brisson said the city has a record of all the licenses issued. Licenses are issued on an annual basis.

Protecting the city
"There has to be some legal way to protect the city and still be able to implement this," Normand said. "We’re trying to keep residential neighborhoods residential."
She asked Brisson to ask the city attorney if they could change it to 30 days at the annual renewal. Brisson said he doubted if they could but he would ask.

Monetti pointed out that there could be a "run on city hall" for people to get licenses for weekly rentals if the recommendation is implemented.

Normand asked if the city commission could place a moratorium on rental licenses in the R-1 and R-2 districts until planners finish their revisions.

"That’s what I’ll recommend," Brisson replied. "You institute what is called ‘zoning in progress.’ People can come in a get a license, but they can only get it for periods for which the zoning is anticipated to go into effect or the existing, whichever is more strict."

A-1 district issue
Brisson said there is an issue in the A-1 district that the board must address. The A-1 district is also called the multi-family residential/seasonal tourist district and fronts the Gulf of Mexico from 74th Street to 52nd Street.

"The code doesn’t allow single family homes or duplexes in that district," he explained. "If these lots are vacant, they can’t be built on under the current provisions. If there are single family homes or duplexes on them, and they are demolished, they can’t be rebuilt. You have land that couldn’t be used for anything."

He said there are 15 affected lots in the district.

"I would hate to say that they can’t rebuild," Normand said.

The others agreed and asked Brisson to make provisions so owners can rebuild on those lots if the structures are destroyed, but all current regulations must be met. They also asked him to designate the lots.

Brisson said in the R-1AA, R-1 and R-2 districts, he added a provision stating, "No timeshare interval associated with any dwelling or parcel shall be for a term of less than 30 days." He said the provision was not needed in the R-3 and R-4 districts because those districts allow condominiums, which are self-regulating as to rental periods.

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Beachfront price tag: $25 million

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The largest undeveloped piece of beachfront land on the Island is for sale with a $25 million asking price, but that price could go up if the owners don't win an appeal of a $750 fine against them by the city.

The land, which includes the Gulf Drive Café and the foundation of the old Trader Jack's restaurant to the south, has a total of 400 feet of beachfront exposure.

Owners George and Wendy Kokolis have owned the property for nearly 20 years. They moved to the area when the lease to the Gulf Drive Café expired and took over management of the popular eatery, but it hasn't been a smooth transition.

On March 17, the city's code enforcement board ordered them to construct a four-foot, chain-link fence around two parking lots across the street and the land south of the parking area next to the restaurant. The fences around one of the parking lots across the street and the beachfront land are supposed to keep out cars while the one around the other lot is to control access to and from it.

The Kokolis's did not comply, and on May 5, the board levied a fine of $250 per day for each of the lots. The Kokolis's have fenced in the two lots across the street and partially fenced the beachfront land, but are not ready to comply further, according to Wendy. They have retained attorney Mark Barnabey, and she said they would appeal the city's orders and fines. She said if they fence off the beachfront land as much as the city wants them to, they will lose parking spaces there and won't be able to operate.

Meanwhile, the restaurant and beachfront land are on the selling block.
"We decided it wasn't worth keeping," she said. "The city is trying to drive us out of business."

Wendy said they are flexible on what they would sell, and if a buyer doesn't want to purchase the restaurant, they will keep it. She said there is enough land on the beach parcel, including the restaurant, to build a 16-unit motel. With many motels on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key going condo and the supply of rooms dwindling, the demand for overnight lodging will get stronge, shesaid..

According to an ad by the real estate broker, Mike Norman, the land is zoned for hotel/motel and restaurant. A city map indicates it is zoned C-2, general commercial.
For information on the restaurant, call Mike Norman at 778-6696.

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Turtle Watch helps with displaced turtles

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

AMI Turtle Watch has stepped in to help with several turtles that lost their home when a house in the 200 block of Sycamore Avenue in Anna Maria burned Saturday morning.
"We have two sulcatas, which are also called African spur-thigh tortoises, a box turtle and two that I can't identify," said AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox.

"We got a call from West Manatee Fire & Rescue saying they needed help with some turtles, so we went up there to get them," she added.
Several of the turtles had burn marks on their shells, but they didn't appear to be seriously hurt, according to Fox.

"There were some spots where burning embers may have landed on the shells," she said. "But for the most part, the turtles all appear to be very healthy — well nourished and well socialized."

Fox said she immediately went to Wal-Mart to get some kiddie pools to house the turtles.
"They were great," she said. "They gave us an emergency $50 gift certificate, and we got the pools along with a whole lot of vegetables."

The main thing was to keep the turtles calm, quiet and well nourished, according to Fox.
"They've been traumatized, so we just want them to calm down and feel secure," she said.
"They've eaten everything we got from Wal-Mart, and this morning, I went all over the neighborhood and picked a bushel of native plants for them to eat. Thank you Avenue B!"
From here, the turtles will go to the Reptile Shack in Lakeland, where they'll be cared for until the code enforcement officer decides what's to be done with them.

At that point, they'll either go back to their owners or they'll become part of the Reptile Shack's education and breeding program.

"You never know what's going to happen next with Turtle Watch," Fox said. "We're out on the beaches monitoring nests, and the next thing you know we're rescuing land turtles."

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Crabber Tomís to feature local seafood

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Grouper, shrimp or chicken? Fried or chargrilled? Potato salad, cole slaw, baked beans or corn on the cob in season?

Those are the choices that will face diners who check out Crabber Tom's over the next couple of months while the menu is perfected.

Tom Garbacz — pronounce it GARB-ah-see — is opening a seafood restaurant and retail fish shop in the Holmes Beach Shopping Center.

After more than 30 years as a commercial fisherman, Garbacz has decided to experience another end of the business.

And cooking is something he's done since he was small.

"My mom worked three jobs to raise five kids on her own," he said. "She taught all of us kids to cook because she couldn't be home to do it. We all cook except for one of the girls."

And cooking is something at which Garbacz excels. The Sun found him one day last week experimenting with three types of potato salad. He had cooked the potatoes and eggs and was hand-chopping the rest of the ingredients. The one we tried was southern style with a little mustard in the dressing. It had potatoes, onions, hard-boiled eggs and celery. It was delicious.

The coleslaw will be home made, Garbacz said. The beans will come from a can because otherwise they'd take all day to make, but Garbacz will "doctor them up" with his own additions.

This fisherman turned chef had also created a spectacular tartar sauce — basil-lemon tartar sauce, to be exact. Also delicious.

At Crabber Tom's you'll be able to stop by and pick up some fresh seafood to prepare at home. You could choose to have your meal right there or call ahead for a takeout order.
Whatever you decide to try, Garbacz wants to hear what you think of his operation.

"I want people to tell me what they think," he said. "Do they like the food? Would they like something different? I won't know what they like unless they tell me."

Then by the time the tourist season rolls around again, Garbacz says he'll have all the kinks worked out of his operational systems.

So stop in, sample the food and let Garbacz know what you think.

Crabber Tom's is located in west wing of the Holmes Beach Shopping Center at the corner of Marina and Gulf in Holmes Beach. It's open from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. — later if people are still eating. The phone number is 779-9383.

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Anna Maria hires a city planner

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – City officials are on the hunt for a code breaker.

Commissioners voted unanimously at a special meeting June 2 to authorize the mayor to hire a certified planner to help interpret part of the city code.

The section that prompted the vote concerns whether or not homes can be built on undersized lots, such as the five that are on Pine Avenue at the site of the old marina and deli.

"I'm delighted," said Doug Copeland, acting chairman of the planning and zoning board. "This is something we definitely need. Too often we find conflicts or ambiguities in the code, and we need help."

City Commissioner Duke Miller agreed with Copeland.

"I agree with Doug 100 percent," Miller said. "Let's get this guy (a planner) on board and allocate the dollars — even if it has to come from reserves.

"I'm tired of this. Every time somebody wants to turn over a rock, we're in a mess. We're not getting anywhere."

The P&Z board had asked the commission to clarify an apparent conflict in section 114-135 after City Attorney Jim Dye wrote a letter saying he believed the lots at the old marina on Pine Avenue are buildable since they were platted prior to the adoption of the code. Building Official Kevin Donohue had also written a letter regarding those lots, in which he said the lots were undersized and two or more would have to be combined to create buildable lots.

The five lots at the old marina are about 5,000 square feet. Current code mandates that lots contain 7,500 square feet.

Earlier, Dye had given an opinion that the lots were not buildable. That was based on a different section of the code, he told commissioners.

After discussing the apparent conflicts and ambiguities, commissioners voted to ask the mayor to check with planner Allen Garrett, who is already consulting with the city, to see if he's available and what his expenses would be.

Mayor SueLynn suggested that planner Tony Arrant, who is consulting on the comprehensive plan review, might be a good choice.

Arrant, who works for Florida State University, was hired for work on the comp plan exclusively. His contract includes no help with codes. According to a proposal he submitted to the city earlier, a review of the codes would cost the city $60,000.

The mayor is to prepare the memo and present it to commissioners at their next meeting.
Meanwhile, John Agnelli, who owns the lot furthest to the west on the old marina property, said he'd proceed with plans to build an office and residential structure for his own use on his property.

"But there's still the court case that will clear up the three story thing," he said.
Agnelli was referring to a ruling expected soon from the circuit court on the lot at 303 Pine Avenue. Robert and Nicki Hunt took the city to court after they were denied a permit to construct a three-story building on that lot.

FEMA allows ground floor use of property for retail, office or other commercial uses. Ground floors in coastal areas cannot be used for residential purposes.

No one disputes that buildings can be a maximum of 37 feet high in the ROR (residential/office/retail) district. The court ruling in the Hunt's case will determine whether or not property owners in the ROR district can put two or three floors under the roofs of their buildings.

Jason Sato, who is handling the sale of the old marina lots for Betsy Hills Real Estate, said he's proceeding with the sale.

"I'm happy they're going to clear some of this up," Sato said. "We've closed on one lot and there are contracts on three others."

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City to evaluate board of adjustment

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Relations between the city commission and board of adjustment have been chilly since the city took away the board's decision making powers, but they warmed somewhat after board members had their say at a city commission meeting.

Mayor John Chappie proposed disbanding the board, which hears variance requests, and giving the powers to the city commission. Chappie said such a move would save applicants time, since the city commission now makes the final determination on such requests, but longtime board member John Burns expressed reservations.

"Having to go before a board that is apolitical is an asset, since it is another layer of government," Burns said. "The board offers a non-political view."

Vice Mayor Bill Shearon, who was out of town, left a memo suggesting they combine the board of adjustment with the planning and zoning board. His memo said having a larger planning and zoning board with the same number of members required for a quorum would be good because it would avoid delays due to conflicts of interest that often require board members to recuse themselves.

Burns said if you combine the two boards, you might lose perspective on the issues. He also said the planning and zoning board is already busy serving as the city's planning agency and adding variance requests would overload board members.

"It doesn't seem like things have been working well," said Chappie. "You say the board is non political and when you were chairman, there were no court challenges, but that's not true now."

Most recently, a judge overturned a board decision to allow a variance to a board member after a neighbor filed a challenge.

Another board member, Ric Gatehouse, said the board sometimes has problems making the decisions the law requires.

"We have had problems with the definition of a hardship," he said. "City Attorney Ralf Brookes and (attorney) Ricinda Perry recently held a class for us and made us a handbook that makes it easier. I feel more confident now."

Board member Dan DeBaun said he feels the board is getting better at what it does.
" If you take over, it would take a lot of your time," he said. "you may want to think again about absorbing it. It will burden you."

Commissioner John Shaugnessey said his problem is not with the board but with the extra burden that having to go before it and the commission is for residents seeking variances.
"It costs $150 dollars to appear, plus lawyer's fees, and you can't render a decision," he said. "They have to spend an additional $150 to go before the city commission and it can take two to three months or longer."

Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips said she feels that things are improving on the board and although she sympathizes with Shaugnessey, it is a necessary evil.

"I think maybe the process is time consuming, but so is due process," she said.
"It costs $1,000 to process a variance in Holmes Beach," Building Official Ed McAdam said. "I am working on a fee schedule and it will be a fee charged for services rendered."
The commission gave a general consensus that things should stay the way they are and it will readdress the situation later, if the need arises.

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