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 citys
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 dont grandfather them, youll
be up to your earlobes in lawsuits, at least until you
win or lose the first one" City Planner Bill Brisson
"It seems that at the last meeting we made a tough
decision and said it would upset a number of people but
thats what we want," planning commissioner
John Monetti pointed out. "Now you say it doesnt
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, theyre allowed to continue (by being
"I have a concern because what is the evidence that
theyve 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. "Were trying to keep residential neighborhoods
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.
"Thats what Ill 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
"The code doesnt allow single family homes
or duplexes in that district," he explained. "If
these lots are vacant, they cant be built on under
the current provisions. If there are single family homes
or duplexes on them, and they are demolished, they cant
be rebuilt. You have land that couldnt be used for
He said there are 15 affected lots in the district.
"I would hate to say that they cant rebuild,"
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.
price tag: $25 million
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
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
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
Meanwhile, the restaurant and beachfront land are on the
"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
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
"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
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
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.
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
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
So stop in, sample the food and let Garbacz know what
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.
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
"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
The five lots at the old marina are about 5,000 square
feet. Current code mandates that lots contain 7,500 square
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."
to evaluate board of adjustment
By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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.