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Vol 5 No. 36 - May 25, 2005


Rotten Ralph’s must seek new home

Sandbar alley swap a done deal

County may buy Perico land

Consolidation move gains momentum

TideMark makes boat basin offer

Mayors to formalize request for bridge openings

Students shine in FCAT tests






Rotten Ralph’s must seek new home

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Rotten Ralph's restaurant has lost the lease it held for 17 years with Galati Marine.

The dockside dining facility on Bimini Bay off South Bay Boulevard has been a favorite of residents and visitors alike. Now, it needs a new location as Galati Marine has decided the time has come to update the building that houses the restaurant.

"That building is very old and very outdated," said Chris Galati. "What's now the kitchen was actually my family's home. When we moved here in 1970, I was six-months old, and I lived in a cardboard box on top of the stove."

Galati said it just isn't worth it to put any money into upkeep and renovation, because the building is just too far-gone.

There are other issues as well.

"The parking issue is a big factor," he said. "With the codes what they are, we just don't have the room to have enough parking spaces for a restaurant."

With those factors in mind, the lease with Rotten Ralph's will expire at the end of July.
Dave Russell said he's devastated.

"We've been here 17 years now," he said. "Dad (the late Ralph Russell) started this place, and I've been here since1994 when I came from Toronto to help Dad out."

Russell said he's determined to keep the Rotten Ralph name going as a remembrance of his father who died recently.

"But it's tough," he said. "This is like losing a piece of Dad. My wife says it's like another death in the family.

Russell said he'd love to stay on the Island.

"But there aren't a lot of places available, and what there is doesn't have enough parking spaces to meet the codes. But we want to try to stay. We really appreciate all the people who've stayed with us over the years. They've been real good to us and we'd love to stay on the Island somewhere."

Meanwhile, Galati said plans are still in the preliminary stages.

"But we'd like to have a first class building there," he said. "I'd imagine it could house the ship's store, the dock master's office and maybe some other offices. We really don't see how we can do a restaurant here — unless it had a very limited seating capacity because of the parking issues on the property."

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Sandbar alley swap a done deal

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — After months – some said a decade – of planning, talking with city officials, planners, engineers, lawyers and neighbors, Ed Chiles owns the alley just to the east of the Sandbar restaurant.

By a vote of 3-2, city commissioners voted to vacate the right to use the platted alley in exchange for one further to the east that Chiles will pave as a landscaped walkway for public use.

"I'm pleased with the vote," Chiles said after the meeting. "I appreciate the thoughtful consideration they gave the matter. It's nice to finally have the situation over with."
The second reading and public hearing on an ordinance for the alley vacation was held at city hall May 19.

It was the first time commissioners and residents had heard from an ADA expert.
"To begin with, I was involved with the Sandbar restaurant as part of the ADA litigation for the plaintiff's counsel," said Kirk Tcherneshoff, president of Tcherneshoff Consulting, Inc., which is a firm specializing in ADA consulting.

In his testimony, Tcherneshoff answered many of the questions that residents and commissioners alike have had about Chiles claim that he needs the alley to build the restrooms and install the handicapped parking. Both commissioners and residents alike questioned why Chiles shouldn't be required to expand the restrooms within the confines of the existing building, which would require giving up restaurant seats or the little shopping area.

"The ADA is very clear that this is a civil rights law. It is not meant to affect the ability of an entrepreneur."

There was public comment from a total of 19 people. Deputy Mayor John Quam alternated the pro and con speakers.

Many of the people speaking in favor of the alley vacation had just come from a rally at the Sandbar. They were all sporting yellow daisies in support of Chiles.

Several homeowners close to the Sandbar came with attorneys who spoke about other options for the resolution of Chiles problems with coming into conformity with the ADA.
Another concern that members of the commission and the audience expressed was that Chiles would use the alley to expand his business — which Chiles attorney, Ricinda Perry, called the "fear factor."

"We have shown what our future plans are," she said. "Besides, we'd have to come before you again if we ... we'd have to have a great deal more parking and the cost and location are prohibitive."

Perry also pointed out that the restaurant is in a commercial district, which comprises only 2.6 percent of the city. She said to place a burden on that district is not in the city's interest.

When the commissioners began their deliberations, there was some discussion of placing restrictions on the vacation. Commissioner Duke Miller asked Chiles if he was willing to agree to never expand.

"Absolutely not," Chiles stated. "You're a businessman. You'd never agree to a condition like that."

Some commissioners wanted to make the swap contingent upon the approval of the site plan for the entire remodeling project.

But in the end, Quam and Commissioners Linda Cramer and Dale Woodland voted in favor of the alley vacation and swap and that was enough to pass the ordinance. Miller and Commissioner Carol Ann Magill were opposed.

The next step for Chiles will be a hearing on the entire site plan for his project, which includes the ADA improvements, the landscaped walkway, some drainage swales and improvements and the installation of a permanent canopy over the banquet area to the north east of the restaurant building.

Quam had to perform a juggling act to get a date that accommodated everyone's vacation schedules. In the end, the date for the site plan approval was set for June 29 at 6 p.m.

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County may buy Perico land

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Manatee County commissioners are considering purchasing a portion of Perico Island.
Developer Pat Neal and his wife, Charlene, have offered to sell the county 119 acres of land on the south side of the island for $9 million. The land, which includes tidal wetlands, uplands and Indian mounds, is along the Palma Sola Causeway between the Anna Maria Bridge and the Perico Bay Club. Neal, Frank Buskirk and Howard Adams developed the Perico Bay Club in the mid-1970s.

County officials said they would recommend that the board apply for a state land preservation grant to fund the bulk of the purchase.

The land is directly across the Causeway from St. Joe/Arvida’s planned development of 13 high-rise condominiums. The development was the subject of several lawsuits initiated by the county, Mana-Sota-88 and Concerned Citizens of Manatee County.

The purchase of the environmentally sensitive parcel would be the second one on the west side of the county. The other is the Robinson Preserve along 99th Street Northwest, which is connected to the Causeway by a recently completed footbridge. Planned for the preserve’s nearly 500 acres are canoe, fitness and nature trails.

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Consolidation move gains momentum

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH — After a presentation by Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, Island elected officials agreed to continue to discuss consolidating the three Island cities.
"We need to think about the next generation, not the next election," Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie pointed out, even after revealing his reservations about consolidation. "I have no problem putting it on the ballot and letting the people decide."

Whitmore’s plan showed three Island city districts with seven representatives — two for Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria and three for Holmes Beach because of its larger population. The representatives would choose their mayor like commissioners do on Longboat Key. Whitmore said it would be unfair to have citizens vote for mayor, again because of Holmes Beach’s larger population.

An Island administrator would serve under the seven representatives. Serving under the administrator would be a treasurer, police chief, detective, public works supervisor and assistant supervisor, a city clerk and deputy clerk, a code enforcement officer and staff members.

"The idea is to bring the governments together without losing the character of each city," Whitmore said. "I feel strongly that the public would buy this concept if they were assured that their area of the Island couldn’t be changed easily.

Whitmore said a super majority could decide any land development code changes. She said officials could put other safeguards in place.

Let the people decide

"This is totally workable," Whitmore continued. "We’re not trying to take somebody’s city away. Government is a business. People who live here expect professionalism.
"If you educate the public, they can make an informed decision. We must all step back and think what is best for the Island and let the people decide."

Anna Maria Commissioner Linda Cramer said people complain about how much money is wasted by having the three cities and noted, "We could be a lot more effective if we consolidated. The decision shouldn’t be up to the mayor and commissioners. It could be effectively done by way of referendum."

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn agreed with the structure presented by Whitmore.
"It has to be done in phases over a period of time," SueLynn said. "We can agree to the structure and begin to work towards that. This is a gigantic step to be here talking about this."

While agreeing to the idea of studying the concept, Chappie expressed his personal reservations.

"I’m lukewarm about it," he explained. "I keep telling myself that this could be a good idea, but I have this lump in my stomach, and usually your gut tells you something.
"I think of the positive things we’ve done in Bradenton Beach. It’s an identity thing. We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished. Anybody in this community can have a tremendous influence on what happens in the government. I don’t want to live in Holmes Beach. I fell in love with Bradenton Beach."

Chappie provoked laughter from the other officials when he compared the three cities to three cousins that are all from the same family but "that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be part of the immediate family."

Bradenton Beach Commissioner Lisa Marie Philips agreed with Chappie but said the citizens should make the decision.

"Before we take it to the public, we have to know it won’t affect the character of each individual city," Whitmore stressed. "That’s really important."

Bradenton Beach Commissioner Bill Shearon suggested seeking advice from the Florida League of Cities and other cities that have consolidated.

"The first thing I want to do is make sure our citizens know the advantages of professionally managed government," Holmes Beach Commissioner Don Maloney said. "I plan to do this with the help of a group of citizens who believe with me and have pledged to help make all citizens aware of those advantages."

He said he would work to put an unbinding referendum on the ballot in each city.
"It’s got to happen and I don’t see why we can’t be the group to make it happen," Maloney said.

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TideMark makes boat basin offer

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Robert Greene, attorney for Reliance TideMark, has made an offer to the city for leasing the city’s portion of the boat basin along Marina Drive.

The city owns five feet into the boat basin, including the seawall, which holds up Marina Drive. In June 2004, the city declared the lease in default due to TideMark’s bankruptcy action. In April the city terminated the lease and asked the developer to make a new offer.
"As requested by the city, Reliance would propose an increase in the annual rental from the existing $100 to $5,600," Greene said in a letter to the city.

Greene said there are 11 boat slips, which will be rented for $14 per foot. The average boat length is 30 feet.

"Under the above assumptions, boat slip rent per month would be $420," Greene said. "Reliance has then allocated 20 percent of slip rent to the city based on approximate percentage of dock within the leased area and discounted rent by 50 percent due to the fact that Reliance will bear all construction, maintenance and insurance costs for the docks."
Based on the above calculations, the total rent would be $5,544, which Greene rounded up to $5,600.

City commissioners were scheduled to take up the TideMark issue at their meeting Tuesday, May 24. At press time, they had not made a decision on the offer.

Commissioners had also asked Greene to provide proof that Reliance TideMark owns the boat basin after receiving an offer to lease the basin from another attorney. Greene was expected to respond to that request at Tuesday’s meeting

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Mayors to formalize request for bridge openings

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

The Island cities will formally ask the Coast Guard for changes in the bridge opening schedules of the Anna Maria Island and Cortez bridges.

Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, on behalf of the four island cities, plans to send a letter to the Coast Guard asking for the changes.

In March, Whitmore, again on behalf of the four island cities, asked for a meeting with the Coast Guard to discuss a change in drawbridge openings.

Last week, the Coast Guard responded and said it was willing to entertain a proposal regarding half-hour bridge openings as well as no openings during rush hour.

Mike Howe, acting director of the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Agency, said that following the discussion of the Coast Guard’s response at last week’s Island Transportation Planning Organization meeting, he contacted Coast Guard Management Specialist Michael Liberum to verify the Coast Guard’s concurrence with the terms of the request.

The terms are as follows:

• Anna Maria Island Bridge — Open every 30 minutes at the top of each hour and half past each hour, seven days a week, all year long, except for peak hours. No opening would occur at the peak hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

• Cortez Bridge — Open every 30 minutes at 15 minutes past and 45 minutes past each hour, seven day a week, all year long, except for peak hours. No opening would occur at the peak hours of 7:15 and 7:45 a.m. and 5:15 and 5:45 p.m.

Howe said the process to make the changes could take nine months and the terms could be revised based on response from boaters, citizens and elected officials.

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Students shine in FCAT tests

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – While students at Anna Maria Elementary School wait for their report cards, the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test reports put them collectively at or near an A.

According to the scores published by the Florida Department of Education, fifth grade students on the Island should be well prepared for middle school next year. The fifth-graders topped the rest of the scores in Manatee County in science with a 339, math with a 355 and reading at 345 in mean scores. In norm reference scoring, which adds several other factors to the mix, the students were second in the district in math with 673 and tied for second and reading with 641.

Fourth grade students, who tested for reading and math, did well in mean scores. They were tied for first in math at 340 and tied for second in reading with 345. Their norm reference scores placed them in fifth place for math at 651 and in third place for reading at 654.

Third grade scores were equally impressive as compared with the rest of the district. In math, they were tops with 360 and in fourth place in reading at 333. Their norm reference marks showed them in second place in math with 656 and tied for second in reading with 641.

While the district does not compare schools in measuring achievement, these scores show that the school's teachers and students were successful overall. Anna Maria Elementary Principal Kathy Hayes is studying the results and comparing student progress from one year to another and will comment on that later this week, she said.

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