Vol 6 No. 24 - March 8, 2006


Residents fuming over dock dispute

Consolidation plan presents two options

Mayor seeks magistrate system

St. Pat�s parade set for March 19

City to buy second house

Springfest offers fine arts, food

Opinions differ on open consolidation meetings

Parking blocked on BeachHouse beach




Residents fuming over dock dispute

ByPat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Angered by the city’s proposed revisions to the T-end dock ordinance, a group of residents is banding together to fight city hall.

"We are opposed to the T-end dock legislation," Don Fernald told commissioners last week. "I’m putting everyone on notice that we’ll put up a fight unless this ordnance is redone."

The ordinance governs docks in the T-end canals between 72nd and 77th Streets. Property owners in the Bay Palms subdivision maintain that their deeds give them the right to use docks in the canals.

The city maintains that the canals were deeded to the city by the developer, and that the owners do not have exclusive rights to use the docks. However, the city says that property owners in the subdivision have a right greater than the general public to use a dock.

The original ordinance governing use of the docks was approved in 1995 following 10 years of heated debate. After questions arose regarding docks in the Sunrise Park subdivision, commissioners agree to revisit the T-end dock ordinance and subsequently agreed to remove all the docks currently in place and rebuild uniform docks.

"The main issue is not being able to transfer the dock when the property is sold," Fernald said. "Right now the ordinance allows you to transfer your dock. Some residents who are here had appraisals done and there’s about a $30,000 difference without a dock. It’s an erosion of our property rights. People buy there because they have the deeded right to a dock."

Another issue is that residents don’t want the city to control dock construction and rental.

"That is offensive," Fernald stressed. "It’s easily fixed by letting the citizens build their own damn docks as long as they’re built and maintained to your specifications."

Fernald said Bay Pines property owners could form an association to govern dock rentals.

The debate deepens

Tony Korican agreed with Fernald and explained, "Today, I went to the courthouse and found my rights to the water. If and when I sell the property, the deeded rights will go with that property."

"The reality of it is that if somebody owns something, there is nothing anybody on this commission can do to take it away from them," Commissioner Roger Lutz explained. "If you don’t own something, there’s nothing we can do to give it to you."

Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens pointed out that the original ordinance has been in effect since 1995 and the commission is only "updating it and trying to make a fair playing field. Ultimately, there will be more dock spaces."

Earl Mowry told commissioners that he was deprived of his dock in 1995 while he was in North Carolina.

"The city tore my dock out and gave it to someone else because I didn’t have a boat registered at the time" he explained. "I don’t like the fact that I have to come down here and beg for a dock to put my boat in. I can’t get a dock. I’m on the waiting list. Those of us that have boats and have it in our deeds should not be denied."

"The developer dedicated those boats spaces to the public before he issued those deeds." Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger said.

"It was the opposite," several people called from the audience.

"This is the kind of question circuit judges are paid to answer," Lutz remarked. "A lawyer with 30 years of experience told us it is city property. It would make my day if we got an opinion that it’s all yours. We wouldn’t have to worry about getting sued if somebody falls off one of them."

Fernald said one of the options for the group is legal action and noted, "That’s not an option we want to exercise. Hopefully, the Florida Association of Realtors will come to the table if it comes to a lawsuit."

Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger asked property owners to provide copies of their deeds to the city attorney for review.

"We have no objections to looking at any an all deeds," City Attorney Patricia Petruff said. "Every deed that my office had been provided, even during the 1995 era, say, ‘a right to use a boat space.’ They don’t say a meets and bounds description of a boat space. That is what is at issue."<< Top


Consolidation plan presents two options

ByPat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Do you want the Ford or the Cadillac? Harry Hayes, of the University of Georgia, asked Island mayors regarding their query on a study to merge the three Island governments.

In February, the mayors consulted Hayes, who is with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the university, and last week he offered two alternatives. The first, an in-depth study, would be very costly and take a year
, he said. The second would be what he called a macro-level study of the key issues.
"The Vinson institute will identify options for a governance change (or no change) that is generally supported by a broad scan of the local, state and national environment," Hayes explained. "While the study will not provide a specific recommendation for or against merger, it will provide a road map for understanding the ways in which a merger of the three government on Anna Maria Island will either be easier or harder and more or less beneficial than might be the case in an average community."

The macro-level study would include interviews and group discussions with department heads in the three cities, interviews with county government officials, focus group sessions with community leaders and an analysis of existing documents including comprehensive plans, service delivery agreements, revenue distributions, budgets and performance data.

Hayes said the study would take five months at a cost of $19,000 to $25,000 plus travel expenses. If the mayors agree to the study proposal, Hayes said the university would provide a formal proposal with an exact cost. He said it would take two weeks for the university to review it and have it back to Island officials.

He said once the study is complete, he would provide a briefing on the results at a joint meeting of elected and appointed officials..<< Top

Mayor seeks magistrate system

ByLaurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Mayor SueLynn says she wants to have a magistrate hear variance requests and give a ruling on whether or not they should be allowed.

Currently, if someone wants a variance to a setback requirement they appear before the planning and zoning board, which hears the case, makes a recommendation and passes the request to the city commission. The city commission makes the final decision on the request.

If the applicant wants to appeal the commission decision, they can go on to the circuit court where a judge will hear the case.

The mayor told city commissioners late last month that she wants them to be thinking about using a magistrate to hear cases.

"This is just a heads up," she said. "I’m going to be coming to you at some point in the future and asking you to reduce the P&Z Board from seven members to five and asking that we appoint a magistrate to hear variance cases."

The mayor didn’t elaborate on her idea, and no commissioners raised any questions at that time.

SueLynn also approached two members of the P&Z Board as they sat on the dais waiting for a meeting to discuss the comprehensive plan to begin. She told Vice Chairman Doug Copeland and board member Frank Pytel that she is going to ask the commission to reduce the board to five members and to assign variance cases to a magistrate.

In Florida, a magistrate must be a member in good standing with the Florida Bar Association. Several counties and municipalities in this area use some form of the magistrate or special master system – including Manatee County.

"It’s a system that’s been in place for years here in Manatee County," said Robert Pederson, community planning administrator with the county. "We don’t get many complaints, just the occasional person who was turned down."

Pederson said staff handles requests to the setback requirements of less than one foot. When the request is greater than one foot, it goes to a hearing officer who is usually an attorney, but can be a certified planner with substantial experience.

"It’s common in the profession for planners to hear variance requests," he said. "Usually it’s an attorney, but planners with the right background can be assigned, too."

Last year, Holmes Beach considered using hearing officers to hear variance requests. They never adopted the idea because they didn’t want to give up local control.

"The commission looked at all the advantages and disadvantages," said City Treasurer Rick Ashley. "We never went very far with it, because the commission wasn’t interested in it."

The city looked at a list of advantages and disadvantages prepared by their planner, Bill Brisson.

Brisson said the main advantage to using a local board is that it retains the decision-making authority among local residents who are familiar with the characteristics of the community and its unique problems.

Disadvantages with local boards are that members can be swayed by emotional appeals; members must make decisions that may affect their neighbors, the board has to be comprised of qualified and interested citizens and staff must cooperate and prepare for the meetings. Additionally, sometimes meetings must be postponed for lack of a quorum resulting from a conflict of interest.

Brisson told members of the Holmes Beach planning board that a professional makes professional and timely decisions, ensuring fairness and consistency. He said there is improved compliance with legal requirements, reduced liability and a professional is familiar with the comprehensive plan and development regulations.

Disadvantages, according to Brisson, include the cost of hiring a hearing officer and the lack of accountability to voters. Charging the applicant for the officer’s fee could offset the cost, he said.

At this point, Anna Maria commissioners have had no discussion; they’ve seen no recommendations. They’ve merely been given a heads up by the mayor who says she’ll be coming to them at some time in the future with the idea of having a magistrate hear variance requests.

The mayor was out of town and could not be reached for comment.


St. Pat�s parade set for March 19

The question is, "Would St. Patrick walk a mile with a camel?"

The annual Beach Bistro St. Patrick’s Day Parade happens at 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. Parade participants will assemble behind Holmes Beach City Hall along Flotilla Drive at 2 p.m. and then head north on Marina Drive and Palm Drive to the corner of Gulf Drive and Palm Drive, near Haley’s Motel.

"The parade will be shortened this year, but enriched by even more bands and musicians, said Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy. "The parade is a walking parade and the shorter distance will be easier on the marching bands."

Murphy said the route would only tie up traffic along one of the two north and south main roads, which will leave the other road for cars and trucks.

"We also hope the shorter route will encourage more walkers and cyclists," Murphy added. "We are adding a ‘Best Leprechaun’ costume contest for the kids this year."

Last year’s attempt to get an elephant for the parade was a bust, but Murphy hopes to have a four-legged surprise this year.

"There was some confusion last year about the presence of a metaphysical camel," he said. "We had originally booked an elephant, but there was an elephant accident in north Florida and elephants became real scarce. Then we booked two camels who were apparently visible only to those Irish visionaries who had flasks."

Murphy said he is certain he can deliver a camel this year in less mystical form.

Parade participants don’t have to sign up, just show up at city hall at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 19. For those with questions, call the Beach Bistro at 6778-6444..<< Top

City to buy second house

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – After finding itself penned in by high land prices and a growing inventory, the city of Bradenton Beach is looking to purchase more land for itself.

After agreeing to purchase a house owned by Robert Bodell directly behind the public works building last month, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie soon found out that the small cottage next door was available for less money. At last Thursday’s city commission meeting, Chappie introduced a last-minute packet of information on the second home.

"I think this is an opportunity," Chappie said. "It abuts the Bodell property and (project/program director) Dottie (Poindexter) has already located some possible grant money from a preservation source."

The city is taking money from its Community Redevelopment Agency tax to purchase the Bodell house for $400,000 and will be required to keep the property open to the public because of that. Chappie said he would like to see the city use general fund money to purchase this latest house, located at 304 Church Ave., from Gerald R. Baker for $310,000. Construction of the 1-bedroom, 1-bath cottage with an unattached garage was started in 1947 and finished in 1951, and Chappie said he would like to see the city fix up the house and use it for office space for Poindexter and possibly Public Works Assistant Char Patterson.

"The Bodell property will essentially be a tear-down and we’ll use the land for parking," he said. "I think the Baker house would make a nice restoration project."

"The building is in real good shape," said Building Official Ed McAdam. "Additional piers to support the structure were added when they put in the porch."

Chappie noted the property is located near a walkway that runs from Bridge Street to the other side of the Cortez Bridge. He said the property would be a good place for a kiosk to distribute information on the Waterfronts Florida program or the wreck of the Regina, which is a state underwater archeological site. He urged the commissioners to approve paying for the house with general funds whether they get the grant or not.

Commissioner Bill Shearon disagreed, saying the two purchases amount to a lot of money.
"If we agree on this now, we will be spending three-quarters of a million dollars with no public input," he said.

"I agree with Commissioner Shearon a lot," Commissioner Janie Robertson said. "If we agree (to let the mayor negotiate for the house), could we promise we will discuss this? We need some public input so the public knows why we are purchasing this."

Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips said she thinks they should buy the second property.

"It makes me feel like we’re doing what our visioning wants," she said, "to restore and preserve properties."

Commissioner John Shaughnessy said he supports the purchase because the public works department is working out of cramped quarters.

The commission agreed to authorize Chappie to negotiate on the house for no more than $310,000 after scheduling a work session later to give time for public input..<< Top


Springfest offers fine arts, food

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Springfest, the 18th Annual Festival of Fine Arts and Fine Crafts, is scheduled for March 11-12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Holmes Beach City Hall park.

About 100 artists and craftspeople are expected to display their work, accompanied by continuous live music.

On Saturday, The Anna Maria String Band will perform from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., the Rizzo Family Band will play from 1-2 p.m. and the Gumbo Boogie Band will perform from 2-5 p.m. On Sunday, The Anna Maria String Band is scheduled from 10 a.m. - noon, the Gumbo Boogie Band will play from noon - 3 p.m., the Rizzo Family Band will perform from 3-4 p.m. and Howie Banfield will perform from 4-5 p.m.

Other attractions include a food court featuring food by Ollie’s Shrimp Shack, of Clearwater, and displays by community organizations. Admission and parking are free.

A raffle of art work donated by festival exhibitors will benefit the Anna Maria Island Art League’s Scholarship Fund, which provides classes for adults and children.

Springfest and its counterpart, Winterfest are the primary fundraisers for the Art League, which offers classes and art exhibits at its gallery at 5312 Holmes Blvd.
<< Top


Opinions differ on open consolidation meetings

ByPat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger’s opinion that the mayors’ meetings on consolidation should be open to the public brought a variety of responses from commissioners in the other Island cities.

Bohnenberger said that although the meetings do not violate the Sunshine Law, "Any meeting on consolidation should be an open meeting, and the press and the public have the right to witness this discussion.

In December, Holmes Beach commissioners directed Mayor Carol Whitmore to work with Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie regarding a study of Island consolidation. They said the city has an obligation to conduct a study based on the results of a Nov. 8 referendum in which voters approved a study by a two-to-one margin.

Voters in Bradenton Beach approved the referendum by the same margin. Voters in Anna Maria did not have the opportunity to vote on the referendum because commissioners voted not to put it on the ballot. However, Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn is sitting in on the meetings.

"I have no opinion because I’m 100 percent against holding any discussions on consolidation," Anna Maria Commissioner Duke Miller said. "If I were subject to what the discussions were about, I would want to attend. I can see how some citizens could be upset because they’re talking about the fate of the cities. I would assume it would come out eventually. They’re not making any binding decisions."

Bradenton Beach Commissioner John Shaughnessy said he has no opinion on the issue.

Anna Maria Commissioner Chris Tollette said she is pleased that Mayor SueLynn is sitting in on the meetings, although others on the commission are not.

"It doesn’t concern me that they’re meeting," Tollette said. "I have no problem with it. They’re just exploring options, and there will be times when they report their findings."

However, Bradenton Beach Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips said, "Open them up. They should make a conscious effort to make them inclusive so the public can participate in the process. If it’s a meeting where they won’t entertain public comment, they can make that known up front.". << Top


Parking blocked on BeachHouse beach

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – The low bid for the Gladiolus/North Shore drainage project came in too high to allow for engineering fees.

The city has budgeted $135,000 for the project. The Southwest Floridaw Water Management District has approved a matching grant for an additional $135,000, making $270,000 that the city has in its coffers to pay for the project.

DeJonge Excavating, a Venice company, came in with the low bid at $263,119.29, making it the company likely to win the contract to do the project, which will run in the alley between North Shore Drive and Gladiolus Street. A shallow swale will run in the alley there from Jacaranda to Hibiscus avenues with a turn by Crescent Drive across North Bay Boulevard to a filtered outlet into the bay.

City Engineer Tom Wilcox, of Baskerville-Donovan, opened four bids Feb. 23.

"That’s good for a little project like this," Wilcox said. "I’m really happy with that."

The bids ranged from DeJonge’s low to Westra Construction of Palmetto’s high of $448,253.38. The two other companies that submitted bids were Adkins Contracting, Inc., of Ruskin, and ET MacKenzie, of Bradenton.

Wilcox said Swiftmud had left the door open to come back to them for an increase after the bids came in, but it’s unusual for the water management district to increase the amount of a grant after the fact.

Deputy Mayor John Quam said he hasn’t seen the bids yet and thus doesn’t know how the commission will handle the costs for the engineering.

"It’s something we’ll have to look at," he said.

Construction could begin as early as June
.<< Top

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