Vol 6 No. 26 - March 22, 2006

 

Beach project misses deadline

Insurance woes stall sale of biz condos

Island hotel occupancy down

Drug bust nets pot, pipes

Plan would curtail personal watercraft use

Emergency officials prepare for hurricane season

Another lawsuit hits beleaguered GSR

Outgoing administrator honored at luncheon

 

 

 

Beach project misses deadline

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The April 1 deadline for restarting the renourishment project on the beaches is nearing, and two state agencies worked feverishly last week to clear the way. However, the contractor was supposed to start preparing March 15 to resume pumping sand and there is still no activity on the beach.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have agreed to allow the contractor, Goodloe Marine, Inc., to park its support ship and pipes in the waters north of Bayfront Park.

That’s where the company had parked it during the project when it began last year. But after Goodloe stopped pumping sand due to the winter storm season, those agencies said the location was unsuitable because it is too close to a beach where nesting sea turtles lay their eggs.

According to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox, those two agencies sent their approval to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers late last week and the Corps was to sign off on it, but there had been no action as of Monday.

Ben Goodloe, project manager for Goodloe Marine, said he had not gotten permission from the Corps to resume activity as of Monday, but they’re under the gun. If they are not pumping the sand by April 1, they will only have 30 days to complete the project. If they are pumping, they will have until June 1. The contract has provisions for extensions due to weather or mechanical breakdown, but the bottom line is they have to be off the beach by June 1.

Representatives from Goodloe, FWCC, DEP, the Corps of Engineers, Manatee County and Anna Maria Turtle Watch held a pre-construction teleconference on Tuesday, March 14, at Bradenton Beach City Hall. Also present were Holmes Beach Building Official Joe Duennes and Mayor Carol Whitmore plus Bradenton Beach Building Official Ed McAdam and Mayor John Chappie. The Anna Maria Island Sun was the only press covering the conference.
That’s when the problem of parking the support ship came to light. Goodloe had been told to find another spot and it was suggested they anchor in Sarasota Bay near Longboat Pass, but Goodloe said the pass was too narrow to navigate the wide ship. He said they had three other areas in mind. – one off Perico Island near Skier’s Island, another north of that near Emerson Point and a third at the mouth of the Manatee River near Mullet Key. He said, however, that it would be a longer commute to any of those locations and that it would add to the cost of the project.

Robbin Trinnell, who heads the turtle and sea bird nesting programs for FWCC, and Lainie Edwards, of the DEP, said at the meeting they would reluctantly approve letting Goodloe park there again. Before agreeing to that, however, there were some sharp words exchanged because FWCC had never been informed that the supply ship had been anchored off the Bay Front Park site in the first place.

"When we talked with the Corps about mooring on the north end of the Island, we looked at maps of sea grasses and there was none there," said Goodloe.

"I understand you looked at maps, but our people like to look at them too," said Trinnell. "We might have some manatee issues there."

Tilling the sand for turtles

The teleconference began with a discussion of tilling the sand, which needs to be done before turtle nesting season begins May 1.

"We need a letter of acceptance of the work we’ve already done from the Corps before we can till," said Goodloe. "We need the letter to state that we need to till where the beach was impacted, even if it wasn’t renourished. The original contract did not state that. We brought equipment in at the north end of Holmes Beach when we started the project and there were areas that were not renourished, but the new rules say we would need to till those areas too."

Corps of Engineers manager Ron Rutger said he could issue that letter. They agreed that Goodloe would till the beach now where there is no pipeline, from 56th to 66th Street. As for the rest of the project where the pipeline splits the beach, Manatee County Ecosystems Administrator Charlie Hunsicker said they would probably get a waiver on the tilling under after the project is finished. Trinnell said they would accept that in the spirit of getting the job done.

Goodloe said that the sand that was placed before the project stopped was eroding away and he asked the Corps to consider having him pump more sand there, especially since the pipeline was being undermined and it was possible he would have to relocate the pipes inland.

"We need to have the pipe away from bird nesting areas," said Trinnell.
There’s no extra money in the budget for that," said Rick Spadoni of Coastal Planning and Engineering, which is consulting for Manatee County on the project.

"There wouldn’t be enough money to complete the job to the south," Rutger added.
"You need to understand," Goodloe said. "I don’t have enough room to make ramps over the pipes in some areas.

"If we filled in, I don’t think it would use up more than the 409,000 cubic yards of sand the contract calls for," Goodloe added. "We’ve still got more than 200,000 cubic yards left."
"The purpose of this program is to restore the beaches from the storms of 2004," said Stevens. "Needless to say, we need to streamline the fill to the south. With our survey information, we think we know where the sand is needed."

Rutger said they would look at the areas Goodloe said he did not have room for the ramps.<< Top

 

Insurance woes stall sale of biz condos

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA - Business owners in Bayfront Plaza have been poised since October to purchase their individual storefronts in this small shopping center on the Island’s north end.

But since that time, when plaza owner Jim Toomey completed all the legal work necessary for the sales, not one property has moved.

"You just can’t get insurance," Toomey said. "If you can’t get insurance, you can’t get the bank to give you a mortgage."

The insurance that no one can get is wind insurance. Citizen’s Property Insurance Corporation is the only company writing wind policies and on Anna Maria Island, the only policies Citizen’s is writing is for property within `1000 feet of the Gulf. The government underwrites Citizen’s. Every other insurance company has quit writing wind policies in the wake of the unprecedented hurricane activity we’ve seen over the past several years.
If your home or business is in Sarasota County, you can get wind coverage almost all the way out to I-75.

The reason? In the late 1970’s when the wind velocity zones were being drawn, the Manatee County government thought it would be too expensive to cover the whole Island, and so they limited the zone to those properties within 1000 feet of the Gulf. The last changes to the wind velocity lines were in 1997. No one can create changes at this time, though State Representative Bill Galvano is sponsoring a commission to study the possibility of opening up more areas to wind coverage. However, it will take several years before any measures wind through the legislative process and become law.
Meanwhile, property owners like Toomey are left holding the bag.

"No one can purchase their units without that insurance unless they self-insure as an association, but that would take about a half-million dollars," Toomey noted.
Toomey said he currently has wind insurance on the Bayfront Plaza, but his insurer has notified him that when his policy is up in May, the coverage won’t be re-written.
Toomey isn’t alone. Any business or home that is not within 1000-feet of the Gulf is finding it more and more difficult to get wind coverage.

Until some change makes it through the legislature, it looks as though it will be more and more difficult for Island property owners to get coverage..<< Top
 

Island hotel occupancy down


ByCindy Lane
sun staff writer

Despite the traffic jams, statistics from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau show a considerable drop in hotel room occupancy on Anna Maria Island in January and February from last year.

On Anna Maria Island, occupancy was 59.6 percent in February, down from last year’s 77.9 percent. In January, occupancy fell to 29.3 percent from 37.5 percent last year.

On Longboat Key, occupancy also fell during both months. In February, occupancy was 71.5 percent, down from last year’s 78.7 percent, and January’s 56.2 percent was down from last year’s 58.4 percent.

Overall, occupancy rates on the beaches were down 15 percent from last February, according to Monica Luff of the CVB.

Likewise, mainland occupancy was down to 83.4 percent in February from 90 percent last year. In January, occupancy fell from 72.9 percent last year to 72.4 percent this year.
With no red tide or hurricanes to blame, one reason could be that the average daily room rate continues to climb on the beaches, she said.

On Anna Maria Island, a room cost an average of $171.39 last February, and $176.63 this February. On Longboat Key, a room cost $184.41 last February, and $187.48 this February.
Rates also increased in January on the Island from $153.13 last year to $163.42 this year, and on Longboat Key from $151.61 to $151.95.


 

Drug bust nets pot, pipes


ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The Bradenton Beach Police Department staged a Sunday evening raid on a house within a block of police headquarters netting more than 50 grams of marijuana and materials police said were used to make paraphernalia.

Robert Gordon, who lived at the small cottage at 104 Fourth St., and David A. Lanzillo, of Holmes Beach, were arrested. While police were searching the property for the drugs and paraphernalia, three teenagers walked up to the house from the back.

After talking with an officer for a minute, they were read their Miranda rights and the two male juveniles were searched. One had a pipe that police said was like those used for smoking marijuana and was arrested. The other male and a female, who did not have any drugs or paraphernalia, were released to the parent of the young man who was arrested.
"This was a three-month investigation with information from a confidential informer that Robert Gordon has been selling marijuana to high school students," said Sgt. Lenard Diaz, the department’s detective. "During the investigation, an undercover officer made some controlled buys and we were able to get probable cause for a search warrant."

Nine officers from the department participated and they gathered in a conference room at the department before the raid. Each officer was assigned a location or duty. They took a sledge hammer, a crowbar and bolt cutters with them in case the occupants did not open the door. One officer had a rifle in case there was armed resistance. Diaz and Sgt. Charles Sloan were in control of the raid.

The undercover agent who had made the controlled purchases provided information on the layout of the house to help determine the logistics of the operation. They decided the best way to approach the home was in two vehicles and make a beeline for the front door while two officers went to the back to prevent a back door escape.

"Remember, men," Diaz said as the meeting broke up, "professionalism. If the situation is under control, we don’t need to keep yelling."

At approximately 6:30, they pulled up with a siren blazing and three officers went to the front door. Within a half-minute, the two men inside were on the floor.

There was no intimidating yelling by the officers as they realized they had control of the situation. Two officers checked out the back rooms of the small rented cottage and soon, Sloan was reading the suspects the search warrant.

Gordon and Lanzillo were cuffed and allowed to sit in chairs in the tiny front room as the officers, wearing rubber gloves so as to not taint any evidence, started searching for contraband. They found some marijuana in the front area and, according to Diaz, made a startling discovery in the back — materials and tools for what appeared to be a custom pipe-making business.

Police charged Gordon with two counts of selling marijuana, one count of possession of a controlled substance and one count of possession of paraphernalia. Lanzillo was charged with one count of possession of marijuana and a count of possession of paraphernalia.
Another juvenile was arrested later in connection with the raid and he was charged with possession of paraphernalia. The teenager who was arrested at the scene was also charged with possession of paraphernalia..<< Top

Plan would curtail personal watercraft use

ByCindy Lane
sun staff writer

LONGBOAT KEY – The town of Longboat Key is moving to crack down on vessels, including personal watercraft, with two ordinances scheduled for a public hearing and vote on April 3.
The ordinances, which passed their first readings earlier this month, would prohibit
launching motorized vessels, which includes personal watercraft, from the Gulf beach except in an emergency, and would prohibit vessels within an idle speed-no wake zone from coming within 150 feet of a swimmer, Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said.

One ordinance cites the intent to preserve the health, safety and welfare of beachgoers by designating areas within which watercraft can be regulated and specifically adds personal watercraft to the list of vessels that are regulated.

The town commission directed its attorney to draft the ordinances last month after complaints from Gulffront business owners about noise and fuel fumes from personal watercraft.

"Guests come to Longboat Key for tranquility and quiet," Mark Meador, spokesman for Casa Del Mar condos, said. "They want to sit out there and watch the dolphins and seagulls, and then the whining chain saws start up. We hope the ordinance puts an end to it. We’re happy they’re finally doing something."<< Top

 

Emergency officials prepare
for hurricane season

ByPat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH— Officials of the Island Emergency Operations Center met a month earlier than usual to begin preparing for hurricane season.

Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby reported that Sarasota County is debuting a wristband for reentry after a storm as opposed to the hang tags that were previously used.
"There will be a different color wristband for emergency workers and citizens," Cosby explained. "Every disaster that occurs, you’ll have to get a different wristband.

"They’ll have so many stations set up where the citizens take their proof of residency and get their wristband, and that will get them into anyplace that’s closed off."

He said wristbands would not be issued prior to the storm, but after it passes. Anyone who loses his wristband will have to go back through the line to get another one.

"Those of us that have done registration within our cities know that 20 to 25 percent of the people don’t have the right information and have to go back home and get it," Cosby observed. "So what are they going to do in this situation?"

Longboat Key, which lies half in Sarasota County and half in Manatee County, will use the wristbands for its citizen, and Cosby said that could create issues for Bradenton Beach police, who will be manning the Cortez Bridge reentry point.

"People who evacuate down Cortez Road from Longboat will have to go back to Sarasota County to get a wristband because there will be no checkpoint in Manatee County," he explained.

"The closest site to get a wristband is Ringling (Museum). That’s going to be tough. If we did take a direct impact, the airport will be used to bring in supplies, so that area will be a mess."

Cosby suggested that the Island cities, which use the hang tags for reentry, should consider changing tag colors this year.

West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price said First In Teams, which include representatives of the fire district and public works, law enforcement, emergency medical services and transportation departments and utilities companies, are beginning training. In the event of a disaster, these teams will make their way down Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road to the Island to assess damages.

Cosby said that federal officials are considering placing the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the jurisdiction of the Pentagon.

"If it gets moved to the military, we’ll have a nightmare," Cosby exclaimed. "They’re going to want to come in and take over. Apparently, the Pentagon is really pushing for it."
"The problem is when you look at Hurricane Katrina and what was flashed on TV, the military was the savior there," Price explained. ‘They came in and took over and made things happen. They had no local or state help, so they looked good."

"That’s because they were more competent that what was there," Cosby replied. "It doesn’t mean anything got done. There’s still debris everywhere."

West Manatee Deputy Fire Chief Brett Pollock pointed out that "the National Guard in Mississippi was wiped out. They had no communications; they had nothing. They were part of the devastation. Our Florida military is very prepared to handle the situation."

Cosby said FEMA worked best when its director sat on the cabinet and reported directly to the president. He noted that prior to being placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA had 4,000 employees and after the move, it had less than 1,000.

Pollock suggested that emergency officials write to Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Katherine Harris about the issue.

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Another lawsuit hits beleaguered GSR

ByLaurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Another lawsuit has been filed against one of the principals of GSR Development, the company building Villa Rosa in Anna Maria, Casa del Mar in Bradenton Beach and Orchid on Longboat Key.

The latest in a string of lawsuits against the company whose address is at the Villa Rosa site on South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria was filed against GSR Principal Robert Byrne by Gene Henssler.

This latest action is a mortgage foreclosure suit.

Daniel Solaz is also individually suing Byrne and one of his companies, Spectrum Construction Management.

Byrne and the other GSR principal, Steve Noriega, are also being sued by Edward Furfey, who claims he became a partner in the company when he lent the company $800,000. Furfey said Byrne and Noriega sold the Villa Rosa property without his knowledge for $6.5 million, an amount that Furfey claims was under the market value for the property at the time. Under the terms of his lending agreement, Furfey said he was to be offered the right of first refusal on that property.

There is also a suit that was filed by Longboat Partners, LLC that concerns the proposed Orchid property on Longboat Key at the site of the former Holiday Resort. That lawsuit is related to the Furfey action.

GSR has been active in the area for the past five years. The first project was Villa Rosa. Getting that project through a cumbersome subdivision process in the city of Anna Maria was contentious and ultimately led to the new site plan process the city has in place today.
Byrne and Noriega ultimately sued Conrad DeSantis, their attorney on that project. That suit was settled out of court on unspecified terms.

There is also a lawsuit and a countersuit pending between GSR, Byrne, Noriega and Bradenton Beach resident Ken Lohn. That case is scheduled for a trial in May of this year.
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Outgoing administrator honored at luncheon

ByPat Copeland
sun staff writer

Carolyne Norwood, outgoing executive administrator of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, was honored at a members’ luncheon last week at the BeachHouse.

Members presented Norwood with a plaque that pictured her and her late husband, George, and stated, "In tribute to Carolyne and George Norwood for her insight and his support in creating the Anna Maria Island Historical Society archiving memories of the Island for future generations."

"Thank you so much for this honor," Norwood said.

Prior to the presentation, President Thea Kelly read a tribute to Norwood detailing her years with the historical society, which began in the former clinic of veterinarian Dr. Henry Stevens in Anna Maria.

"Unfortunately, we had no money, so Carolyne asked Ed Chiles to help us. He became our guardian angel by paying our rent and utilities for the first year. We set out on our mission to preserve the Island’s history and began collecting photos, documents and artifacts. Soon the building was bursting at the seams," Kelly said.

The next step for the society was a move to the old Turtle House on Pine Avenue. As the society grew, it acquired the public works office adjacent to the museum. The Historical Park, planted by a group of volunteers, followed.

"Next came the Remember When dinners. Each had a theme and Carolyne penned the plays, marshaled the actors and buttonholed volunteers to make each one a success," Kelly continued.

Norwood’s next dream was a historical complex, completed when Belle Haven was moved into the Historical Park. In 2003, she wrote the Island’s first history book, "The Early Days, 1893 to 1940," and she is now working on the second volume of Island history from 1940 to 1960.

"The historical society has come from a handful of volunteers with a dream of preserving Island history to become one of the Island’s most cherished institutions. That never would have happened without the dedication, perseverance and love of Carolyne Norwood," Kelly concluded.

To honor her commitment, the members made her a lifetime member of the society and its board of directors.



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