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 Islands north
But since that time, when plaza owner Jim Toomey completed
all the legal work necessary for the sales, not one property
"You just cant get insurance," Toomey
said. "If you cant get insurance, you cant
get the bank to give you a mortgage."
The insurance that no one can get is wind insurance. Citizens
Property Insurance Corporation is the only company writing
wind policies and on Anna Maria Island, the only policies
Citizens is writing is for property within `1000
feet of the Gulf. The government underwrites Citizens.
Every other insurance company has quit writing wind policies
in the wake of the unprecedented hurricane activity weve
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 1970s 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
"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 wont be re-written.
Toomey isnt 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..<<
hotel occupancy down
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 years 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
years 78.7 percent, and Januarys 56.2 percent
was down from last years 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
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
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.
bust nets pot, pipes
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 departments detective. "During
the investigation, an undercover officer made some controlled
buys and we were able to get probable cause for a search
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 dont 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..<<
would curtail personal watercraft use
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
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
"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. Were happy
theyre finally doing something."<<
for hurricane season
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, youll have to get a different
"Theyll 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 thats
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 dont
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
"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,"
"The closest site to get a wristband is Ringling
(Museum). Thats 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
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, well have
a nightmare," Cosby exclaimed. "Theyre
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."
"Thats because they were more competent that
what was there," Cosby replied. "It doesnt
mean anything got done. Theres 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.
lawsuit hits beleaguered GSR
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
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.
administrator honored at luncheon
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
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 Islands history
and began collecting photos, documents and artifacts.
Soon the building was bursting at the seams," Kelly
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,"
Norwoods next dream was a historical complex, completed
when Belle Haven was moved into the Historical Park. In
2003, she wrote the Islands first history book,
"The Early Days, 1893 to 1940," and she is now
working on the second volume of Island history from 1940
"The historical society has come from a handful of
volunteers with a dream of preserving Island history to
become one of the Islands most cherished institutions.
That never would have happened without the dedication,
perseverance and love of Carolyne Norwood," Kelly
To honor her commitment, the members made her a lifetime
member of the society and its board of directors.